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The Lost Secret of the Tao

When the great teacher, Shinsei, left the Empire, he walked for many days to the south. On the road, he met several travelers, each begging for some great secret to preserve them from the time of war to come. Shinsei refused them all, saying only, "You already know the answers. I have no more to give."

At last, as he took the last steps of his journey, he saw an old woman sitting by the road, offering rice balls to passing travelers. He stopped to take one, and she smiled when she saw him. “Little Teacher," she said, "I have heard you have no more answers. So, instead, I ask this: do you have any final questions for me?"

Shinsei laughed and clapped his hands at her wisdom. "l have one question, Someisa," he said to the woman. "But if I tell you, you can never tell it to any other creature who would repeat the tale."

"Of course, Little Teacher," the wise Someisa said.

And so Shinsei whispered a few words into her ear, passing along his final riddle.

Someisa lived for three hundred years, but she could not stand to keep the secret. During the first hundred years, she told the trees in her garden, and they blossomed a thousandfold. She whispered her secret to the river, and it burbled with joy, and the waters ran silver.

The Emperor came to her humble hut by the river to order her to tell him Shinsei's Riddle. She bowed to the Hantei, but before he could command her to speak, her body changed, and where she had stood rested instead a magnificent Tortoise, the wisest creature under the Heavens. The Emperor, understanding, bowed and returned to his palace of gold.

From that day forth, Tortoise has never spoken another word, but instead makes patterns on the sand, remembering the riddle that only Someisa knew.

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