Despite the early hour and the high
altitude of Caer Dinan, the sun was already hot in the orchard when
Derry sent Geoff on his way. Derry himself was still not too calm
after the events of the previous day. Dacia had taken him off guard in
both her sudden sweep movement and her acceptance of a proposal he had
never meant to make--at least not blurted out in the armory yard in
front of numerous witnesses!
He had avoided the hall the previous
night by taking a watch on the walls to give himself time and room to
think, but he was fairly certain Lady Vivienne would have heard of the
And then there was Lord Michael's
expected return later that day. Derry had known Lord Michael virtually
all his life, and he was relatively sure the new developments weren't
going to be immediately pleasing to the Earl of Drumaere, if only
because Lord Michael had given his word to the Council regarding
Dacia's marriage. God, what a mess! No wonder he had tossed and
turned all night. If he had managed to hide his turmoil from Geoffrey
-- which he rather doubted -- he didn't even try to conceal it
from San Te. He bowed to the small man who came now to stand before
The quiet voice was still commanding.
Derry relaxed into his posture, hands
fisted at his hips, knees bent slightly, back straight. His first
attempt to clear his mind failed as he started down his speculative
path once more. He shook his head once to clear away the thoughts and
after taking several deep breaths was rewarded at last by a measure of
the serenity he sought.
"Clear your mind, Sing Hi."
"Keep your eyes closed, Sing Hi,
and show me Shi Na Ro."
Bringing his feet together, Derry
bowed, knowing that he was already lined up facing the East. His first
few movements were tentative as he adjusted to moving with his eyes
closed, but as he stepped into each individual movement, his postures
flowed together, and his mind cleared of everything except the feel of
the rhythm of his movements. Almost before he realized it, he was
bowing to the East once more, finished with the form.
His hands returning to his sides once
more, he relaxed in a standing position and waited for San Te to
instruct him further. The next voice he heard was in his mind, but he
recognized it as San Te's.
::Now show me Ge Ki Sai,:: the
voice said gently. He bowed once more to the East, saying, "Kata,
Ge Ki Sai" as San Te had taught him to do to help him fix the
pattern in his mind. From the first leap into Stooping Crane, Derry
felt different. Charged with energy, he felt a warmth flowing through
his body as he progressed through each movement in the form. He began
to perceive a subtle, almost inaudible humming in his body, as if he
were vibrating with power or energy. Ending the form with a loud
"Ki-yasah!!" Derry felt almost bursting with power. His
spirit was calm and stilled, but his heart felt flushed with newfound
energy. He took a deep breath, slowing his heart rate, bowing to the
East and repeating, "Kata, Ge Ki Sai" to formally
close the form.
He stood silent and still, awaiting
further instructions. After a few moments they came into his head.
::Sit down, Sing Hi. Cross your legs in
the form of the lotus flower, placing your hands palm up on your
Normally Derry would have found the
position uncomfortable, but it had been a long time since he had tried
it, and he found that now after all of the intense training he had
undergone, he could sit comfortably in the position.
::Concentrate on my voice inside your
mind, and clear your conscience of outside sounds and thoughts. When
you have done so, speak to me without using your mouth. Do not
concentrate on how to do this; do not think of why; just do.::
Derry thought that as recently as just
several weeks ago he would have protested that this was impossible,
but he had come to trust the strange little man so much that he
cleared his mind of all thought except one, which he 'sent' to
San Te. :: I am ready, Master, :: Derry sent.
He felt the warm whisper of a touch in
his mind that reminded him of amusement and laughter.
:: That is good, Sing Hi, very
good. Now, we will move onto the next lesson. ::
Derry felt a hand on his shoulder and
saw that San Te was looking down at him with a smile so beautiful it
made his heart ache.
"Stand up, Sing Hi,"
the man said softly. Derry relaxed his position and slid his legs
under him, still calm, still centered. He assumed his attention stance
as San Te moved in front of him. He noticed that the man was not
carrying the staff he always had.
"Now is not the time for
questions. Simply know that all will be explained to you in time. For
now, I ask that you simply do as I ask. Again, do not ask how; just
do." San Te turned slowly, giving Derry time to pull his feet
together and bow with him to the East.
San Te then did an unexpected thing and
stepped into line with Derry. He assumed a spread-legged, bent kneed
stance and nodded his head for Derry to do the same.
"It is time to teach you the
movements of Power. In you is the gift of Sen Chi - or the Soul of
Power. You are one of those who can manipulate the energy that is
within you, as well as that which surrounds you. We will utilize
that which is without to begin with and move on to internal workings
later. For now, hold out your right hand in a backfist. As you do
this, you will gather energy that is around your hand and
concentrate it inside your fist. It will look something like
San Te smiled slightly as he spoke. He
stepped out with his right leg and extended his right hand slowly out
in front of him clenched into a fist, knuckles facing away. As he did
this, his hand began to glow ever more brightly, so that when his arm
was fully extended, the glow surrounding his hand made it slightly
painful to look at. San Te turned his head to look back at an
"Now, Sing Hi, it is your turn.
Do not ask how; simply do. You have done this by cupping energy in
your hand; the principle is the same." Derry composed
himself, shutting his open mouth and concentrating on the words of his
Master. As he slowly stepped forward and held out his right hand, he
could almost feel the energy surrounding his hand as a physical thing,
and he concentrated on bringing it inside his fist. He realized that
he was succeeding as his fist began to glow, slowly becoming brighter.
