Chapter Thirty Seven

As Amaya and I lay in bed, she says, “I followed your conversation with the moms. They do practice and do not preach.”
“It’s always been like that. When I was a kid, I told them what I was doing before they asked. Much easier, I knew they would be interested, not interfering. I suppose if I’d said I was going out to kill puppies, I would have serious explaining to do. I watched them, then watched the rest of the world. The rest of the world is dull, unimaginative and childish in the stupid way, not childlike, which is different. Janah came along and life got intense, interesting and challenging. Then the temple, then the Society.”
Amaya, “Then me. Grand Prize, your Powerball.”
“There’s that.”
Amaya, “I caught a huge break, saved from parents who were nothings, users. Janah talked with me and I learned the futility of hate. That was a second save. You, my mom and Janah do not require anything from me, it is all give, you never take. Well, mom acts like she does, she would if I started to get stupid. I am warmed by her concern, I have no need to make her concerned.”
“Nikko is another of Janah’s brilliant finds. I mean, we didn’t find her exactly, the right people always show up at the right time.”
Amaya, “Speaking of showing up, tomorrow is hack training day, Sis remembers?”
“Yep, I drop you off at nine-thirty, pick you up at noon.”
We settle into each other, kiss, Amaya whispers, “Relax me, Daphne.”
Sometime later she is quite relaxed, near comatose. She attaches herself to me and we die to consciousness.
Morning, I’m serving tea to Janah and Nishiko, I have a plate of bacon, grits and cut fruit spread on the big table.
“Queenie goes to Sis in an hour. Got to get her in motion. I’m going to the dojang after I drop her off, Nikko. Do you want to have a workout, just forms, light work.”
Janah, “Emphasis on light, please. A few days longer.”
Nikko, “Hai.”
“And what’s on your plate J?”
“Lacy is coming for a yoga at ten, I’ll be in the meditation loft until then. When you guys get back, a simple lunch, to the temple, then to work in the herb shop. Amaya can help. You and Nikko go to Fong’s. Nikko can go over the accounts with her and you can dream up something splendid for dinner.”
Janah’s in her office, Nikko leaves to open the dojang. Amaya comes out of her room, time to deliver her to Sis.
“You like?”
“A gauzy chemise, platforms and nothing, I do like. Susan is going to drool.”
“Susan is going to teach me the fine art of  going down. When I am sufficiently skilled, you shall be the beneficiary.”
“Does she know this?”
“She will soon. In fact, you’re going to walk me to the condo, watch Susan’s reaction, then evaporate.”
I grin, mom is going to be very happy very soon.
Sis answers the door, she’s is speechless, then, “Wow, how am I supposed to concentrate on hacking?”
“Plans have changed, do you happen to know anything about licking a girl into a stupor?”
Sis, “I have some experience.”
Amaya goes to her, a long kiss, Sis is looking at me over Amaya’s shoulder, she winks. Hand in hand, they walk to the bedroom. Sis turns to me, licks her lips, Amaya’s dress falls to the floor.
My more mundane morning flows as planned, dojang light, in the temple at one thirty. I check in with the kitchen, look over inventories and visit with the kitchen crew. The kitchen accounts are in good order, the dining area needs another round of rehab. I organize work crews to clean and paint the dining hall over the next couple of weeks, also arrange for a new commercial stove to be delivered and installed.
By two, Amaya joins me, she’s traded her sheer dress for jeans and a silk blouse. We go to Tan’s hut, drop into qi meditation. It seems more powerful there, like the old monk is still present. By four thirty, Janah and Amaya are at the herb shop, I’m taking abuse from Mrs. Fong for neglecting my duties to her, Nikko is being pampered. Fortunately they have numbers to review, I get in the kitchen to put together a menu, then make it a reality.
Janah and Amaya show up at six fifteen.
Mrs. Fong, “White Angel, and Night Rain! Come and kiss old lady. Janah, young woman is a rare flower. Sit perfect angel, tell Mrs. Fong, are your guardians taking care of you? Do you need anything? Fong will make sure you get it. Shaolin! Tea for my grandchild and great grandchild. I will be dead any minute. Can I at least have one cup of tea with them? No time for you to sit around swapping lies with cooks.”
