Lu Mīn spoke.
The Signs come to us
They meet our needs
What the Outer requires
The Inner provides
Look for it
There it is
Rely on what is provided
And you will have everything.
But in Fullness
One Thing is missing:
This is Go-na.
The Inner Wind.
To Go the Way
See the rhythm of Emptiness and Fullness.
Fullness passes to Emptiness
Emptiness to Fullness.
Then Lu Mīn was silent.
Lu Mīn remained still in his place, even when Se Lim’s passage ended and the Authorities showed themselves, Lôm glowing softly in the distance. The spot he sat was worn smooth and dark from the many passages spent there.
Dun fi and Lim ki sat beneath the Gonakhan.
—What are we meant to do now?—Lim ki looked at Dun fi as they gazed at the twinkling lights of the Authorities.
—We shall follow the Gonakhan, and make certain he never comes to harm.—Dun fi looked at Lim ki out of the corner of his eye.—Ginse and perhaps others will be coming for him.—
—Do you think they can find us here?—
—The Nei-di Elder spoke of seeing him in the Signs.—Dun fi.—They may be able to use them to come to this place, like I did.—
Dun fi paused, staring into the dark expanse of clouds that covered the world below.
—To prepare for that, we must learn to Go the Way.—
—Yes.—The lights of the Authorities sparkled in Lim ki’s eyes.—Did your heart not burn at every word the Gonakhan spoke?—
Dun fi nodded.
—I still feel it. I think I shall burn into ashes if I don’t move now!—Lim ki rose slowly, aware that she was breaking a deep silence.
Then she laughed a laugh like the ringing of many bells. She somersaulted, flipped, kicked and jumped along the platform’s wide expanse, shouting as loud as her voice allowed, hands raised in exhaltation. Dun fi watched with amusement. Then he remembered to turn towards the Gonakhan to see his reaction. Lu Mīn had not moved a muscle, sightlessly staring beyond the horizon.
Lim ki called out.—Dun fi! I see them! I SEE them!—
She lunged forward in a purple hazed streak that left Dun fi looking for her form in the darkness.
—I am over here!—Lim ki waved and called from the opposite end of the rock platform.—Can you not see?—
Dun fi studied the light of the Authorities. But the lights remained unchanged.
Lim ki disappeared, though her delighted laughter could be heard ringing all along the mountainside.
Passage after passage Lu Mīn remained where he was, his ageless face turned southwards, intent upon something only he could see. He neither ate nor drank, nor slept—as far as Dun fi saw, who remained by his side as much as he could. Sometimes in the darkness of an absence, when Lôm sank out of sight, his form seemed to disappear from its place. But Dun fi only witnessed this once, and he decided not to ask the sleeping Lim ki, for she spent her time all over the mountain practicing the Signs.
Neither of the two felt comfortable speaking to the Gonakhan. He had spoken in a manner they had never heard before. They feared breaking concentration, not to mention the things he concentrated upon.
Dun fi spent much of the time trying to remain still by dwelling on Lu Mīn’s words, on Emptiness and Fullness and the rhythm that passed between them. He tried to see the rhythm. But only occasionally did he see pale shapes, like shadows, when the light was just right.
Lim ki, however, was often heard marvelling at the things she saw and experienced. She began appearing and disappearing at will, moving with a speed and agility that she did not possess before, and she even began trading one place for another one, as Dun fi had when he saved their lives.
One absence of Se Lim, Lim ki sat with Dun fi beneath the motionless Gonakhan.
—It has been more passages than I can count since I last ate or drank, Dun fi.—
Dun fi nodded with effort after long stillness.
—Yet,—Lim ki continued.—I am neither hungry nor thirsty. How can that be?—
—Think on what the Gonakhan said.—Dun fi replied. —The Signs give in abundance...—
—Are you going to be ready for them when they arrive here?—Lim ki looked down into the dark clouds.—You are right. They are coming.—
—How are you so certain?— Dun fi looked at her with surprise.
—I have seen them in the Signs.—
Lim ki did not look at Dun fi as she spoke.
—It is difficult to explain. The only thing I can think to say is that the Signs communicate. It isn’t like words…but it is communication nonetheless. Have you not been seeing them all this time?—
Dun fi bent forward, placing his head in hands.
—Long have I tried, Lim ki. But they elude me. Perhaps I am not meant to know them…—
—Do not speak frivolously.—Lim ki replied.—Why else would you be here?—
—I am no longer certain.—Dun fi replied.—I have grown to doubt many things.—
Dun fi turned to look up at the Gonakhan, whose face had not changed in several passages so that he seemed to have become part of the rocks.
