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[15] When the light of Se-Lim had returned to normal and the peaceful silence had one again filled the air, Lu Mīn spoke.

You have now seen

You have now heard

The Way

Of the Signs 

Woe to the one who seeks to control them. 

Then the Gonakhan relaxed his position and took in Lim ki and Dun fi, who hobbled up towards him holding close their wounded limbs. 

—I am afraid I cannot heal these.—The Gonakhan examined the mangled hands of the two with a deep and abiding pity.—But I will give of what I can offer.—

His hands waved gently around the two, as if he were massaging the light that surrounded them. Relief immediately filled the two, such that they felt the warmth of Se-Lim from within. 

Lu Mīn then stopped and jumped to save Arathus from falling off a ledge as he shuffled around wailing silently. 

—Look, Gonakhan! He is gone!—Dun fi had looked around for the corpse of Ginse and noticed it was nowhere to be found. Feeling well, he leaped from rock to rock in search, but Ginse’s bright green clothing was nowhere to be found. 

—He has departed in the Signs.—Lu Mīn replied, his hand holding Arathus’s, who continued to weep.—you will not find him here.—

—Does he not also deserve the Justice of the Way?—Dun fi looked into the Gonakhan’s eyes.

—No.—Lu Mīn returned the look with an unchanging expression.

—But surely we ought to stop him before he returns to challenge you?—

—That is not the Way.—Lu Mīn turned his gaze from Arathus to Lim ki.—But it is time to leave this place, and continue our journey along the paths of the many.—

—Gonakhan, what of Arathus?—Lim ki looked at the broken alchemistic.

—That will be our first task.—The Gonakhan’s face creased in a smile. He squeezed Arathus’s hand and walked forward slowly to the middle of the large rock platform.

—Look around and take note.—The Gonakhan spoke solemnly to Lim ki and Dun fi.—I will never return to this place. But I believe you will.—

X

Although it was possible to move about in the Signs, going from place to place faster than a windgoer, the Gonakhan chose to walk, coming down from the High Places in a slow and painful manner. Having grown accustomed to a life without eat or drink had made the trials of the paths less demanding for Dun fi and Lim ki. Every short distance, the Gonakhan would pause and cut a mark into a rock of significant size. The mark glowed for a time before fading.

—Why are you making those marks?—Lim ki asked.

—For you to find this place again.—The Gonakhan responded.

Se-Lim passed over many times before they reached the first trails of the Nei-di. Arathus, who spent the first several passages sobbing as he stumbled along in the care of Lim ki and Lu Mīn, had grown tranquil. His hands stretched before him, his feet shuffling so as not to lose contact with the ground. 

The Gonakhan spoke:

Treat all 

who cannot recognize the Signs 

with Kindness.

Learn from them. 

After several passages, the group had come into view of a Nei-di hamlet. The Gonakhan stopped and pointed for Dun fi and Lim ki to let go of Arathus. 

—Here we will leave him in the care of his own.—the Gonakhan spoke.—But first let us ensure that he is found.— 

Lu Mīn then disappeared, taking the hand of Arathus to make slow but straight progress into the Nei-di hamlet. After a time, a pair of Nei-di left their grey rock dwelling to see who the loud shuffling one was. 

After some shouting and gesturing, they took Arathus by the hand and firmly brought him inside. 

—Must we monitor how he fairs, Gonakhan?—Dun fi asked the returned Lu Mīn. 

—For a little.—Lu Mīn responded.

—Why, after all, did you spare his life, Gonakhan?—Lim ki asked. 

Lu Mīn was silent for a time, watching the village. An old woman had stepped out of a rock hovel, bearing the wet and soiled clothes that had covered Arathus. Revealed in the doorway for a moment was the old man’s form sitting in a tub of hot water, like a young one.

Remember this all your passages—Lu Mīn spoke solemnly—Though there will be many who do say otherwise:

There is only the Way. 

Some follow it one step, 

some two, 

others three. 

Lu Mīn continued—Some believe in many Ways. Some believe in none. Some believe the only Way is the one you Will or Desire. All of these lead to the same. 

Follow the Way

For the further you Follow 

The further it will take you. 

