1. Fu Chai looks up at Gou Jian
The Prince of Yue is never still. He shifts from foot to foot, turns half away, looks over his shoulder, raises a hand, turns back again. Silk whispers with his every movement. He's a candle flame, flickering and bending with every passing current of air. No, not quite as fickle as that. A pale fire, colourless, dancing over dry wood, that the eye can barely follow. 'You will regret it,' Fu Chai tells him. But the fire doesn't care. The wood grows brown, goes black, explodes into conflagration: and then one can see the ferocious orange and red and yellow of it, once the whole land is ablaze.
2. Fu Chai looks down at Gou Jian
The King of Yue enters his hall slowly, so slowly. His leather armour is drenched and his robe heavy with melted snow. He throws himself on his back at the stairs' foot and lies there, at Fu Chai's feet, motionless as a broken doll. All dark, all black: the fire doused by defeat and exhaustion, only a charred mass of leaves and branches sinking into the sodden sullen earth. Oh, he will die; he's half-dead already. 'This isn't the time for it,' Fu Chai tells him. 'Not yet.' There's no victory in conquering a corpse. When the fire returns to Gou Jian's soul, then Fu Chai will know his triumph.
3. Fu Chai looks straight at Gou Jian
The King of Wu leaves his hall slowly, and walks, so slowly, to where the five men of Yue wait below the steps. Gou Jian and his generals and his advisers, wooden dolls dressed and posed in an unreal tableau. Fu Chai looks at the face of the figure in the centre, his enemy and slave and conqueror. There's nothing there. No triumph, no satisfaction, no identifiable feeling at all. 'You didn't expect to see Us here?' The king of Yue's words sound dry and meaningless, a lesson learned by rote. The fire never did return to Gou Jian's soul; that's why he won. The chill dark coldness of his winter heart was enough to freeze and starve the great glowing bonfire of Fu Chai's glory. Fu Chai's kingdom and riches, his son and his lover, even the pride and ambition that was his before all those other things, are become only ashes and the memory of ashes.
Fu Chai feels no regret because Fu Chai can no longer feel. The coldness has him too. There's no victory in conquering a corpse, and so there's no defeat in being conquered by a corpse. The dead King of Wu kneels and puts his sword into the dead hands of the King of Yue. And thinks only, 'Now it's time.'