She turns to Amaya, “Shaolin is most beautiful creature, like you. But she is a priest, they get lazy, people bowing, they hand out blessings and receive gifts. We must keep their heads out of the clouds from all that Buddhist mumbo jumbo.”
Amaya, “She is not lazy at home. If she is, I will surely remind her of her duties.”
“It is for her own good. Old Fong can see your love for her. Remember child, love is not sentiment. Love is strong. Darling Nishiko knows that, she must teach you. Be fearless, not foolish. Men are weak, women must be strong.”
Amaya, “My mother does not allow foolishness.”
Fong, “No, and she cares for the Shaolin as you do. She proves it by keeping after her, challenging her, as you must. Daphne is made to serve, not to be worshipped and bowed down to like some old monk.”
I package up dinner, sling the canvas carryall over my shoulder and we walk home. While everyone showers and deconstructs, I heat the food and set it on the table as the three emerge from their bedrooms.
“I’m going to clean up me. I ate while I heated up, plus I nibbled at Fong’s, jump in. There’s a bottle of red and I opened champagne. There’s a lot of food, Lacy will be here shortly to help.”
I go to shower, I hear Lacy come in and chatter about the day at school. They’re going strong when I return, Amaya has Lacy laughing about Mrs. Fong, then speaks touchingly of her experience at the herb shop.
“The people are wonderful, so respectful of Janah. I do not know Chinese, but it was evident they hang on every word. When they leave, they chatter a mile a minute. It is like a neighborhood social. The people filled the shop and spilled out on the street. Janah taught me as she went along. I guess I did okay, the people smiled a lot.”
Janah, “I’m afraid I’ll have to bring her every time now. All the women told me of handsome sons and grandsons who would be hardworking husbands for my assistant. I put them off, say she is too young and is still in school or there would be a line of suitors around the block.”
Lacy laughs, “There used to be crowd of boys outside Chapmans every school day. Unfortunately for them, Amaya usually came straight up here. Once in a while, the girls talked her into going outside and hanging out. She kept the boys coming around.”
Amaya, “Some of the guys were interesting. Not too dorky. Chapmans girls like geeks, they are not much on the prep crowd. Those guys are mostly about their Hampton summers and skiing trips.”
Nikko, “What do you do with them?”
Amaya, “Listen, smile and say ‘wow…fantastic’ a lot, apparently all they needed to hear. I did not mind stroking egos. Despite tons of preppy girls willing to hook up, I think they found Chapmans girls more interesting. I played the fascinated fawn, then exit and the boys did not need to preen anymore. The other girls talked to them about real things and were not at all impressed by cars, daddy’s money or the second and third homes. Most of the girls have all that already.”
Lacy, “I’ve had unusual offers from several top tier private schools to have joint outings, and we’re suddenly on their events invitation list. I’ve also had calls from parents whose son met a Chapmans girl who performed scenes from a movie, what was it? The young Natalie Portman thing. Oh, The Professional, and sings songs in Japanese. Mostly they want to know about getting a daughter in school. I can’t help much, we have a waiting list and I’m not making the school bigger.”
Amaya, “Just as well. I have no time to charm boys now. Nikko does not like me overscheduled. I don’t text, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. My mobile number is private, available only to the family. I do not wish to be stuffy, but I cannot have people calling me all day.”
Lacy, “From Janah’s description, I’m not sure how you have time for everything now.”
“ Nikko asks for a schedule, Daphne and I create it weekly. It has to be flexible, there is unanticipated travel, or Janah decides to do something we did not plan for.”
When do you have time to shop? You have the most precious wardrobe and accessories.
“Thank you. Daphne managed to convince Nikko that shopping is down time. I find it fun and relaxing. Daphne and I get to wander the streets together, Nikko and Janah don’t shop much.”
“Daphne never shopped much, what happened?”
“She has to be with me. I do not go out alone, Daphne doubles as bodyguard. She still does not care much for buying things for her, she likes buying things for me. Plus, she is fun to be with.”
