The Elder Na-Shime was once a learner under the wizened Master of the Seven Schools, the First Gokhan, Zan-Ta-Qien. There were none who remembered a time in the city when he was not in it, making him the oldest living Shinse of record. His form was bent forward and relied upon a gnarled Ki-mera tree branch to walk.

He rose early, before the passage of Se-Lim, and did many activities by the time the rest of the city was awake. He usually had the first pick of the fruits and vegetables, for he loved good food. 

He ate a morning meal like many consume an afternoon meal. He then ate sparingly until Se-Lim went to his rest. He then ate an enormous feast, three times as much as even the healthy young ones surrounding him. Despite this, he was thin as a rail. 

He spoke eloquently and often with those he liked. Dun fi was always listening to him and laughing at his jokes and observations. But with Lu Mīn, he was stern and often silent. 

The Elder Na-Shime was well known and could go no place without people stopping him to talk. He enjoyed this immensely and often had a joke or kind word to say, a broad smile upon his lips. 

The Elder seemed to have a hectic set of events to attend to each passage. Na-Shime and Na-Shizu engaging his help and advice almost constantly about many different problems or issues. They always addressed him formally and brought a gift. 

Additionally, he taught in the Seven Schools. Being the oldest and wisest Gokhanse, the First Follower of Zan-Ta-Qien himself, the Elder Na-Shime did not need to abide by any of the School Rites. 

He came and went as he pleased, instructing students practicing the Arts, listening to the instruction of a fellow Gokhan, sometimes he would sit in the middle of a School garden in the position open to Go-na. He would do this until he had a crowd of students watching him. Then he would quietly open his eyes and say something of worth. Other times he would merely nod deeply, rise and walk out.

Lu Mīn had a great difficulty taking in the elder Na-Shime’s actions. Often he was puzzled, watching silently from a distance. 

However, Dun fi remained close by, unless he had been given a task to do. Usually it was work for some supplicant in the town who had a difficulty, a caved-in roof, a lost pet, or a heavy load that required moving. Dun fi always refused any compensation for his efforts, claiming the elder Na-Shime’s hospitality was more than fair payment. 

One passage of Se-Lim, the elder Na-Shime approached Dun fi. 

—You must enhance your skills.—he said.—that is why I have arranged for you to enter the Seven Schools, beginning with the School of the Wakat.—

—It is an honour without compare.—responded Dun fi.—But I made solemn Words to the Authorities to stay by the side of my friend, Lu Mīn. I cannot go back on these Words.—

The elder Na-Shime scowled, but said nothing. He looked at Dun fi for a long time. Then he responded: 

—You must follow your Words. So I will arrange for the one called Lu Mīn to attend the schools as well.—

Dun fi was elated when he shared with Lu Mīn the message. 

—And what do I have to learn from swinging a sword?—asked Lu Mīn.—My life is meant for the Signs.—

Dun fi responded: 

—Lu Mīn, far be it from me to tell you what to do or where to go. But a chance to study in the Schools is a great honour, bestowed upon very few. If we go, it may be that the Gokhan will reward us.—

Lu Mīn considered and spoke: 

You have your mind set 

On the Things Apparent. 

You do not look 

For the Things Behind. 

But I will listen

And I will go to the Schools

If just to see what there is 

Of worth.

Not many passages of Se-Lim later, Dun fi and Lu Mīn made their first appearance in the School of the Wakat. 

The Wakat Gokhan was there to greet them. He acknowledged them both, but addressed Dun fi first. 

—You are welcome, Big one. My friend tells me to expect great progress from you.—

—I ask the Authorities that it is true.—responded Dun fi. 

Lu Mīn said nothing and the Wakat Gokhan said nothing. 

In the main courtyard of the School, they found the students in a direct line, attentive and silent. 

The Wakat Gokhan walked down the line, stopping about one third part from its finish, and turned to look at a stout Na-Shime. 

The Na-Shime turned a shade paler as he waited to hear the Gokhan speak.

—Zhi-dime. I call upon you to take this Big one, called Dun fi, and instruct him in the ways of the School.—

The Gokhan continued a little distance and stopped again, before a wiry student with teeth sticking up from his lower lip.  

—Ginse. I call upon you take this little one, called Lu Mīn, and instruct him in the ways of the School.—

Then the Gokhan continued walking until he had disappeared down the far entrance of the courtyard. 

Loud shouts came forth from some of those in the line. Their shouting sparked a great flurry of action, for the students began making a strange crossing formation, several paces from each other. 

It took Dun fi and Lu Mīn some time to find their way, with the harsh words of their new supervisors.

Then the exercises began. 

Calling out the names for each movement, the group proceeded to swivel and sway, quickly bringing their feet forward as well as bending their joints in odd ways and at odd times. 