—Without you, we do not stand much of a chance.—Lim ki sighed.—They were far more powerful than they let on in Jo-Time. Particularly the Nei-di Alchemistic… His learning goes far, but his abilities go further.—
—How might I prepare?—Dun fi felt his voice crack with emotion.—I have done nothing but attempt to prepare all of these passages, with no progress.—
Lim ki spoke quietly and reverently.—My manner of learning is peculiar to me…I believe it found me, when I was ready. But the same shall happen to you. I am certain of it.—
—Let us hope it occurs soon.—Dun fi sighed.—For if they come before, I shall not be able to do a thing.—
On Se-Lim’s twenty fourth passage over the mountain, Dun fi awoke to see the Gonakhan had gone. Only a dark groove remained in the stone where he had sat.
—Do you know what happened to him, Lim ki?—Dun fi’s eyes had filled with tears.
—I do not.—Lim ki spoke quietly, looking at the spot where the Gonakhan had sat. She then turned towards the fog filled horizon in the direction he had been gazing.
Dun fi followed her look.
—I wonder what it was he saw all that time.—
—I believe we have been here almost a month, Dun fi.—Lim ki replied, returning her gaze to look upon the gaunt form of Dun fi.
—There must be something…—Dun fi’s thoughts swirled like the fog below. Lim ki watched, saying nothing.
With sudden decision, Dun fi sat in the space, crossing his legs in the fashion of the Gonakhan, closing his eyes to try and find concentration.
He remained silent, waiting. His mind wandered, as it had many times before. But before he could open his eyes, a wind like ringing bells began to blow harshly in his ears. Light and dark shapes began forming beyond his closed eyelids. The shapes were musical, though silent. Complex yet simple. Transparently heavy, though tremendously light.
In the midst of the blowing sound of bells, he heard a voice.
—You see them, don’t you Dun fi!—Lim ki was full of excitement, but Dun fi did not move much less reply, for fear the hints of the Signs would disappear.
—Try to open your eyes.—
—But…—Dun fi’s voice trailed off with wonder.
…What the Outer requires
The Inner provides…
Another voice, not from Lim ki, had spoken. Its tone contained a command.
With great effort, Dun fi lifted the lids of his eyes.
What he saw would never leave his consciousness for as long as an inner wind blew through him.
The clouds had opened. Nothing was hidden, and, instead of a horizon, Dun fi could see an expanse that passed on and on. He could see the bright light of the Nei-di towns, collected along snaking trails of flowing water. These made their slow way to the deeper greens of the forests and the Soft Earth which lay beyond the lights. Farther within, like the hint of a jewel deeply set in a ring, were the towers of KuNaZem. Beyond that, expanding in all directions, was the Great Water. It was a cold and dark green, mysterious to gaze upon. The vision was filled with such detail that Dun fi could pick out individual stones, trees, houses, and even faces the longer he looked. Around and through it all danced trails of shapes full of life and significance.
Dun fi saw this and more in a moment, some of which remains unspoken except among certain knowledgeable Waygoers.
As Dun fi looked and looked, two glowing green eyes focused their vision upon him from within the dense mass of the Nei-di capital, Jo-Time. They struck Dun fi like a blow heavily in the face with a limb or a club.
When next Dun fi opened his eyes, he was lying on his back on the rocks on the back side of the mountain. Lim ki stood over him, concern filling her gaze.
—You never told me…—Dun fi felt the rhythm of his inner wind, to gauge his pain.—all that you can see.—
Confusion mixed with relief in Lim ki’s expression.
—What is it you saw?—
Dun fi rubbed his face at the memory of it. He attempted to explain the vision and the glowing eyes that had seen him.
When she heard this, Lim ki grasped Dun fi’s limbs with both of her own to pull him up.
—The Nei-di elder. He must have seen you.—
Dun fi sat up.
—But the Gonakhan...—
—There is no time, Dun fi. I am certain they are coming.—
Lim ki pulled Dun fi to his feet, who groaned in pain from the blow and the fall. With her help they made their stumbling way back to the summit.
As they crested the rocky peak, the air around them glowed with a familiar green mist of swirling shapes. These twisted and flexed before coalescing into two figures, one bent and small, the other strong and straight as a rod. Then the shapes became the elder Nei-di and Ginse.