Lacy thinks to herself, ‘It reminds me of Janah and Daphne when they first came to Chapmans, one the other, syncopation personified. Then, Janah’s crew is always in otherworldly harmony. Amaya has been absorbed into a unique universe.’
“Ladies, I have school tomorrow, time to shuffle off to my quiet novel, then sleep,” she makes the rounds of kisses, leaves for her place.
Janah, “Tomorrow is kendo and geisha, a busy day. I’m tired, going call it an evening.”
I go to bed with Janah, Nikko and Amaya deal with the clean up, then stay up talking for a half hour. I feel Amaya slide in next to me, Nikko on the other side of Janah. Amaya’s leg flops over my hip, I feel kisses on my shoulders, one hand caresses my breast, fade away. Whatever happened with Sis may remain private, or she will tell me if she feels like it.

Chapter Thirty Eight

Kendo goes well, it seems different from other sessions, I am spared most of Hanshi’s glares for reasons undetermined. At noon Janah appears, escorted by Chan. She’d stayed in the apartment to work with him and visit with Ning. When we come out, Amaya is in a kimono, and the table is set for a tea ceremony.
We are treated to a full performance, both Ari and Amaya. They play music, make tea, cook food on the charcoal burner, and amaze us with stunning origami.
The capper is when Ari plays and Amaya dances, demure behind her fan, daintily elegant. Ari smiles radiantly at her protégé. Amaya has come a long way. At the end, Ari has an announcement.
“Amaya has been maiko, an apprentice. Today is her graduation ceremony, not a single error throughout, Amaya is geisha.”
I cry, I never cry, the exception proves the rule I suppose. Janah cries, Chan bows deeply, Nikko the Impassive tries to be stoic, but a tear falls down her cheek. An emotional breakdown for the samurai. Hanshi smiles, another emotional breakdown. The whole place has gone bonkers.
Amaya bows, leaves with Ari to be reconstituted into her other unearthly self. We hug Ari, you don’t hug Hanshi, but I bow deeply. I think he may have even acknowledged me as existing, a big day for your narrator. I must be moving up in the world. Amaya is on Cloud Nine Thousand, I know because she is total silence on the way home, no arrogant playfulness, rather, as is proper, humbled by her promotion. She didn’t know she was going to be so honored. A lesser woman might have gotten caught up, jabbered and crowed. Amaya is not a lesser woman.
“Sis, I would like to invite the family over, we have a small announcement and I know you will want to hear it in person. Can everyone make it?”
Susan, “Sure, they’re all home. Guess I better check, hang on” I heard her asking around, “we’re on board, time?”
“Soon as you can, cocktails, appetizers then dinner.”
“Thirty minutes?”
“See you then.”
Janah calls Lacy, already talked to Ning. A half hour later the apartment holds most of the immediate family, Sonia and Black aren’t here, too far for short notice.  I’ll tell the Epsteins later. Chris and I serve drinks, Ning called Marconi’s, security buzzes, she and Chris go down to collect the food. There is antipasto for an appetizer, which is really a first course. Depends on how you interpret ‘before the meal’ I suppose.
Everyone settles around the table, several conversations overlap, sipping wine and drinks, digging into food ending in vowels, lasagna, manicotti, ravioli, cannoli for dessert. Our family isn’t shy, they like to eat. Wine bottles pass around for refills.
“Nikko has an announcement,” I didn’t spring this on Nikko, she is seen as Amaya’s mother, the news should come from her.
Nikko stands, “In a family of endless firsts, I am privileged to share another. My mother, Ari, has today promoted Amaya. She is geisha.”
Total silence, then an explosion of clinking glasses, toasts, a few million hugs for Amaya, Miyako cries, David bows low, dad beams, Sis, Chris Ning and Lacy dab napkins on their eyes. Did I say it was an emotional moment?
Amaya takes the stage, “Thank you for sharing my joy. I was shocked when Ari told us at the end of the tea ceremony. I thought it might be a dress rehearsal. I am still absorbing the honor. I am so grateful for Mrs. Murakami, and for Mother Nishiko, who encourages and even more, requires me, to be my best possible self. Janah is my instructor, Daphne is my perfect companion, mother is my guiding star. This is the world’s most incredible family. Thank you all.”