He could feel the energy like a second pulse. San Te smiled
brilliantly, moving his left leg forward and extending a left-handed
backfist, again drawing external energy to him and making his fist
glow. Derry smiled in wonder and followed his teacher's example.
As they moved on to kicks, Derry felt
that he had more and more control over the energy. He asked San Te, "Why
gather it and do nothing with it, Master?" For a moment, San
Te did not move.
The next instant he turned facing away
from Derry. He jumped, spinning into the air, fists glowing like
miniature suns gathered at his waist, and executed a double cross
punch, his arms forming an X. Derry was knocked from his feet as the
concussion of twin balls of energy hit the earth below San Te.
He spit dirt out of his mouth as San Te
stood over him. "I never said we would do nothing with it,
Sing Hi. But a demonstration was warranted. Come, you will
San Te walked over to his tree, picking
up his staff and laying it across his lap as he sat down. Derry was
still examining his hands, getting used to having power at his
disposal. He noticed that San Te had closed his eyes and moved over to
sit in front of him. He folded his legs into the lotus flower, again
marveling that he could accomplish it. San Te's eyes opened slowly,
and he pulled a worn cloth from his belt pouch. As he started rubbing
the staff with the cloth, Derry realized that the staff shone with an
inner light that he had never seen before. His attention was brought
back to San Te as he began to speak.
"The Soul of Power is an
ancient gift, not much found in this part of the world. This gift
allows the person who possesses it to manipulate the energy that
surrounds him-or her--and focus it for certain purposes." As
Derry started to comment, San Te reached out with the staff to tap
Derry on the head. The speed at which this was accomplished was
blurring; it made Derry wonder anew just what this man was capable of.
He sat back and closed his eyes as his
Master began to speak. "Even in my land, Sen Chi is not
common. When the gift is found, the child is sent to the monastery to
study and to learn how to control this power. Most stay; few wish to
leave after sampling the connection with the infinite."
Derry could hear the minute sounds that
occurred around him: the slide of the cloth on the smooth wood, the
old man's even breathing, even a cricket from the nearby well house.
He relaxed even more deeply than before as San Te's lesson continued.
"In your land, there is the
Church, and not much else." Derry detected a slight sarcasm
coming from the man. "I will not lecture you on the workings
of the Church. I will, however, ask you to suspend your beliefs for a
few moments and hear what I have to say. I see that you have found
your center. That is good; stay there and simply hear what I will
"My brothers and I believe that
the body is merely a house for the soul. You will notice that most of
the exercises and forms have taught you more about your body than you
had noticed before. The diet that you currently follow was designed to
purify the body and cleanse you of things that your body does not
need. In this way, the connection between your body and soul is that
much clearer." Derry had noticed that the reduction in
spiritous drinks and heavy food had sharpened both his mental and
physical capabilities. That was evidenced by the relaxed lotus
position in which he was now sat comfortably.
"What I will tell you now is
something that must not become common knowledge. It is not a secret as
you would think, but it will be easier for you if you do not try to
make others believe what I am about to tell you." Derry heard
San Te pause and get to his feet. A hand on his shoulder stayed him
from opening his eyes or getting up. Derry knew, though, what his
teacher was doing as he 'saw' him walking around Derry starting
South, trailing his staff on the ground, scribing a circle about
twelve feet in diameter, closing it in the East. Derry realized with a
start that he was sitting in the middle of a warded circle. His eyes
snapped open to find San Te sitting in the same position right in
front of him. The Master continued as if he had not paused to ward the
"In my land, each soul is on a
continuous journey through the ages. In each lifetime, that soul
learns certain lessons and carries that knowledge into it's next
lifetime. This knowledge is sometimes felt as hunches or feelings
until the person learns to tap that former lifetime's worth of
knowledge . . . and in your case Power. Your talent is related to your
soul's journey." San Te nodded.
"I am referred to as Lao Tsu in
some circles. That is not a name, but a title. The soul who is Lao Tsu,
or the 'One Who Searches,' is in constant search for his counterpart,
or student." San Te's eyes grew hard. "My teacher
found me when I was just a boy. It was after my parents were killed by
the Emperor's troops. I would have been killed also if not for his
intervention. He took me to the temple to care for me and discovered
my gift. He was called Lao Tsu, and he named me Hing Tsu, the 'One Who
is Found.' Over the next ten years, I learned from him everything he
knew about the gift that we shared. His name was Chun Tsi, and he was
my father, my teacher, and my friend."
San Te's grip on the staff tightened
until his knuckles were white. "He was killed saving some novices
in the temple when the Emperor decided that he wanted ultimate rule
with no interference from the Monks of Tshin Hai. My master was the
Abbot of the Temple at this time and was one of the first killed. His
last words to me I will never forget."
San Te seemed oblivious to the tears
coursing down his cheeks as he went on. "He ordered me out of
the temple with the youngest of the novices, telling me, 'San Te, you
are Abbot now; these novices are in your care. Teach them well.'
As he went to what he knew would be his death, he handed over this
staff, saying fiercely, 'This is the seeker staff, it is imbued
with my spirit. San Te! You are now Lao Tsu! I have taught you
everything I know. Use it to learn and expand our knowledge of the
gift, and seek me out in my next life!' With that, he turned and ran
towards the massacre." San Te stood, holding the staff in his
hands, and motioned for Derry to rise as well. Derry's mind was racing
with what the man had said; somehow he knew what was going to happen
next. Locking eyes with Derry, San Te planted the staff in the ground
and held out the end to Derry.
His voice was full of emotion as he
spoke: "Master, I have found you."