The Force of Wind Page 2

“But that wisdom is lost when you die,” the boy said with a frown.

“As it should be—to be discovered again by the young.” He reached a gnarled hand up to pat the young man’s cheek. “You will learn this. And when the time comes, and Elder Lu asks you if you would choose an immortal life, you will make your own choice, as all of those in your order do.”

They continued to climb, and Fu-han felt every creak of his joints. Soon, he would not be able to join the young monks as they gathered the plants and roots in the forest. Soon, he would take refuge in the collected wisdom of all those who had come before him and stay in the library and workrooms of the monastery.

“Master?”

“Yes?”

“Which of the elements is most powerful?”

Fu-han smiled. It was a young question.

“There is no one element more powerful than the others.”

“But surely—”

“It is balance that is most powerful. The elders know this; that is why there have always been eight, two from each earthly element.”

But it was the fifth element, the space between, that Fu-han thought of as he climbed the stone stairs. It was the elusive energy he felt quicken his own senses as he looked to the top of the stairs to see his old teacher jump from the branch of a tree to land on his toes.

Fu-han smiled as his companion took a sharp breath.

“Elder Zhang Guo,” the young monk said with a respectful bow.

The ancient wind vampire floated down the stairs, his white robes fluttering in the dark along with his long, black hair. Though he was called ‘elder,’ Zhang had been frozen in the prime of his human life. His broad face was open and jovial as he greeted Fu-han and reached out an arm to help him.

“How is my old student this evening?”

The old monk smiled and gave a deep nod. “I am well, my teacher. We were not expecting you until much later.”

Zhang shrugged. “We took refuge in one of the caves today so we could be here early. Our guest was most eager to bring his book to the safety of the library.”

The old man frowned. “Does this guest bring trouble?” He glanced at the young man beside him and thought of all the boys who trained at the monastery school.

The ancient wind immortal only smiled. “And who would dare harm the monks of Lu Dongbin? Your patron is far too powerful for anyone to challenge.”

Fu-han bowed. “We are grateful for the protection of all the council, Elder Zhang.”

Zhang laughed. “Some more than others, my old friend.”

The three walked slowly up the stairs after Fu-han waved away the offer of a quick flight from his old teacher. The two friends spoke of the young monks and the school, about the visitor who would be staying with them and the curious book he was bringing.

“I am eager to hear your thoughts on it,” Zhang mused. “You are familiar with its author, though I can promise you have not seen anything like this before.”

“Oh?”

“I need your eyes, my friend.”

“Have you asked your daughter to look at it?”

Zhang smiled a little. “My daughter has taken a vow of silence for many years. She has no time for me.”

Fu-han chuckled. “I will always have time for you, Master.”

“No,” the vampire said as he looked at the bent, old man. “I’m afraid you won’t.”

“I suppose that is true enough,” Fu-han said.

They reached the gates of the monastery to find a group of young monks scurrying about, preparing for their visitors. They were rushing in expectation of their patron and only a few stopped and stared at the three men as they made their way through the stone courtyard and the meeting room, winding their way back into the mountain and toward the library.

The dim hall was lined with books, scrolls, and manuscripts, a mix of modern and new writings, and small alcoves branched off into study rooms strewn with cushions. It was lit by some of the few electric lamps in the ancient building, the risk of fire outweighing the preferences of their immortal patrons.

The young man escorted Fu-han to his favorite corner of the room and left him to go put the herbs and other ingredients they had gathered in the workroom. He promised to return with tea.

Fu-han could feel the eyes of his old teacher on him as he arranged his aching body on the low cushions. Zhang stretched his legs out and relaxed against the cool, stone wall of the library.

“It’s not too late to change your mind.”

The old man laughed. “And spend eternity with an old and creaking body? I was tempted when I was thirty, considered it at forty, but at ninety-eight years?” The old monk shook his head. “I will welcome death when it seeks me out.”

Zhang scowled. “You waste yourself.”

“I move on to whatever is next.” Fu-han shrugged. “That is all. Tell me about the young immortal.”

“He has been hiding for many years, afraid of the knowledge he has.”

“Why be afraid of knowledge?”

“This knowledge is power, and others seek it. His mortal life was taken because he found it.”

“Ah,” Fu-han nodded. That changed things. To be thrust into an immortal life without a choice was a harsh fate. “He is welcome here.”

“I hear him approaching with Lu now.”

“And his element?”

“He controls water, but is not very powerful. His sire was unwise and too prolific.”

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