Lu Mīn stood at ease and watched, though this provoked a scowl from Ginse. 

Dun fi did his best to copy the exercises, and soon he had learned the rhythm of the movements and was imitating more ably. 

When these had finished, the students turned to one another. 

Ginse turned to Lu Mīn to speak. 

—This time I will retrieve the practice wakats, but next time you will.—

He then disappeared with many others, only to return with two straight pieces of wood. He tossed one at Lu Mīn and the second set of exercises began. 

Each student took up an attack-ready position and let out the same sharp cry. Then they proceeded through the practice steps of the School, swinging their practice wakats with strong and true ability. 

Dun fi joined the dance with natural talent, parrying the strikes with force. 

Lu Mīn stood, trying but failing to meet Ginse’s attacks. At first Ginse did not take this out on Lu Mīn. But his frustration grew and with each missed defence Ginse slapped Lu Mīn, his anger increasing. 

Soon the exercises were finished, and the students acknowledged one another and spoke. 

—How is it that such an untalented country fool should make it into the School of the Wakat?—Ginse queried.

—I am here to learn what I can.—replied Lu Mīn.

—Clearly you have much to learn.—responded Ginse. 

A heavy bell rang, calling the students. 

—Don’t make a noise or get in the way.—spoke Ginse, and the group moved out of the courtyard and through the School garden to the back, where a large building stood. 

Inside the building there were noises, the voices of Na-Shizu. 

—we meet here to practice against the other half of the school.—spoke Zhi-dime to Dun fi.—that way we are made sharper. We do not learn the same ways, for our bodies and abilities are different.—

Dun fi nodded. In his community it had not been customary for Na-Shizu to take part in the War Arts. But he had heard this was not the case elsewhere. 

The Na-Shime and the Na-Shizu lined up on opposite sides of the Hall of the School. In the middle stood the Wakat Gokhan. 

—Mark your partners in groups of four.—said the Gokhan—and prepare for the Test of Opposites.— 

They formed groups as the Gokhan asked, and at the sound of the heavy bell, they launched their practice attacks. Ginse faced his opposite first, and the three Na-Shime, including Lu Mīn, watched. 

Ginse was a decent fighter, but he did not move like his counterpart. She flipped and swung, bearing her two practice Wakats with grace and speed. It was all he could do to keep her at bay. 

She faked a move to one side, and instead moved to the other. Her wooden blade was about to cut Ginse down when he drove his shoulder forward. This knocked the Na-Shizu off balance. With blind rage, Ginse struck the Na-Shizu in the face. 

The attending Na-Shime and Na-Shizu from the group gasped. This was not in the order of the practice. Fighters were only meant to use their wooden weapons. But they said nothing, Ginse turned around and walked back to his group and the Na-Shizu returned to her side with the help of her comrades. 

The next two fights proceeded according to the rules. In one the Na-Shime brought his wooden Wakat down upon the Na-Shizu first, and in the next the Na-Shizu struck the Na-Shime hard across the upper leg. 

Lu Mīn was called forth to fight last. His opponent looked tall and strong, with fierce eyes. 

—You are new to the Wakat.—she said calmly when he approached her to make the acknowledgement.

—It is true.—replied Lu Mīn.—how do you know?—

—The way you hold it.—she responded.—No warrior holds it with their fist, like a waterfood spoon.—

She then raised her hand to demonstrate the way the Na-Shizu hold their blade. 

—Better.—she said, as Lu Mīn adjusted his grip.—Now approach me.—

Lu Mīn did so, raising his wooden blade high to strike.

—I could have cut you down several times by now.—said the Na-Shizu.—You are too slow. And you need to establish a defensive position first—

She showed him the position, but then the heavy bell rang, signalling the end of the session. 

—You are kind.—said Lu Mīn as they parted.

—It is nothing.—responded the Na-Shizu.—I am called Lim ki. If you require more help, enquire for me.—

With Se-Lim finishing his passage above, Dun fi and Lu Mīn made their way to the elder Na-Shime’s dwelling from the Wakat School. 

Dun fi continued talking excitedly about all they had experienced, how talented and able his battle partner was. 

Lu Mīn listened. His companion had never been so talkative in all their time together. Then Dun fi asked how he did. 

—It was not easy.—responded Lu Mīn.—but I am learning.—

Dun fi smiled with relief and spoke again.

—I will help you to learn the Arts of War so that it goes well for you.—

—You will do no such thing.—responded Lu Mīn calmly.

He was silent for the rest of the journey until they reached the Gokhan’s dwelling, then he spoke again.

—It is good I am in the School. Following the Signs is no excuse for physical weakness.—

—It gives me great pleasure to hear you say so.—responded Dun fi. 

Continue reading The Life of Lu-Min - Part 7 

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