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Once upon a time there lived an esteemed martial artist in the little town of Anywhere. She was an acknowledged Master, locally famous for her supple strength and structure. In fact, she could handle any amount of pushing or pulling on various parts of her body with amazing, uncanny even, ease. She was able to manifest her intent with the slightest of gestures, sending large strong men flying off balance at a whim. When attacked she would just seem to melt into the attacker, absorbing the energy of the attack until it dissipated or was sent back amplified by her intent, the intensity being such that the attacker was totally overwhelmed. All of this while displaying the softness of a young willow in the breeze.
In addition to being able to perform with accomplished skill, she also possessed the ability to pass her knowledge on to others and, as it turned out, she proved to be as consummate a teacher as she was a performer. Other martial artists of high repute would continually find their ways to Anywhere in order to test her skills. All who met with her and got to experience her skills first hand would come away suitably impressed; proclaiming that here indeed was one in a million, a martial artist whose internal skills were without parallel. Many requested that she take them on as students so that they too could learn to control themselves with the same degree of expertise as she did herself. Reluctantly, after much pleading and cajoling she agreed to teach them her Way.
As the years passed some of her students chose to leave Anywhere in order that they might share their knowledge with others. And so it came to pass that the Ruler heard of the Master of Anywhere and her amazing feats of martial ability. Intrigued, the Ruler caused a Summons to Appear to be drawn up and a messenger was sent to Anywhere in order to deliver it. Alas, the Master was not happy when the messenger delivered the Ruler's Summons to Appear for she had lived nowhere but Anywhere and did not wish to leave her home to undertake the long journey to the land of the Ruler. But Rulers being what they are, rulers that is, are wont to get their way and the Master's Ruler was no exception. And so on a day in spring, bright with the promise of summer just over the horizon, the Master set out to answer the Ruler's Summons to Appear.
Now the Ruler lived in the midst of a plateau surrounded by a chasm both deep and wide. Across the chasm spanned but a single bridge, a toll bridge as it turned out, the booth of which was manned by an Old Codger whose job it was to collect the fare from each person looking to cross. Eventually, the Master arrived at the bridge, many days and many adventures from Anywhere, none too happy, mighty weary and wanting to get the whole Appearance over with. So, as you might imagine, she was slightly put out when the Old Codger informed her that in order for her to cross she must ante up the toll.
"Old Codger", she intoned somewhat prideful, if I'm to be totally honest in this Tell, "stay your request for the toll for I am the Master of Anywhere and I have with me a Summons to Appear signed by the Ruler himself. That should be enough for you to let me pass."
"Ah", said the Old Codger looking her up and down in a most disconcerting and uncouth manner. "A Summons to Appear from the Ruler is indeed a most important document. But see, I also have a document, a document also signed by the Ruler, An Order of Collection it is, which obligates me to collect the toll from those wishing to cross the Ruler's bridge."
The Master, after a moment of thoughtful silence, said, "What then is your fee Old Codger; for I see no sign on your bridge or on the side of your hut yonder indicating the amount or nature of the toll?"
"Master of Anywhere", he replied, "the toll to be paid must be determined by the traveler. I simply collect it. It is different for all."
The Master of Anywhere had collected odd bits of gold, silver and precious gems on her journey, varying amounts of which she offered to the Old Codger in exchange for passage across the bridge. All her offers were summarily refused.
A hint of exasperation crept into her voice as she said, "Old Codger, what is this game you play? I have offered up to all that I have and you continually refuse to let me pass. Do you delay me on purpose? Are you not aware that, should I choose to, I could just walk through you and cross the bridge without paying you anything? I am the Master of Anywhere. I have Trained many years and possess power that dwarfs even the mightiest warrior in the land; yet still you stand before me and refuse to let me pass. Why should I not just brush you aside and be on my way? That, I deem, would be ample recompense for your impudence." Her voice, at the end of her speech, carried a hint of the power she possessed and should have been enough in and of itself to cow all but the stoutest of hearts seeking to oppose her will.
"Good Lady", the Old Codger replied, his tone flat with patience, as though he was dealing with a petulant child, "upon me is laid a Chore, yea, given to me by the Ruler himself, that I must collect his toll before I consent to the passage of anyone across his bridge. ‘Old Codger', he said to me ‘it is upon you that I bestow this Chore for in you I see one whose devotion to duty is steadfast as the Mountain Tall far away in the south of the land. I know that you will not fail.' So yes, Master of Anywhere, you may indeed brush me aside with the ease of the wind blowing through a grove of leafless trees. But know this: after my fall, half way across the bridge you will meet me again and you will think your eyes deceive you for there will be two of me to contend with. Perhaps your internal power, the selfsame power you are so justly proud of will prevail a second time but I say this, when you have gone yet half way again four of me will be there to greet you. And when next you have covered half the distance eight of me will be waiting. It is a very long bridge Master of Anywhere."
"Old Codger, you have no power and I am well neigh irresistible. It would prove to be a conflict worthy of Song; Irresistible Force meets Immovable Object." she said and sighed. "But I am no fool. I have Trained lo these many years to develop my internal power and become a great storehouse of its ways and applicability. Yet now I see that you too have Trained. And while you may not possess internal power as I have come to know it, you do indeed have a strength that transcends time and distance; something, I must admit, I had not heretofore considered. I see now that Training comes in many forms and that all have their worth. Now that I think on it, I can see the Potter, the Baker, the Smith; all people, in fact, who Train, in a new light. You have opened my eyes Old Codger and for that you have my thanks." And with that she bowed low, though no less powerful for it.
The Old Codger bowed in return, "Well met Master of Anywhere. You have paid the toll and satisfied the Summons to Appear. There is no need for you to cross the bridge now for you have taught me well; and for that you have my thanks. May your journey to Anywhere be a safe one and see you arrive happy and content."
With that the Ruler turned his back on the Master of Anywhere and began to slowly cross the bridge.