—It is Lim ki and Dun fi.—Ginse flashed an ivory smile. He was dressed in a rich Nei-di robe. At his side were two jewel incrusted Wakat blades.—The Signs have reunited us.—
Neither Dun fi nor Lim ki spoke a reply.
—Where is the one called Lu Mīn?—The elder Nei-di stepped forward. His hardened body, though old, looked leaner and tougher than either Dun fi or Lim ki could remember.
—I was going to ask that of you.—Dun fi replied.
—Perhaps he expected us and has fled.—Ginse spoke with reverence towards the elder Nei-di.
—Perhaps.—the elder Nei-di stroked the wisps of his beard and stepped forward along the rock platform, gazing all around.
—If we hold these two captive, perhaps he will come for them.—Ginse drew his two wakats with a loud and exuberant metallic ring.—
Lim ki drew the single Wakat she had with her, which had grown rusty and jagged.
—I took this blade from you, Ginse. Likewise shall I take those.—
Ginse’s eyes glittered at Lim ki, and he licked his lips before turning towards Dun fi.
—I am prepared for you this time, Lim ki. Forget not that you took it in the darkness. You shall be tested under Se-Lim now, as shall the famous Silent One.—
Dun fi’s great hands reached down to grasp his own blades, but, recalling that he had none, they bunched into fists instead.
Ginse launched forward, covering the wide space between himself and Dun fi like a diving skyling, his wakats held forward to cut everything in their path.
Dun fi put up his arms like a shield, though a part of him knew the action to be futile. He waited to feel the sting of a deep cut.
But instead there was a great groan and clash of metal upon metal. Lim ki had also flown forward, her single blade parrying both of Ginse’s as she came at him from the side. Ginse lost his balance, rolling twice before he could once again stand.
Lim ki quickly advanced to slash Ginse.
Sparks flew off of Ginse’s wakats as they caught the roughened edge of Lim ki’s, who was forced to move with twice the speed to keep up. Her reddened face burned with concentration as she sought a lapse in Ginse’s form, whose smile widened with confidence at every slash.
Then it was Lim ki who made a mistake. Striking out at Ginse’s unprotected side, she committed herself with a large step to increase momentum. This left her back open for a quick slice from Ginse’s left
Seeing this, Dun fi lunged forward with a concentrated roar. He was too far away to catch Ginse’s arm, but instead a twisting array of greenish projectiles soared through the air, as if from his fingertips. Lim ki dove to the side, away from the projectiles, while Ginse, intent on finishing the move that would end Lim ki’s life, looked up to find the greenish snakes wrapping around his chest and limbs. He collapsed backwards, dropping his wakat as the ropes tightened around him.
Dun fi stumbled forward, rubbing the back of his head, to pick up the Wakat Ginse had dropped. As he reached down, a blue net, made as of shivering light, crossed the air over the top of Ginse. When it touched Dun fi, he at first felt a shiver. Then pain followed like the clap of thunder that follows lightning, causing him to bend backwards in a spasm.
—You have advanced far in the Signs.—The voice of the elder Nei-di filled Dun fi’s ears.—Though you will never know how far you might have come with me.—
Dun fi collapsed on the rocks just as another bolt of light arced through the air, connecting with him again.
—It is a shame. Such strength.—The elder Nei-di shook his head slowly as the light struck Dun fi again and again.
Ginse laughed from within the safety of the net, gathering his Wakat once the ropes faded away, but his laugh was cut short. Out of the air a shape took form, the shape of Lim ki swinging her single Wakat at the elder Nei-di.
The elder Nei-di dodge the majority of the blade, but not before it slashed open his robes, leaving a thin gash in his upper limb.
—Rise, Dun fi. Take this!—Lim ki swung the Wakat into the air as she grasped the elder Nei-di in an embrace and pushed him down the side of the mountain. The two disappeared, and so did the net of light—just as Dun fi grasped the handle of the spinning Wakat.
—My desire is fulfilled.—Ginse spoke as he stood in the stance of Preparation.—The Silent One approaches for a duel.—
—You shall regret that desire.—Dun fi spoke as he made the angled attack, driving the Wakat forward and down with both hands. Pain filled his form, and he grunted from the effort.
Ginse echoed the grunt with a mocking pitch as he moved forward, his two wakats performing the skyling formation as they slashed across and down, mere shades of distance from Dun fi, who stumbled backwards.
—Where went the strength of the one I witnessed so many times in the Schools of KuNaZem?—Ginse mocked as he struck, seeking Dun fi’s flesh, who managed to dodge backwards when he could not bring the Wakat forward to meet blade for blade.
