"Has it been long enough for me to ask how you got so good at Go?" Mendanbar asked several years later. "Or are you still biting my head off on that subject?"
Cimorene turned a black stone over and over in her hand. "It was never about you, just to be clear."
Mendanbar rolled his eyes in a deadpan imitation of Gardener 9-dan, whom all the younger pros called 'The Gargoyle' behind his back. "I never would have realized. Look, if you don't want to tell me yet, just say so. I know you'll keep your promise eventually."
Cimorene sighed. "No. I should tell you. You won't believe me, but I'll tell you."
This time Mendanbar raised his eyebrows. "Why don't you try trusting me for a change? I've learned not to think anything is impossible where you're concerned." He leaned across the board and stilled Cimorene's restless fingers. "Put that down. You shouldn't play when you're distracted."
"I can play whenever and however I want!" Cimorene snapped, setting the black stone down on the upper right corner of the board in a completely illogical move.
Mendanbar tried very hard to stifle a laugh. He didn't quite manage, and Cimorene's scowl deepened. "Jerk," she muttered. "But okay. It started when I was sixteen. My parents were pressing me to date Therandil, but I didn't want to, so I ran away to my grandfather's house. Up in his attic, I found a Go board with a picture of a dragon on it. It turned out that the board was haunted by a dragon spirit named Kazul; she taught me to play."
To his credit, Mendanbar lasted nearly thirty seconds before he burst out with protests and further questions.
Cimorene whacked him on the head with her go-ke. "I knew this was a stupid idea! See if I ever tell you anything again!" she shouted, and stormed out of the room.
Slowly, Mendanbar picked himself up off the floor and memorized their half-finished game. Cimorene would come back. She always did. They were rivals, and she needed him as much as he needed her.
Now if he could just convince her they were a match in other ways as well...
End of Story