'Ah! I knew there was something to learn!' Lu-Tze stood up. 'Why you?' he said. 'Why here? Why now? “There is a time and a place for everything.” Why this time and this place? If I take you to the dojo, you will return what you stole from me! Now!' He looked down at the teak table where he worked on his mountains. The little shovel was there. A few cherry blossom petals fluttered to the ground. 'I see,' he said. 'You are that fast? I did not see you.' Lobsang said nothing.
'It is a small and worthless thing,' said Lu-Tze. 'Why did you take it, please?'
'To see if I could. I was bored.'
'Ah. We shall see if we can make life more interesting for you, then. No wonder you are bored, when you can already slice time like that.' Lu-Tze turned the little shovel over and over in his hand. 'Very fast,' he said. He leaned down and blew the petals away from a tiny glacier. 'You slice time as fast as a Tenth Djim. And as yet barely trained. You must have been a great thief! And now... Oh dear, I shall have to face you in the dojo ...'
'No, there is no need!' said Lobsang, because now Lu-Tze looked frightened and humiliated and, somehow, smaller and brittle-boned. 'I insist,' said the old man. 'Let us get it done now. For it is written, “There is no time like the present”, which is Mrs Cosmopilite's most profound understanding.' He sighed and looked up at the giant statue of Wen. 'Look at him,' he said. 'He was a lad, eh? Completely blissed out on the universe. Saw the past and future as one living person, and wrote the Books of History to tell how the story should go. We can't imagine what those eyes saw. And he never raised a hand to any man in his life.'
'Look, I really didn't want to-'
'And you've looked at the other statues?' said Lu-Tze, as if he'd completely forgotten about the dojo. Distractedly, Lobsang followed his gaze. Up on the raised stone platform that ran the whole length of the gardens were hundreds of smaller statues, mostly carved of wood, all of them painted in garish colours. Figures with more eyes than legs, more tails than teeth, monstrous amalgamations of fish and squid and tiger and parsnip, things put together as if the creator of the universe had tipped out his box of spare parts and stuck them together, things painted pink and orange and purple and gold, looked down over the valley. 'Oh, the dhlang-' Lobsang began. 'Demons? That's one word for them,' said the sweeper. 'The abbot called them the Enemies of Mind. Wen wrote a scroll about them, you know. And he said that was the worst.' He pointed to a little hooded grey shape, which looked out of place among the festival of wild extremities. 'Doesn't look very dangerous,' said Lobsang. 'Look, Sweeper, I don't want to-'
'They can be very dangerous, things that don't look dangerous,' said Lu-Tze. 'Not looking dangerous is what makes them dangerous. For it is written, “You can't tell a book by its cover.”'
'Lu-Tze, I really don't want to fight you-'
'Oh, your tutors will tell you that the discipline of a martial art enables you to slice time, and that's true as far as it goes,' said Lu-Tze, apparently not listening. 'But so can sweeping, as perhaps you have found. Always find the perfect moment, Wen said. People just seem so keen on using it to kick other people on the back of the neck.'
'But it wasn't a challenge, I just wanted you to show me-'
'And I shall. Come on. I made a bargain. I must keep it, old fool that I am.' The nearest dojo was the dojo of the Tenth Djim. It was empty except for two monks blurring as they danced across the mat and wrapped time around themselves. Lu-Tze had been right, Lobsang knew. Time was a resource. You could learn to let it move fast or slow, so that a monk could walk easily through a crowd and yet be moving so fast that no one could see him. Or he could stand still for a few seconds, and watch the sun and moon chase one another across a flickering sky. He could meditate for a day in a minute. Here, in the valley, a day lasted for ever. Blossom never became cherries. The blurred fighters became a couple of hesitant monks when they saw Lu-Tze. He bowed. 'I beg the use of this dojo for a short period while my apprentice teaches me the folly of old age,' he said. 'I really didn't mean-' Lobsang began, but Lu-Tze elbowed him in the ribs. The monks gave the old man a nervous look. 'It's yours, Lu-Tze,' said one of them. They hurried out, almost tripping over their own feet as they looked back. 'Time and its control is what we should teach here,' said Lu-Tze, watching them go. 'The martial arts are an aid. That is all they are. At least, that's all they were meant to be. Even out in the world a well-trained person may perceive, in the fray, how flexible time may be. Here, we can build on that. Compress time. Stretch time. Hold the moment. Punching people's kidneys out through their nose is only a foolish by-product.' Lu-Tze took down a razor-edged pika sword from the rack and handed it to the shocked boy. 'You've seen one of these before? They're not really for novices, but you show promise.'
'Yes, Sweeper, but-'
'Know how to use it?'
'I'm good with the practice ones, but they're just made of-'
'Take it, then, and attack me.'
There was a rustling noise above them. Lobsang looked up and saw monks pouring into the observation gallery above the dojo. There were some very senior ones among them. News gets around quickly in a little world. 'Rule Two,' said Lu-Tze, 'is never refuse a weapon.' He took a few steps back. 'In your own time, boy.' Lobsang wielded the curved sword uncertainly. 'Well?' said Lu-Tze. 'I can't just-'
'Is this the dojo of the Tenth Djim?' said Lu-Tze. 'Why, mercy me, I do believe it is. That means there are no rules, doesn't it? Any weapon, any strategy... anything is allowed. Do you understand? Are you stupid?'
'But I can't just kill someone because they've asked me to!'
'Why not? What happened to Mr Manners?'
'You are holding a deadly weapon! You are facing an unarmed man in a pose of submission! Are you frightened?'