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Se Lim’s path began to cut brightly lit patterns through the trees of the quiet western woods, before Lu Mīn emerged from the Signs.

Leaves had gathered upon him where he sat in the position of Go-na and they crinkled as he began to move. 

The noise woke Dun fi. He rose to take in his surroundings, surprised to see the Zhi dime already sat alert, watchful of the Gonakhan. It appeared he had never moved from that place since the absence of Se-Lim. 

Dun fi watched as Lu Mīn gently waved the Gokhan to come near. This he did, and the two spoke in tones too low to hear. 

They spoke for a long time. Long enough for the others to wake and attend their labors, in the quiet respectful manner that belonged to the Way. Then the Gonakhan summoned Lim ki. She rushed like a child to join the others, while the rest looked on in silence.

Se-Lim was high above when the three finished. They both rose and joined the rest of the party who had gathered for the communal meal. Lim ki’s eyes were wide with wonder. 

--It is not common for me to come to this table, much less address you all at it,--began the Gonakhan.—But I must let you know that I will be leaving on a journey and this will be my last meal with you. Gokhanzhi here is to join me. So is Dun fi. Lim ki will remain with you all and keep this place as it is.—

A soft murmur began from those present. 

--Speak not softly amongst one another.—Lu Mīn said, receiving instant silence. 

For Passages and Cycles

We have spent time together 

Here

In the Way. 

Remember all that you have seen 

And all that you have heard 

Do not put one above another

Speak no words 

Think no thoughts 

Except those that follow the Way. 

The Gonakhan coughed, suddenly seeming rather old, and continued. 

--Still, it is true, that some of you have gone farther down the Way than others. Let that be the judge of who is right when any disagree. 

There will be cycles of Se-Lim filled with great struggles. Much will be won and lost in the circle of the world. Though you be asked to take part, do not become caught in the circle. Remember what is gained can be lost, and what is lost can be gained. It is never too late to turn back to the Way should you lose it.—

The Gonakhan became silent, sat, and began to eat his meal hungrily, smacking his lips with the pleasure of the taste.

Those gathered followed his example. Rarely had there been a meal filled with such joy. 

But soon it was finished. The Gonakhan rose, and, turning, began to walk slowly south. He did not look back, though those gathered cheered and waved. 

Lim ki approached Dun fi, embracing him. 

--It will be some time before I see you again, Dun fi.—she said.—but I will be here, waiting for your return.—

Dun fi looked perplexed from her to the figure of the Gonakhan, growing lost in the underbrush, Zhi dime had joined close behind. Tears welled up in his eyes. 

--I do not understand. Why do you not come with us?—

--That is not for me to say.—Lim ki replied, though a smile lit her face.—Follow the Way.—

Dun fi looked around, eager to pick up a weapon for the journey. But the Gonakhan had already disappeared from sight, though the rustle of his movements could be heard. 

So Dun fi ran to find them. 

XXX

Dun fi pressed the leaves away with large stick, trying to ease the path for Lu Mīn and the much older seeming Zhi dime.

The dense woods were quiet and dark—though the passage of Se-Lim was at its greatest height. 

Dun fi followed the land, which passed ever downward in folding undulations. Occasionally the loud hooting of a windgoer filled the silence. 

Both Lu Mīn and the Gokhanzhi seemed lost in thought; Dun fi had grown to accustomed to the Gonakhan’s silence. It therefore surprised him when Lu Mīn spoke, cheerful as a child. 

--This reminds me of the fine times we spent first in the Way, Dun fi.—

--I desired to say the same, Gonakhan.—Dun fi replied.

--Why the heavy voice, are you weary?--

--No, Gonakhan, but I fear our destination.—

Lu Mīn was quiet for a time. Then he spoke.

--Dun fi, for as long as I have known you, fear has been inside you. It will soon be time to let go of that.—

--That is what I fear.—Dun fi replied.

The folds in the land flattened out to reveal the broad and swift river. The brown water writhed with life. 

Dun fi looked back to survey the faces of his companions. To his surprise, Zhi dime was gone. 

--Have no thought of him, dear friend.—Lu Mīn smiled.—We have already spoken our farewells.—

--What do you mean, Gonakhan?—Dun fi put down his stick on the river bank.—Are we to leave him behind?—

Lu Mīn put his hand on Dun fi’s shoulder.—Not us. You will remain.—

Dun fi turned to look at the water, opaque and mysterious.

Lu Mīn grasped Dun fi in a wiry embrace.—You are to take Zhi dime to the Mountain. He will then return to Ku Na Zem and finish his service as a Gokhan. He will pass what he learns about the Way on to the ones prepared to hear. Some will hear, for as long as the schools stand, though many will not. Zhi dime will need your help to accomplish all of this, so you must continue to progress in the Way.—

Dun fi returned the embrace with what remained of his great strength. 

--How can I know the Way without you, Gonakhan?—

Lu Mīn broke the embrace, stepping to the flowing water’s edge.

--Look and listen for the Signs. Then step forward.--

Lu Mīn entered the swift current, wading carefully as his robes swelled up beside him. 

--Is this…?—Dun fi choked. Tears rolled down his face. 

—Weep for me!—called the spry old Gonakhan, looking back one last time.—Your tears shall be what propels me forward into the Last Unknown!—

With that he leapt into the flowing water. There in the water swam a dark form. Through the splashes was no elder Shime. In its place swam a giant Waachi.

The Waachi that was also the Gonakhan made its way into the middle of the flowing water. Then it slapped its tail three times and disappeared beneath the surface. 

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