Do I need to say more tears? While emotions calm, still, the table a chaos of questions, cross questions, laughter, total mayhem.
Ning and I serve dessert and espresso, then more wine. Sated and delighted, the family begins to make its way home. Amaya smiles her way through a final round of hugs and kisses.
Janah, She’s had quite a day. We are all delighted for her, particularly Nikko. Amaya earned every particle of this. Nikko may burst with pride.
In fact, Nishiko is hugging Amaya, kissing her forehead and cheeks, strokes her hair. I don’t tune in to the whispered words. They are for Amaya.
I trail Amaya into the bedroom, undress her. I undress while she does going to bed things in the bathroom, then I brush and freshen.
I lay on my side next to her, she is beaming, “What a lovely day! The family was genuinely pleased with my promotion, I shall have to do a full ceremony for everyone, you will assist.”
“I have the coolest mom, the smartest teacher and the hottest girlfriend. Of course, it is only appropriate to my station,” she giggles.
“I’ve been promoted too, then?”
“You have been promoted for some time, Daphne. Since your first made love to me. Still, I require your services, they must continue as before. You have me completely spoiled, entirely your fault.”
We get to it, blonde hair between my legs, I tremble and groan.
Her head pops up, big Amaya grin, “God I love this! Susan was splendid, I take it from your response her training was effective.”
“I can die happy now.”
Her tongue leaves the point of attack, drifts up my tummy, chest, neck and ends in my mouth. It stays there for quite a while. There’s a pop in our heads.
Amaya, “Ooooh, that is nice, I never felt that before. Does it mean….?”
“Yes, it does dear one. The first step in becoming each other.”
Amaya squeals, hands to her mouth, then, “And I thought the remarkable day was closing, yet there is more joy.”
“That’s how it happened with Janah and I, then your mom. In a series, unpredictable, then, one day out of the blue, a final joining. It happens when there has been a series of wonderful moments, like today.”
She is still over me, her tears fall on my face, she is smiling though them, “Guess I will eventually lose my servant.”
“You will become your servant.”
She lays her head on my shoulder, her long impossibly lean elegant body covering me, “Perfect.”
We kiss softly, she strokes my hair, slides to one side. leaves a silky smooth leg over me. We sleep entangled, dreamless.

Chapter Thirty Nine

Wake up grinning like idiots, to the shower, laugh and screech in bath play, dry and dress. Amaya and I drink coffee, I make toast and eggs, seared ham slices, grits. Nikko and Janah appear, we destroy breakfast despite a Marconi’s extravaganza last night. More tea and we move over to the mat and sit in a circle.
“What’s on the menu for today?”
Janah, “Temple in an hour, I have to review progress with the masters. We have one testing next week, there are three up for discipleship, and the annual review of the current disciples. It shouldn’t take forever, I don’t think any of the disciples have slipped, one needed a pep talk a few months ago. That may be the only discussion.”
I turn to Amaya, “You know the rule?”
Amaya, “Temple business is for the temple. I did not hear a thing. May I watch mother fight?”
Nikko, “Fine.”
"Yay. I hope I do not have to help heal much though.”
“Perhaps I’ll get beat up so you can practice.”
“Please, no, I will get plenty of practice with Janah at the herb shop, and I would like an hour in Tan’s hut if I may, with Daphne.”
Janah, “Didn’t take much to fill up the day. We leave at nine ladies.”
I get the kitchen clean with Amaya’s help, then dress, she’s in loose jeans and a casual blouse. If we’re going to sit in the hut, snug clothes don’t work. Janah is robed up, she wants me in robes as well. She’s doing formal reviews, she has to dress the part of Abbess, as one of the masters, I sit in on the reviews.
Amaya, “I love when you wear robes, I want to bow and ask for blessings. Would be rather greedy, I am up to my ears in blessings now.”
Nikko, “Good of you to acknowledge.”
We take a cab, it’s chilly in town, the robes keep us warm, Amaya and Nikko wear long leather coats, scarves around their necks.
On the ride, I sense Janah, There’s a subtle change in you and Amaya, it has begun?