 —But Gonakhan.—Dun fi lowered his face in shame as he spoke.—I must ask, why ought one to follow the Way, if there is no reward? What difference does it make to go further?—

Lu Mīn again spoke. 

The Way is its own Reward.

All that can be had 

Can be taken. 

All that is taken 

Can be lost. 

All that is lost  

Can be had. 

—Life without the Way is a great circle.—Lu Mīn continued tracing the shape with his fingers.—As all circles, it has no beginning and no end, one phase leading seamlessly into the next. Only the Way escapes the circle. This is the heart of its power, the basis of its reward.—

Lu Mīn then stood, raised both hands above his head, expanded them in a wide arc. A revolving light of purple and blue exploded from his outstretched hands, forming a living arch of extraordinary beauty above them. 

—It is true, is it not Gonakhan.—Lim ki spoke again.—That you have just written a Sign?—

Lu Mīn nodded. 

—I am not writing a Sign, but forming a Signot. Through this Signot future Waygoers will be able to escape the Circle. Teach them this Signot to recognize the Way’s beginning.—

XX

Many were the deeds of Lu Mīn, Dun fi and Lim ki in the passages after Lu Mīn wrote the Sign of the Arch out of the Circle (which is the World). There are many who saw and heard that can speak of them. 


Lysander’s Note:  This is the end of the book according to some scribal scholars, and learned Shinse Waygoers. The chapters that follow are likely apocryphal literature added by imaginative Waygoer followers. Nevertheless, they are worth keeping, for they do have some basis in fact, since there do exist other testimonies that confirm certain elements of the story.   

[16] Lu Mīn, Dun fi and Lim ki did not return to Ku-Na-Zem for many cycles of Se-Lim. Instead they wandered among all the wild places, only occasionally entering a settlement, be it Nei-di or Shinse. There, in the disguise of travelling traders hard on their luck, they created Peace, sometimes performing great acts of service. You can hear the story of the old Shizu who was brought back her Fa-di, her only source of sustenance, or about how Dun fi solved the Great Dispute in the borderlands, or about the final education of the Kon-de-lon.  

There are many stories. 

Some stories are told to darken true memory, but do not believe these—they are told by the ones who seek to dispel the world of Waygoers…

Others may be false. 

Grey hairs had begun to shine upon Dun fi’s crown by the time he once again laid eyes upon the Golden Towers. 

—It brings back many a good memory to see them again, Gonakhan.—Dun fi spoke to Lu Mīn as to Lim ki. 

—Indeed it does.—Lim ki nodded, a tear in her eye.

—Do not spare time.—Lu Mīn, who had grown thin and a little crooked from the weight of his knowledge, gestured for the two to move forward.—It was not for nothing that we stayed away so many cycles. 

The worst danger of the Way

Is the desire to turn back. 

At once they donned their wearied trader’s garb, moving with a slow, deliberate pace into the crowded city precincts. 

—Much has changed.—Dun fi spoke with astonishment, passing between the crowded and poor looking stalls of merchant traders, waving and hooting like windgoers desperate for Nei-di coins.—I have no recollection of these streets!—

—Please—Lim ki put out a hand to grasp the sleeve of a passing Shime.—Can you direct us to the District of the Six Schools?—

The Shime barked a harsh laugh, and pulled his arm from her grasp.

—How long have you been away trading, Shizuloo! For many cycles now there have been Seven!— 

He disappeared into the crowds as Lim ki looked wide eyed at the other two.

—I warned you that much has changed.—Lu Mīn spoke, a reassuring smile in his eyes. 

—What are we doing in this strange and foreign place, Gonakhan?—Dun fi shrugged with a heavy disappointment, as the curled tale of toy canvasses passing by overhead slid over his shoulder.

—We need not stay long.—Lu Mīn responded, pointing away into the town.—Follow me.—

The three passed along unnoticed until they reached a quiet part, where the old dwellings stood, seeming much larger in comparison to the new buildings. Open yards and garden still filled the space between them. 

—This is where we once lived, Gonakhan!—Dun fi spoke brightly after several moments of staring.

