Soft afternoon light filtered through the open shoji door, orange and green through the forest canopy above. The room was lit by it, perhaps more than it should have been, a spring time haze of pine mixed with a far off storm. Kitsune Miori sat and stroked his long gray mustache, silver whiskers against the brown of his kimono, shining in the grace of Lady Amaterasu, sun goddess and mother of the kami.
His deep brown eyes drank in the black and white pebbles against the aged wood of the go board before him, studying their placement. He lifted his hand, placed a finger on a single white stone, froze, thought harder, and then lifted his hand away. “Too simple,” he thought. The black pebbles seemed to retreat from that point, opening the way for him to capture them. He had seen his opponent use this tactic before. He scanned the bored and found another such ploy, obviously “hidden” so it might distract him, another decoy. Pincers and—tail, he smiled as he noted the trap. “Clever.” He nodded bringing his hand back to his chin; a distant roll of thunder preceded a change in the air. The scent of the forest erupted to life as the trees made ready for the rain. “Too many years, my friend.” He smiled. “Too many games.”
Six and twenty summers had passed since they had started to put their plan into action, nearly ten more than that since they had begun to plan it—Miori knew his opponent’s mind too well to fall for such a trick. He let his gaze shift to the shelf at his left, several scrolls lay stacked with his personal mon, addressed to various lords across the empire; at last the wheels were in motion. He turned back to the go board.
Soft padded footfalls met his ears followed by the clink of porcelain older than his sixty-five years. He did not move, not when he felt her weight kneel on the tatami behind him, not when he smelled the lavender oil in her hair as she bowed deeply. It was the deep aroma of the jasmine tea, a kiss of summer and his younger days that stirred his chest into a sigh. She poured him tea in silence, placing the cup on the low table beside his game, and then bowed again. He nodded acknowledging and dismissing her in a single gesture. She stood smoothly, backed away, and crossed the room to exit through the open shoji doors. Her shadow crossed the board, as if outlining the black pieces. His eyes squinted for a moment and he grinned victoriously. “There you are, the stinger at last.” He moved a single white pebble and cut off the scorpion’s tail.
Or so he believed.