Yes, last night. The first wave.

Janah, Interesting how it stays between you two. Of course, it’s interesting how it happens at all. Qi and intention, powerful forces.
Janah and I go to her office, Nikko to change into a gi and Amaya to Tan’s hut. Review is less than thirty minutes, nothing unusual, the masters disburse to their duties. Janah informs candidates for the gauntlet the day before, as is tradition, also just her as Abbess, not in front of a roomful of masters. Tonight the candidate, the highest rank disciple, will take vows. Tomorrow she will walk the gauntlet. In our order, if she fails to complete it, she is denied the brands, but the promotion to priest is maintained. Brands are optional anyway, we don’t make people fry their forearms. She will leave the temple for three years in the world, after which, she may return and continue her studies. Disciples seldom fail the gauntlet, they have been immersed in gung fu for years and they would not have been given the chance to take vows had they not been prepared. We know of no other temples that brand, but they all have some form of strenuous physical test to attain priesthood.
Amaya comes down from the hut, joins me at the practice ground.
Nikko faces a fourth year disciple, Devon Lee, a Chinese-American, and a talented gung fu fighter.
Devon strikes various poses, an attempt to distract her opponent, and use body language to suggest her power and speed. If Nikko is impressed, she should at least blink or something. She neither moves nor, as best anyone can tell, breathes.
Devon approaches, then a flurry of sweeps, kicks and blows. She hits Nikko several times, at least it sounds like it. It’s hard to tell from Nikko’s reaction, she still hasn’t moved.
Amaya takes my hand, squeezes, “What is mom doing?”
Amaya trusts me, she doesn’t let go of my hand, but she relaxes.
Devon backs off, I read perplexity. She twists into a few poses, comes again. Nikko blocks the kicks, swipes away the punches. Still hasn’t budged from her starting spot. Devon circles behind Nikko’s back, comes with a flying kick to her head. Without turning, Nikko steps to the side, Devon hits dirt. Nikko is on her, foot to Devon’s mouth, a hairsbreadth from crushing her jaw. She steps back.
Devon stands, bows.
Another Disciple, James Dahlberg, rises from the surrounding circle of monks. Dahlberg isn’t huge, Nikko’s height, five ten. He’s slight, quick, a weapons specialist. Shuriken fly, Nikko dodges all but one, it pops her on the hip. Practice shuriken are not sharpened, it doesn’t penetrate, it would leave a nice welt. Dahlberg is impressed, unaccustomed to missing his target.
He draws out the nunchucks tucked behind him, starts a demonstration of blinding speed, the baton making the air sizzle. He moves in, the nunchucks in a long figure eight in front of him. As he gets close enough to whiz a half inch past Nikko’s chest, her foot lashes out on the upstroke and catches the chain, then she leaps into the air, twists and kicks Dahlberg on the chin with her heel, follows that up with a front kick to his abdomen, back in the air, a complete three sixty and clocks him with a crescent kick to his jaw. His head twists, blood drips. She picks up his nunchucks, does her own demonstration, around, over her shoulder, then whips it. His head jerks back, but only after the baton has swipped past his head. If she’d intended to hit him, the baton would have demolished his jaw.
Another bow, he steps back to the circle and sits, rubbing his face, dabbing blood with his sleeve.
Jon Chin steps out. Jon is black, adopted by an American Chinese couple, thus Chin. Jon is big, not Black big, God isn’t Black big, still he’s six two, two and a quarter of muscle. Black’s six-six, something like two hundred fifty plus pounds of metal we generally call muscle. His fists look like bowling balls on the end of three inch diameter pipe.
Jon wastes little time posturing, he is his own intimidation. He kicks and swings at Nikko, who allows close but not close enough. I know what she’s going to do, she’s here to practice, and that, to us, means dealing with pain. She lets Chin catch her in the gut with his giant foot, sails her backwards to the dirt. She pops up, a half grin, waves her fingers at him to bring it on. He does. She takes two more kicks and a punch to the jaw. She’s too quick for them to hit full force, twisting her head milliseconds before the blow, he doesn’t break anything. She looks at him with Nikko eyes, there is no sign of pain, no reluctance to continue.