—Indeed, Dun fi.—Lu Mīn pointed.—There you can see the stone marking the Elder’s passing.—

—I mark it, Gonakhan.—Dun fi nodded, lost in thought.

—Why are we here?—Lim ki asked, looking about her with suspicion.

—To leave Something for future ones to find the Way.—

The Gonakhan focused his attention, as he often did. Dun fi and Lim ki, who would normally wait, could not resist the temptation to wander around the abandoned dwelling that had once been home. 

—The quiet is unsettling, Dun fi.—Lim ki whispered as they made to exit the building. 

—It is still a dwelling place for a Gokhan,—Dun fi’s invisible hand pointed at the scroll of welcoming next to the door explaining whose dwelling visitors were entering.

--It cannot be!—Dun fi exclaimed in a louder voice than he expected. 

--Out of my dwelling, trick-makers!—

A wooden Wakat crashed out of the shadows, whacking Dun fi in the back of his head, causing him to stumble forward. The attacker followed the sounds of the fall, for Dun fi remained invisible, bashing his wooden Wakat against the flesh he could not see so hard that it bent in the wind. 

Lim ki pulled herself out of invisibility to attack, but paused in hesitation. 

Dun fi was laughing uncontrollably. 

--Stop Zhi-dime! Stop! ‘Tis your old nemesis, Dun fi! I mean no harm!—

The attacker, a silver haired and wiry formed Shime in the silken dress of a Gokhan, stood in fearful expectation as Dun fi revealed his form beneath.

--What would a true warrior without match in the Schools need with trick-making?—Zhi-dime knitted his greying brows. His wrinkled skin making a patchwork of crevasses. 

--Why Dun fi, you have hardly aged!—

Dun fi rose with a grunt of pain.

--And your strikes have not lost their bite, Zhi-dime.—

The two squared off to one another and bowed the bow of the Schools. 

--It is good you are here. I welcome you into my dwelling.—Zhi-dime spoke, not without a certain irony.

--Your thanks, Gokhan, but I must attend one thing before I enter, again.—Lim ki spoke, quiet uncertainty crossing her features as she sought to communicate with Dun fi. 

Dun fi nodded and bowed deeply.

--I will however accept with the full heart of an old friend, first begging pardon for my earlier intrusion.—

--Think nothing of it. You must have had your reasons.—Zhi-dime’s brows remained knit as he turned around to enter into his dwelling. 

Once inside, the Gokhan lit a lamp, and walked towards the back room, where simple food was sitting, prepared. 

--I was not expecting guests.—The Gokhan spoke breezily as he turned around to stand by his place, a hand pointing to where Dun fi could sit. Dust covered the cushion.

--I am not in need of sustenance.—Dun fi responded.—But I would heartily drink a cup of Lai-se with you.—

The Gokhan laughed a guffawing laugh which had lost the smoothness of earlier years. 

--You will have the best there is!—

The Gokhan clapped, and the shadowed form of a small Shizu, wrapped in a servant’s robe came forth, bearing a bottle of Lai-se. 

--She is a terrible spy, and a thief.—Zhi dime growled.—But she is quiet and good at leaving me alone.—

Zhi-dime began eating his meal, having poured two glasses of Lai-se and toasted Dun fi, beckoning him to speak.

--Where can I begin, Zhi-dime…-- 

--From the time I never saw you again would suffice.—Zhi-dime responded –Your departure was an event.—

--Was it?—

--The Gokhan was very angered that you should gain permission to skip lessons. He fought with the Old Gokhan, which had never before happened. It was forbidden by Zan Ta Qien for the Gokhans to dispute. It sets a bad example.—Zhi-dime looked down at his Gokhan’s robe.—I ought to know.—

--And I congratulate you.—Dun fi smiled. 

Zhi dime waved a hand in the air.

--Do not speak such things. These robes are a curse. But before I tell you my tale, you must finish yours.—

Dun fi spoke for many hours and through several bottles of Lai-se, about the quest to find Lu Mīn, the Alchemistics of the Nei-di and Ginse. When he had finished, he looked at Zhi dime with clear eyes. 

Zhi dime held his cup in his hand. He had leaned far back on his cushion to meditate on the story through hooded eyes. 

