At this point it is impossible to overlook the fact that we have not described Tenshing’s attacker, who was none other than the Master of the Eight Weapon Hand, the foremost among those monks who had devoted their entire existence to achieving virtuosity in that esoteric skill. He was not a young man, though younger than Tenshing’s lucent father would have been had he been living, nor was he old; it could not be said with justice that he was thin, yet to say that he was fat could not be farther from the truth; and as to his height, well, he was short, for men have grown taller in the hundred years since Tenshing Astama sat the Orchid Throne — but, for a man of his era, he was far from short, and surely the reader can guess whether, in addition to this distinct lack of shortness, he would have been called tall. He maintained a cropped beard that sometimes seemed more like stubble, and his hair was moderately long, though when it was plastered back with sweat, as it was by now, it seemed rather shorter, unless one focused on its wildly curling ends, in which case it gained (or so it seemed) a modicum of length. If it seems needless to enter into this litany of negation when one could simply describe him as average in all things, well, there are at least two relevant considerations: first, that the nearer truth was that the Master of the Eight Weapon Hand had less the aspect of an average man than of one who violently avoided any given extreme, recoiling farther from it than would seem possible without drawing perilously near the other; and second, that it would be impossible to describe a fighter of such consummate skill as “average” in any respect at all. In any case, in addition to his talent, which knew no moderation, he always dressed in immaculate dandelion yellow and maintained the hygiene of his hands meticulously.

Word count: 13,469. Just about on schedule.


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