Backdrop of rocky mountainside, slightly hazy in distance, sunlight. Under a crude wooden shelter an aged man in monks clothing sits in the lotus position.
A man in the uniform of a chinese general strides unto the stage. He stands before the sage with his hands on his hips.
SAGE: Why do you call me master?
GENERAL: I am told you have great powers.
SAGE: I can see the truth that is all.
GENERAL: But I am told that you can grant me the power to know the minds of my enemies.
SAGE: That is no more than seeing the truth.
GENERAL: No more! With that power I will know my enemies plans and I will defeat them.
SAGE: And thus you hope to become emperor. (*the general looks surprised*) Tell me truthfully what you will do if I refuse your request.
GENERAL: I will have you executed.
SAGE: Very well - you shall have what you desire.
Same scene. The sage is sitting as before, alone. The general walks on, dressed in magnificent robes. He hesitates in front of the sage then kneels down.
SAGE: Ah yes - the general who wished to be emperor.
GENERAL: I am emperor now.
SAGE: Then why have you returned. Do the powers no longer work?
GENERAL: No they are strong as ever. I know when the barbarians plan to strike so that my armies can defeat them. I know which of my generals are plotting to replace me. I know when the peasantry are at the point of rebellion so I can move in extra troops and arrest their leaders. (agitatedlly)But still more barbarians come, the generals I promote plot against me as before and the peasantry find new leaders.
SAGE: What can I do about that?
GENERAL:(growing desperate) I do not just know their plans. I know the desperation of the nomads when their herds die as drought changes the grasslands to desert. I feel the hatred of sons whose fathers I have executed. I hear the cries of peasant mothers whose children die because their breasts are dry. I cannot sleep from the torment but I am powerless to do anything but stay emperor. Take away the power you gave me.
GENERAL: Why will you not grant me this? What do you want from me.?
SAGE: Stay here. One of your generals will soon replace you. He will have to fight the barbarians and it will be he who the peasants hate. Soon you will have no enemies to disturb your sleep.
GENERAL:(despairingly) Those powers were a trap and I was so stupid I was prepared to force you to let me walk into it. But why? You are the only one of my enemies whose mind I can not see.
SAGE: I am not as indifferent to life as I should be. An old man gets lonely sometimes. You cannot read my mind because I have never been you enymy. I would like to be you friend. Come climb with me, the sunset here is very beutiful.
The two men leave together.