--You did well to tell me all, Dun fi.—Zhi dime sat up.—for if you had withheld one thing, I might have killed you here on the spot.—

Dun fi too sat up, the hair on his neck standing on end.

--Strong words, friend.—

--These are times for strong words.—Zhi-dime returned to his relaxed position.—Since the rise of the Seventh School, nothing has remained the same.—

--This is not the first I have heard of it.—Dun fi sipped from his cup.—What Art do they teach there?—

--It is the art you speak of, Trick-making.—Zhi dime spat.—They bring shame on the rest of us, undoing our hard work with ill summoned Signs.—

--You know something of Signs, Zhi dime?—Dun fi raised a brow.

--Every Gokhan knows of Signs.—Zhi dime spoke.—The Signs are what complete our training, and always have. But the Signs are dangerous. Zan Ta Qien knew this, which is why his training involved learning how to look at them without looking. To be aware of their presence without being aware. To refrain from their use while using them.—

Zhi dime rose from his cushion, summoning Dun fi to follow him outside. 

--The Authorities.—Zhi dime sighed at the dim flickering lights.—It is a long time ere I looked up at them with any feeling of wonder.— he continued.

--The Seventh School is called the School of Signs for a reason. They use the Signs to perform tricks. Aware of their power, they unleash them on any and all who stand in the way. It took a special dispensation from the Matriarchs to build it.—

--The Matriarchs?—Dun fi looked confused. 

--The rulers of the city, of course.—Zhi dime could not keep the scorn from his voice. 

--We have learned many things from the Nei-di since you left this place, Dun fi, among them how to have rulers. Their power does not extend far beyond the city, I suppose, which is why you may not have heard of them.—

--We have kept to solitary and foreign places, it is true.—Dun fi replied.

--Better for it. For whatever the matriarchs have brought with them comes in twos. Wealth, and poverty. Power, and servitude. Wisdom, and controlled speaking. They have concentrated all things into their hands.—

--How did the Matriarch come to power?—Dun fi asked.—Surely they would not have, without the Gokhan’s permission?—

--Two things.—Zhi dime replied.—Nei-di gold, and the tricks, called ‘Signs’. The gold bought loyalty, the tricks bought fear. The one of whom you speak, Ginse, called Gokhangin, brought both.—

--Ginse?—Dun fi spoke with a darkness in his voice that had not been there for many cycles.—Gokhangin?—

--He came with the Nei-di, who sought to build an ‘embassy’. Nei-di had never been here for long to dwell, but their gold was welcome. They purchased a dwelling for many times what it was worth, and soon there were always Nei-di coming and going. This brought great fear to the Council of Elders, who knew how to deal with our ways, but not theirs. 

--This became especially true when the Nei-di committed crimes. I was a graduate by then, charged with keeping the peace. A Nei-di soldier had been caught raping a young Shizu. I was among the graduates who caught and killed him in the act.

--But the Nei-di were provoked to a great anger. They threatened war for the death. So the Council decided to play on their ignorance, saying the Shizu was a future ruler. This seemed to placate them, but from then on they insisted on speaking with the rulers. 

--The trick had been Ginse’s advice. He knew the Nei-di better than anyone. But he had underestimated this Shizu. I believe he had designs upon her, to make himself a Nei-di “King.” But she began to control him.—

Dun fi listened silent and watchful. His old friend’s face betrayed nothing but honesty. 

--Everywhere you can see how things have changed.—Zhi dime bent over his cup, a hand curled around it as if holding on for life.—Their Nei-di gold has built many things. Have you seen the palace? The Seventh school?—

--But the Nei-di do not give their gold away…--

Zhi dime lifted the glass of sparkling drink.—The Ancients say that Laise was brought from over the Great Water to bring joy and refreshment. It was a great gift…but it is what has destroyed us. Laise and Tricks.—

--what of Ginse now?—Dun fi asked.—His is yet with inner wind?—

--He lives in the Seventh School.—Zhi dime gazed yet upon his glass.—there he teaches the tricks.—

--Take me there.—Dun fi rose and held out a hand towards the door that led into the darkness of Se-Lim’s absence.

XX 

Continue reading The Life of Lu-Min - Part 13