We met a scant six months before my education was complete and in that short time I was totally smitten. We pledged to be married and were greatly relieved to find that her uncle and my grandfather were not opposed and in fact seemed altogether unsurprised by it all. I often wondered later if they had planned it all along, but if they had, they did us both a great favor. We all agreed that she and I would marry as soon as I decided what I would do with myself after all this training.
When I returned home after Tsu Chi’a told me he had no more to teach me, my grandfather and I sat down to discuss my future. By now I had been longer with him than with the rest of my family and indeed felt much closer to him. Knowing my training was winding down and anxious to start my life with Paula, I had been thinking about the future, but had still not come to any firm decision. We sat in silence for a while after our meal, me weighing options for the future, him perhaps thinking of our time together. Finally he broke into our reveries.
“Karl,” he began, “I cannot express how much I have enjoyed having you here with me all these years. I could not love you more if you were my own son, even if you are nothing like my own son. Still, you are a credit to him and your mother, and, to some degree, me. Now your training is over, and it is time for you to become a man and decide your own fate. It was for this that you came here and were trained. God knows you have ‘learned things’ as you wished. You do have some options and have no doubt given them much thought. I would only caution you not to make remaining here one of your options. I am quite old, and will likely not see it, but there is no way the Khanate will survive your lifetime. We are semujen (non-Mongol foreigners) and as such are resented by the Hanjen for our privileges under the Mongols. When they take Khanbalikh, they will not be merciful to us or the other non-Hanjen. I can’t really blame them for their resentment, but I do fault their racism, a most un-Mongol trait. There is a whole world out there. I would urge you to pick a direction other than south and go.”
“Grandfather,” I replied, “I would have to be a fool not to see what is coming here. My future definitely lies away from Khanbalikh. I’m still not sure where to go, but I do think I should try to find the Ordu and report back to father. It was he who sent me here, and I owe him that much. I do think of them all and wonder if they are well. Besides, it would be interesting to hear what Kaidu plans to do with the Ordu—if, indeed, it still exists.”