Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Finding your perfect student (part two)

Here is an excerpt from a very good book called Black Steel, part of an outstandingly fun group of books called the Matadora series By Steve Perry.

Now this is a different Steve than Steve Barnes.

Both are writers, both have lived in the Pacific North West (though Steve Barns just moved back to LA a few weeks ago) Both train in Pencak Silat with the same teacher (one of the very best in the country) Both write rip roaring sci-fi with some of the best action you will find in a book, and both have the dubious distinction of knowing me. They could almost be the same person, except Perry is a big ol' white guy and Barnes is a medium sized black guy.

(I think that Perry was made an honerary black person a one point though, but that is a different story)

This passage is about a master teacher discovering her perfect student. While it is a work of fiction it captures the sentiment very well, so enjoy a bit of Black Steel.

............esoteric weaponry. Swords seemed fairly impractical in a modem society.

The few times he had seen Kee working out, she had been using either a wooden or a bamboo-slat sword. He had never seen the one inside the white-lacquered sheath. He glanced at the weapon as he came to stand in front of it.

Behind him in the dressing room, the shower came on, the sound of the water obvious in the otherwise quiet building. He looked toward the dressing-room door. Kee was in the shower by now.

Sleel reached out and caught the wooden sheath in his new hand. Maybe there was some kind of protocol about this kind of thing, looking at it required permission or whatever. But he was curious, somewhat surprised at himself for feeling that or any other emotion, and what the fuck, she was in the shower anyway.

He took the sword's grip in his right hand. It was warm to his touch, the wrapping and pattern oddly comfortable in his grip. He had a sudden sense of deja vu. He did not recall ever handling a weapon exactly like this one, but his thumb found a button that latched the sword into its sheath, pressing the release as though he had done it a thousand times before. Slowly, he began to withdraw the blade from its scabbard. As he looked at the blade, his eyes widened as he realized that the metal was black. As black as the swords of Cierto and his assassins had been.

Black! Why-?

From behind him, a voice said, "What are you doing?"

Steel spun, whipping the black steel blade all the way out and pointing it toward the sound. The sheath clattered on the floor as he locked his weak hand onto the butt of the sword's handle behind his right hand. The sharp tip of the curved weapon moved as if guided by dossier, coming up

-to point at Kee Wu's throat.

Naked, she stood in the doorway to the dressing room twelve meters away, dripping water into a small pool welling at her bare feet. Quite beautiful she was, tight and muscular and wet that way

"Gods," she said. "It's you!"

As Wu stood facing Sleel, it was as if she had been struck by a bolt of energy that welded her to the spot. It didn't matter that she was naked and dripping from the interrupted shower. What mattered was the realization that came over her when she saw Sleel standing there with her sword. It was a combination of what she saw-the way he handled the weapon, his expression, his stance-and what she felt, this a sense she could not define but also could not deny:

Sleel. Sleel was her perfect student.

"Gods," she said. "It's you!"

Sleel was shaken, she could see that. As much as she herself was shaken? Wu did not know. She had finished her shower and dressed, trying to order her thoughts, but not managing that very well. Sleel was waiting for her when she emerged. He had replaced her sword and now stood next to the rack upon which the daito rested.


Where did you learn to use a sword?"

It was Sleel's turn to shrug. "Outside of the one I took from the guy who attacked us on Earth, I've never owned one. I can't remember even touching one before that. Knives and laser cutters, sure, but swords as such, no. I don't know dick about the things."

A natural swordmaster, she thought. What she had been waiting for these last few years.

"You must learn," she said.


-About the sword."

"My hands are enough, thank you. I'm not likely to be shooting anybody else since I parked my spetsdods, but I can defend myself with the Ninety-seven Steps if need be-"

"This is not about defense, Steel, it is about art and spirit. Tell me, how did it feel when you were holding the sword?"

"Feel? What do you mean?"

"Was it clumsy" Awkward?"

"Nah. It felt pretty comfortable, you get right down to it. Like I'd done it all my life."

She smiled again, bigger. -It took me three years of daily practice to get to the place where a sword felt 'pretty comfortable' in my hands. You have to train with me. Sleet. You are my student."

"Shit. You've got dozens of students-"

"No, you don't understand. They are just ordinary students. You are my perfect student. Every instructor searches until she finds him or her. They are like soulmates; you only get one. There might be others who are faster or more adept or stronger or whatever, but only a single person who is it."

"And you think that's me?" Steel's tone was halfway between amused and scornful.

"I know it. Not here"-she touched her head-but here." She touched her heart with two fingers.

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