Two strikes rang clear and strong, but the third caused a ripping crunch. Dun fi’s Wakat crumpled under the pressure of its newer, better-made counterpart: Half of the blade tore off into the wind. The fighters watched in disbelief.
But Ginse did not wait long to claim his advantage. He turned, making the cross strike at Dun fi’s unprotected middle, but Dun fi had disappeared.
—The Nei-di taught me how to counter this trick learned from Loosu Mīn!—Ginse opened his palm and blew. A yellow immaterial dust filled the air, covering the hidden Dun fi, revealing his form crouching among the rocks. Dun fi turned to run.
—Now you cannot hide, though may flee!—Ginse laughed with delight as he gave chase across the rock platform, slashing when he could. Dun fi rolled and tumbled to keep out of the cutting paths. He heard the sharp screech of a Nashizu voice cry in pain below.
—There’s your Nashizu princess, caught.—Ginse mocked.—and you will be next!—With a rapid stretching lunge, Ginse hooked the foot of Dun fi, causing him to stumble. With a bang and a grunt, Dun fi fell down.
—The Silent One has fallen!—Ginse laughed and smacked Dun fi with the back of his blade, while placing his thick leather sandal on top of Dun fi’s head. He applied pressure to force it into the sharp little rocks.
After a moment, Lim ki appeared, climbing up the rocky slope, led by the slightly hobbling form of the elder Nei-di. He pointed his own thin reed of a Wakat at her back.
—Well done, young learner.—the elder Nei-di waved the thin Wakat in the air.—Now we must strip these two of the Signs, and wait.
—Strip them of the Signs?—Ginse looked quizzically at the elder Nei-di. In this position he seemed more like the young, thinnish runt from the Schools.
—Yes. We must take away their awareness of the Signs. It is what strengthened them in this conflict, giving them moments of advantage.—
—How might we do that?—Ginse studied the ends of his shining weapons to try and hide his humility before the captives.
—Why, by inflicting upon them pain, of course.—The elder Nei-di’s face creased into a knowing smile, his words turned into a laugh.
Dun fi stared at where Lim ki stood limp, exhausted. Blood began dripping into his vision as Ginse pressed down tighter.
—Stand, Dun fi.—The elder Nei-di pointed his Wakat.—or be prepared to suffer more than before.—
—Don’t do what he says, Dun fi!—Lim ki suddenly shouted with anguish.—for you will suffer!—
The electric bolts emanated off of the elder Nei-di’s hands, arcing towards Lim ki, who screamed as Ginse stomped down upon Dun fi as hard he could in the weak of his back. One, two, three times… Dun fi felt his insides crack.
—This need not have been the result of our relationship.—The elder Nei-di bent over to look at Dun fi with an expression of great sadness.—You both could have grown as great and powerful as your fellow traveller has here. We ought to have come looking for the Gonakhan together… Why did you turn away from me?—
—Your Way is not the Way.—Dun fi replied, his blood stained teeth bared like a wild hrônd.—You do not wish the Gonakhan well.—
—Nonsense—replied the elder Nei-di.—There are many Ways. If you choose to submit to one Way, you submit to the authority of another. I could have taught you to make your own Way. That is what the Elements, or Signs, are for. That is also why we must stop the Gonakhan, and all that preach only One Way.—
Dun fi spat and reached out to grasp a handful of rocks.
—You shall not stop him.—
Ginse stepped on the hand with his free limb. The elder Nei-di spoke.
— As long as you will so, you stand in my way.—
The elder Nei-di nodded at Ginse, who produced the blade and brought it down with a stroke, chopping two fingers off Dun fi’s hand.
—Now you will tell me where he went.—the elder Nei-di bent down to peer closely into the face of Dun fi.—Or I shall take the rest.—
—Take them.—Dun fi glared at the face of the Nei-di. He had not so much as grunted with the pain.
—…if your fingers are of such little value to you, perhaps I should take those of your Nashizu.—The Nei-di spun around towards the blue net of light pressing Lim ki to the ground.
The Nei-di approached the light net, pulling it towards him with an open hand, while producing the thin Wakat in the other.
—He disappeared… we do not know where.—Dun fi reached out with his bloodied hand, pain finally piercing his face.