Chin shrugs, if the woman wants more beating, he is obliged to supply it. He shoots out a massive fist, Nikko’s head lowers and inches to one side, the blow glances off her skull. Out of nowhere, her foot finds his jaw, straight up underneath. His head snaps back, then a heel just below his sternum. As he bends into it, he launches a backfist that gets Nikko just below the ribs, hard. She twitches, lets the pain flow through. She replies with an elbow to his nose, blood spurts, then she cracks his temple with her own backfist and shoots her knee into his abdomen just above his groin, then does it again. Chin splats face first into the dirt. Two monks pull him up and Janah appears to treat him.
Nikko bows to the circle of monks, “Thank you for your instruction.”
There is no applause, no comment. That’s how it works in Shaolin, we don’t do this for trophies or ribbons.
Amaya goes to her mother and walks her back to where we sit, she knows not to compliment. Nikko stands while I apply cold Qi to her side, Amaya slips her hand inside Nikko’s gi to the spot where the shuriken struck.
Nikko looks down at her daughter’s hand. She is used to feeling cold or heat from my hands, Amaya’s cold touch surprises her.
“Daughter is well instructed.”
From Nikko, that’s telling Amaya she is her mother’s precious jewel.
Amaya glows, I wink at her.

Chapter Forty

I stay with Nikko, Janah and Amaya go to the herb shop, two monks, a male and female, escort them. I don’t allow Janah to go out alone, and with Amaya, I don’t allow it twice as much. Yes, Janah could put down a talented fighter with her mind, two or three for that matter, and she has a grip like a monkey wrench. Doesn’t matter, no going out alone, if a Dark One came along, and there are more than we guessed, I want them to have a better than fighting chance. Dark Ones are generally solitary in our experience. Solitary might mean a few disciples or people under their control. As far as we know, they don’t have contact with each other, however, that’s no guarantee there’s no network. That we had taken out two, three if you count the student, could encourage them to try and rid themselves of our interference. There are nuances, hints, intuitions that frustration is mounting. Our practiced caution on the street more necessary than ever.
I take Nikko to Tan’s hut and continue to work on her. She’s okay, the welt on her thigh bruised minimally, her side and abdomen are sore. The shots to her head were too glancing to do any damage, a bit of redness on her cheek.
We spend two hours with liniment and qi, my examination when we finish shows only a red line on her leg, the bruise gone. She does front bends, backbends and twists her torso, no pain. The spot where the bullet grazed her in San Francisco looks like the rest of her arm, skin smooth as ever. I press around, nothing that isn’t supposed to be there.
We slip through bamboo to the garden, Master Khan is sitting on the bench near the practice grounds.
“Good evening Master Kahn, are the disciples okay?”
Kahn, “Bruised egos hurt worse than injuries, although Chin will need recovery time. He cannot comprehend his kicks simply being absorbed. A fair disciple, powerful, relies on his size too much. It was good for him to learn there are other kinds of power. Disciple Dahlberg is good with weapons, again, he relies on them as Chin does on size.”
He looks at Nikko, “You let Disciple Lee off too easy. A sharp crack to the chin wouldn’t have killed her.”
Nikko, “Another time perhaps.”
Kahn, “She is a talented monk. Very smart, good computer skills, writes programs, algorithms I think they are called.”
“Yes algorithms. I didn’t know that. I’ve watched her practice, she is a skilled fighter. It’s hard to keep up with Nikko, I have serious problems myself. It is no discredit to Devon.”
Kahn, “No, in a way my fault. We fight each other gung fu against gung fu. Even with different styles, it is still gung fu. An opponent that follows no style is harder for them. I need to bring in more fighters from the outside. It’s difficult, we don’t have insurance for them, we don’t have insurance for fighting injuries for ourselves. The companies won’t issue it, only general liability for accidents, doesn’t include deliberate combat. We would have to say the monk fell off a ladder. No good to lie. Abbess would not permit anyway.”
