Morishita-sensei loved his daughter Shigeko, although she was an enigma to him. From the very beginning, his efforts to nurture her love of Go, to guide her along the path he himself had followed, had borne no fruits. His children didn't want to study Go, or even play it for that matter. What was more, they developed interests as disparate from his own as he could imagine.
"It looks too pretty to touch," said Saeki. An iced chocolate layer cake was the centre of everyone's attention. Shigeko held a shiny broad-bladed knife.
"I will have display cakes, of course, and cakes to serve, but it's always better to have a cake with a slice cut already. It's more inviting."
Tomorrow Shigeko would be opening her own café, and the study group was celebrating with the Morishitas, sitting in the cosy, coffee-scented environment she had created.
"Go ahead and cut it!" Waya begged.
"Waya!" said Morishita, firmly.
"Here, I'll do it," Shindou said, making a move for the knife. Shigeko wagged her finger at him.
"Saeki will cut the cake."
"Because he wants to really." She smiled.
Shigeko had always adored being taken out for treats to celebrate the victories large and small of the members of the study group. From an early age she would clamour for these outings and her boundless enthusiasm, though sometimes annoying, was undeniably infectious. As she grew into her teens, her mother sometimes feared she was playing one boy off against another, but it soon became clear, as it always had been to her 'dates', that romance was not what she was seeking.
She would ask to be invited to more luxurious and high class addresses whenever someone from the group moved up in Dan level or won a tournament; and always to enjoy some delectable cake or sundae. To Morishita, who had never liked sweet things, it seemed a frivolous waste of time. Some thought Shigeko had good taste, as she chose the most renowned establishments, while others simply thought it expensive. As she neared adulthood, she only became more discerning, recording her impressions in a blog she adopted for this purpose and conducting sweet and sticky culinary experiments.
The cake yielded under the knife, topping cracking slightly, letting fragments of chocolate fall to the plate. The blade came out red with dark crumbs stuck to it, a promise of something more dangerous under the icing; aromas of cocoa and strawberry escaped from the cut. Everyone watched as Saeki removed the first piece. The interior was dark, glistening with the sauce that covered the knife and was now running down the cake itself.
"Good work," Shigeko gestured as if to introduce the cake to them. "Now there's an invitation!"
She had been warned that if she carried on like this, her figure would suffer. But Shigeko was undeterred. These were exceptional treats for exceptional moments – it was quality that counted, not quantity. And so she grew, from a small spark of optimistic energy to a lithe and vibrant young woman. Her interest in desserts from near and far grew also, and Morishita wondered if his students studied kifu as avidly as she studied recipes. When she was eighteen, she told her parents that she wanted to start her own business, a teahouse or café.
You didn't so much eat the cake but let it melt on your tongue, thought Saeki.
"Perfection," he said.
"And that is the perfect compliment," Shigeko replied. "Perfection is what I'll always be aiming for, though of course it means something different to everyone."
"You mean you can still find fault with this?" he asked, gesturing at the small chunk left on his plate.
"That way the cakes will keep on getting better!" She winked.
When she was twenty, she found the ideal premises – a small shop that had lain empty for several months. Morishita was not keen on the venture, but Shigeko was counting on his sponsorship. The previous business in this same shop, a tea salon, had been forced into liquidation. Faced with a barrage of cajoling and pleading, he repeated his gruffest "No".
But finally, though hardened to Shigeko's persuasive nature, he was eventually swayed because the building was close to the Go institute. He could therefore watch over her and accompany her to work. Shigeko explained that the former tea salon had failed due to 'poor management decisions', notably the senseless barring of a whole sector of potential clientele, and since she would make no such blunders, the success of her business project was assured.
"Why did the last café here close?" asked Saeki.
"They banned insei and lower Dans, lost money and went bankrupt."
"Oh? I didn't even know I'd been banned," said Waya. "Not that I ever tried to get in. Seemed a bit of a snobby place. I always preferred a NcDo." Shigeko was staring at Waya hard. "But, err…everything will be different now, of course," he finished.
"But why ban Go players?" asked Shirakawa.
"I heard there was a brawl," said Shigeko's brother.
"Go players don't brawl." Morishita said, indignant, as Waya seemed to take a sudden interest in a spot on the floor. "It can't have been more than a heated post-game discussion."
"Perhaps it perturbed the refined atmosphere they were trying to keep," Shirakawa suggested. But he was looking sidelong, with a hint of suspicion, at Shindou, who seemed to be examining the same detail of the floor as Waya.
"You know how to deal with this kind of problem," Morishita said, pointing at his daughter with his spoon. It wasn't a question. So Shigeko, with her hands on her hips, the knife tucked in one of them, gave a firm nod.
Later, standing outside the shop as they left, Saeki looked up at the newly painted gold-on-green sign hung above the door.
"Do you think the joke's on us?" he wondered aloud.
"My daughter isn't joking," Morishita replied.
The sign read: 'The Spoon of God.'
- FIN -