—I am a warrior, same as you, Dun fi.—Lim ki replied calmly.—let the Nei-di’s punishment stand. He should never catch the Gonakhan.—
—This one, you call Gonakhan.—the Nei-di shook his head sadly, Wakat raised, foot holding Lim ki’s hand in place upon the stone.—You go so far to keep him safe, and what do you receive in return? If this is the Way, then you deserve such a result for being his mindless followers. Come out Gonakhan and see what has befallen your followers!—
The bloodied Wakat descended in an arc. Then the ground began to rumble and shake. Stones as big as boulders rose in great swirling arcs. Among them shapes of light danced into one another. The rocks began to assemble a stairway that reached high above the mountain. At the top of the stairway appeared a figure, though he was distant and difficult to discern from the light of Se-Lim that shone behind him.
—Who darkens this place with obscurity and violence?—The voice of Lu Mīn filled the air as he descended.
The elder Nei-di straightened, pulling his Wakat back from Lim ki’s mangled hand.
—And who descends from the heights as if he were an Authority and no mere mortal, the son of a Shinse peasant?—
Lu Mīn made the final step from his stairway upon the mountain. As he did so, the rocks fell in a deluge behind him, thundering down into the clouds below.
—Before entering Go-na, I was called Lu Mīn. I have seen you, Arathus, in the Signs. You called me, so here I am. I see what you have done to the ones called Lim ki and Dun fi. Now I desire that you will let them free.—
—I am afraid that action comes with a price.—Arathus raised his Wakat again, this time eyeing Lim ki’s neck. –This one won’t see the light of Se-Lim in a moment if you do not surrender to myself and my companion, Ginse.—
—You are not in a position to command any price.—the one who had been Lu Mīn stepped forward, hand raised.
—Am I not?—Arathus laughed, then lifted the Wakat high above his head.
—This is your final opportunity, Arathus.—The Gonakhan pointed his finger at the elder Nei-di.
—With such arrogance you have just killed one of your followers!—The elder Nei-di shouted with a kind of exultation as he brought the Wakat down to separate Lim ki from her inner wind.
—No!—Dun fi attempted to wrench his body free from Ginse, who stared at Arathus. Ginse’s legs buckled under Dun fi’s efforts.
When next Dun fi looked up, it was to see the form of Lu Mīn straining under a blade locked with Arathus’s Wakat.
Arathus spun out of his attack, the second hand open. Blue sparks began to connect his fingers as he focused his attention upon Lu Mīn.
But the Gonakhan had risen to a standing position, fingers pressed together. He raised them slowly, eyes closed.
Then the light leapt from Arathus’ hand with tremendous strength, it danced around striking holes in the rocks as it sought a home around the Gonakhan. Arathus’s eyes narrowed and he pressed his fingers together to make the light stronger. The light got closer and closer to the Gonakhan, but none touched him. All the while the Gonakhan kept his eyes shut, slowly raising his hands higher and higher towards his head and above.
—I shall help you, Arathus!—called Ginse, who left off Dun fi with a kick to the face. He ran forward to strike the Gonakhan with his sword.
—No, Ginse!—Arathus looked with alarm at his protégé, and attempted to halt the blue light. But he could not stop it arcing into Ginse’s direction. Ginse wobbled and collapsed, blackened steam curling off of his charred garb.
Arathus’s look softened with concern for a moment, but then turned with anger towards the Gonakhan as he lunged with his Wakat at his opponent.
The Gonakhan did not move or even open his eyes when the Wakat sliced through him. Arathus looked at his blade with unbelieving eyes, bring it back several times to engage the Gonakhan. But no strike could stick: It was as if the Gonakhan was not even there.
—There is nothing of this in the Signs!—Arathus panted with great weariness.
The Gonakhan opened his eyes.
—You have learned the Signs, but not the Way. To make progress from here you must unlearn.—
The Gonakhan’s hands swept down in two arcs, as if he were carrying two wakats, though he only had one. Then they braced into a shape focussing upon Arathus.
A light seemed to emanate from the farthest distances of the sky in every direction. It vibrated in the air as it grew in intensity blocking out all. All looked around to witness it, but the Gonakhan kept his eyes locked upon Arathus, who began to groan and sway.
—My sight! My eyes! I cannot see!—Arathus shouted as he dropped his Wakat, his hands cupping his eyes.
A sound, simultaneously too low and too high to hear followed the light. Arathus grabbed his ears and his wailing turned to a shriek. He collapsed upon his knees. The Gonakhan bent forward to look at Arathus with an ever increasing intensity. He brought his hands together so that each finger touched its counterpart. Then the Gonakhan clapped.
Arathus’s shriek turned to a gurgle, and he grabbed his throat as if he were choking. But the light and the sound had passed, and the one who had been Lu Mīn let his hands drop to his sides.