“No, she wouldn’t. The temple can afford to self insure. Monks always get treated. You have to work with what you have. Gung fu is more than adequate for any normal situation. An opponent untrained, or trained in just taekwondo or Hapkido will have great difficulty with a Shaolin. It’s not like we go out looking for problems, and when they occur, violence is a last resort. We aren’t discouraging them are we?”
Kahn, “No, at least they don’t act like it. I tell them it is a lesson about assumptions. I also remind them that Nishiko is master of three martial arts, taekwondo, hapkido and kendo, and that she is the personal student of Master Sylk. And I remind them that Master Sylk has trained her in qi skills and was a student of Tan and of the Abbess. The weight of all that helps them understand, it isn’t their lack of skill, it is Nikko’s years of intense training. A direct tangible reminder of what it takes to climb to her level of ability.”
“A wise observation. Nikko did not come complete. Every skill was earned, forged through years of repetition and pain. She is the lesson you wish them to learn.”
Kahn, “So she is.”
“Speak to Chan. If you ask, he will vary his routine more so that your Disciples get variety. He’s hard to damage, he doesn’t have to do much to defeat the opponent. He will give them a serious test. I’ll talk to Black. If he’s got the time, I’m sure he would come over once a month and use our mixed style instead of pure gung fu. Nikko and I are around whenever you want to throw us into the mix.”
Kahn brightens, “Good. Master Black is free to just show up if he wishes, he knows when practice is held. It will be good for him as well.”
“I’ll take care of it.”
Nikko and I bow, I mental Janah and she and Amaya meet us at Fong’s. Mrs. Fong is out at a friend’s birthday celebration, I escape abuse tonight, feels weird. I thank the two monks and bring them a plate from Fong’s kitchen before they return to the temple. The monks only eat breakfast and a late lunch, something for dinner with the master’s approval is appreciated.
I collect our dinner and we catch a taxi back to the apartment.
Everyone is whacked, we eat, clean up and the four of us sleep together like puppies scrunched into each other.
This morning we’re a blizzard of nothing, less movement than a lizard on a steamy summer day. Music plays, just audible, the notes of a shamisen from a collection I downloaded, interspersed with Ravi Shankar chants. It’s peaceful, but not sleepy. Janah and Nikko are reading on each end of the couch, legs alternate in the middle. Amaya and I braid each others’ hair, then buff and polish nails.
“Let’s go to the meditation loft.”
She follows me up, we sit on pillows cross legged.
“During your work with Janah, did you notice anything?”
Amaya, “A light, sometimes I picked it up, other times not. I began to observe other people, and my family. There is an energy, sometimes I see colors, just a flicker.”
“Every material thing has an aura. A rock has an aura, a mouse, a person, if it exists, it is surrounded by an energy field. Channeling this energy is qi. As you have learned, energy is available all around us if we know how to access it. The body draws from it automatically, without our conscious awareness.”
Amaya, “I have learned this from you and Janah. I have learned the patience of long hours of waiting for it to emerge in consciousness, and the difference between effort and intention.”
“With awareness of the energy, you can predict behavior.”
Amaya, “I can know what a person is going to do before they know what they are going to do? How can it be?”
“Trust me. And what else?”
Amaya thinks for a bit, “Have no opinion about what can and cannot be, find out.”
I smile, she has internalized the first rule of exploration and the essential rule for going beyond limits.
“The animals do this as a matter of course. In humans, the blessing of thought comes with a curse. Thought interferes, obstructs, denies access to abilities you already possess. Thought creates an illusion called ego, which then wants to continue. We believe we are this ego. As thought can only be from the past, ten years ago, ten seconds ago, it is limited to what it knows. In a way, you need not learn anything, the you that is not the false ego already knows. You are it, the energy that is in and surrounds you. When we see ego for what it is, a fake self, and drop it, that you are the beginning and end of all that is, becomes apparent.”
Amaya grins, “So I really am All That. I never doubted it.”
“For the nameless entity currently manifested as Amaya, yes. For the ego Amaya’s thought has created, no, only Just That.”
“What do I do?”
“Trust. If you cannot, then be open to investigate for yourself.”
“Seems simpler to take your word for it.”
“It is. Clinging to ego will not allow for trust. So the second way is to see that ego is false, and do not close your mind to any possibility. The second takes longer, that’s all.”
