mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Stories to tell

Things that never happened in Wu. 

They come to Wu. The king and queen travel in a carriage, his generals walk. The king and queen are installed in a small house by the palace stables with two slaves to see to their needs. The generals are lodged in a run-down and well-guarded barracks some distance from the city walls. Every evening Gou Jian waits on the King: attends on his dinner, standing by the table; accompanies him on his constitutional walk afterwards through the palace gardens; then, for an hour or so, plays a game of chess with him. When Fu Chai summons his waiting women to disrobe him and prepare him for bed, Gou Jian is dismissed and escorted back to his little cottage.

      Fu Chai observes Gou Jian's strategy during the game but draws no conclusions from it. Sometimes he's rash out of all measure, playing with a kind of savage violence; sometimes he's slow and cautious, goading Fu Chai into an impatience that often leads to mistakes and lost games; and sometimes he's absent-minded and indifferent, as though the game and his opponent and the circumstances he finds himself mean nothing to him at all.

      "We bore you," Fu Chai remarks.

      Gou Jian looks up in surprise.

      "No. Why do you say that?"

      "Your mind isn't on the game."

      Gou Jian shakes his head.

      "I can see I'm not going to win this time."

      "How so?"

      "I can't read your moves. They make no sense." There's a pause. Gou Jian makes an abrupt gesture and his sleeve sends the stones flying from the board. Fu Chai's eyes narrow. Then he laughs.

      "Brilliant! When the game goes against you, refuse to play the game!"

      Gou Jian gives him an unreadable look. "Is one allowed to refuse?"

      "Yes. Of course. What do you think I'm doing now?"

      "Playing with Us," Gou Jian says.

      "Playing chess with you," Fu Chai corrects him. "Reset the stones."

       Gou Jian makes no move to obey.

        "Think," Fu Chai tells him. "You attacked Our kingdom, We defeated your kingdom. All that remained after that was to offer your head to my father's spirit, tear down your country's temple and scatter your ancestors' bones, and take all that's yours for my own. Wu Zi Xu's still at me, day and night, to do it. And I don't."

        "Why not?"

"Why don't I do what anyone else would do? Why do you think?"
        "Because you issued a proclamation before the king of Zhou promising to keep me alive. And you did that because it was the only way to get my surrender." His fingers tap the board. "And you wanted my surrender, not my death, because-" He pauses, picks up a white stone and puts it on the board, picks up another and places it deliberately, as if unaware of Fu Chai's tight-lipped silence three feet away- "you want to show Wu Zi Xu that you can do something he never could." Three stones, four. "Whatever he wants from you, you'll do the opposite, until he finally accepts that you're the master."

         "You think that?" Fu Chai lets out a disgusted breath.

        "That's not the reason?" Gou Jian looks up.

        "The reason is that I refuse to loose Wu Zi Xu on Yue the way my father loosed him on Chu. I won't let him do in your kingdom what he did in his own. And for that I think you owe me some thanks, king of Yue!

Gou Jian's face is still. He inclines his head gravely. "My thanks, king of Wu." Fu Chai stares at him, all the things he wants to say and the things he wants to hear a confused whirling in his head.

        "Shall your servant set the black stones for the Great Lord?" Gou Jian says.
Tags: fic, woxin
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