“In this, I prefer the expressway to the scenic route.”
“And do not be discouraged. Some see aura more naturally than others. Janah’s good at instant reading, I’m only so-so. Nikko doesn’t concern herself with the more mystical aspects. If it comes, it comes.”
“Got it.”
“If you wish, we can spend a half hour transmitting and receiving. I don’t sense that you’re tired, you may want to do something else or nothing at all.”
“No, do it.”
We close our eyes, free ourselves from mental jabber.
“Face me, look into my eyes.”
She shifts, we enter one another mentally, the space around us shrinks until there is no space. I begin.
A half hour later, she is flushed, breathing as if she had been running for miles, perspiring, her eyes hold tears of pain. I ease her down, her color returns, her breath normal. I feel her headache, normal after a transmission, this one deeper, her mind stronger.
“Wow! That was different,” she grimaces, massages her temples.
I put a pillow in my lap, “Lay here.”
I hold my hands to her head, start cool, move to cold for twenty minutes, then gently apply warmth.
“Ahhhh, much better, Daphne. Oh my, that is so much better, I am my everyday sublime self, ego fully intact and ready to command.”
We laugh out loud together, Janah calls up to us, “You two meditating on fun?”
“Now we are. It wasn’t much fun earlier.”
We come down from the loft, Amaya goes to Nikko, who feels her head, her hand where she can feel the pulse, “Did Daphne hurt you, I can make her pay.”
“I shall extract my price, mother. Thank you for the offer though.”
“I’ll make her pay anyway. She can pay twice for hurting once.”
I say, “I knew there was an upside to this.”
Amaya, “Am I going to wind up as strange as you?”
“Yes, but then I will wind up as sweetly demanding as you.”
Amaya, “Strange is good. I will think over how to always demand more, stay a couple of steps ahead.”
Nikko, “Appears to be a natural ability of yours.”
Amaya and Janah giggle, Janah says, “As if Nishiko is never demanding. She learned it from you.”
“Precious daughter is observant, has learned how to receive without asking. Very talented, every desire fulfilled, every need met.”
I can’t resist, “My prescience astounds even me.”
Amaya, “Then you have anticipated that we would like tea and snacks, yes?”
“Next thing on my list.”
Nikko groans, “You deserve the monster you are creating.”
“I am becoming the monster I am creating.”
Janah, “There’s a point. Is the tea ready?”
“Geez, I’m on it, can the water heat first? Cheese, fruit, toasted rounds?”
A collective ‘yes.’ I see my duty and I do it.
The three are sitting in a circle on the mat, nibbling, I’m across the room, in the kitchen thinking up dinner. I start chopping vegetables, fire up the stove to make brown rice, pull out a box of tofu. I have a roasted chicken from the deli I’ll heat in an hour.
I join the circle, “It’s five now, I’m thinking dinner at seven. No guests, right?’
Janah, “It has been a splendid day with just us. My vote is to continue.”
Amaya, “Me too. I would like a movie, anything for dessert?”
“Apple-cherry crumble, with or without vanilla ice cream.”
Amaya, “Yay! May I pick the movie?”
Not waiting for the answer, she flips though DVDs, then searches Amazon for video downloads. I’d loaded a collection of movies and a few television programs. Amaya is happily shopping the list.
Nikko, “You have your schedule for the week?”
“Sure do,” she jumps up to print it out.
Nikko reviews it, hands it back to her. We have a magnetic whiteboard in the kitchen I use to stick up notes for groceries and supplies, sometimes I get them, sometimes Ning gets to it before me. It also serves as the spot for Amaya’s schedule.
Nikko, “Janah and I have agreed, you have come to the end of formal education, Amaya. We are pleased by your diligence and keeping to a demanding schedule. Now, your time will be under your direction, not ours. In our eyes you are an adult, answerable to yourself only. No more schedules, at least none you have to show us.”
“Personal responsibility? I cannot hide behind the ignorance of youth, incomplete brain wiring, hormonal overdose? Where are my excuses?!”
“Beats me, you can con Daphne into covering for you.”

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