Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.
A/N: I'm not really happy with chapter 9 as a whole, but I'm going to leave it as is now. For this part, I want everyone to know that there is a card game they play. The problem is, I haven't decided what card game they're playing/if I'll be making up a game, so I just sprinkled some random terminology in there. All criticism is welcome. I really despise this chapter right now.
A card table had a prime place in the room which had been the main reason Obi had chosen it. Giving in, he flipped the switch and watched the bulbs in the electric chandelier flicker on. “I suppose the candles were sentimentality. Your father and I used to play cards in here. Of course, that was before lighting was installed.” He freed a deck of cards from his pocket. They were old and tattered, but Obi refused to replace them. A dark red design created a flowering vine overtaking a pagoda. One bloom in the top right hand corner of every card was larger than all of the others, illustrating a flower with three petals, resembling wisteria. He couldn’t remember who had told him that now. One of the women he had known when he was fighting far east in a war that his country wasn’t supposed to have won, he supposed.
Shaking himself out of the dreary mood he could feel himself falling into, he sat down and shuffled the cards. The familiar snap comforted him, and he looked up at Lekan as he dealt.
“These are the cards from years ago when you taught me how to play.” He gave Obi a lopsided grin that was a great deal like his father’s.
Obi’s hand faltered in the deeply engrained habit of efficient dealing. Lekan looked far more like his father at that moment than Obi had ever noticed, his mother’s fair skin and delicate features diluting the dark complexion and strong build Faruhi and Obi had shared. He often thought that it had been lost in Lekan, but it was there. He was hit with a pang of grief he thought he had swept away in the weeks after his brother’s funeral. It had been eradicated as efficiently as it could until he managed to walk around the house without guilt and regret.
“...I beat you every time back then. It’s surprising that you love playing cards as much as you do when you’re so bad at them.”
The moment was broken as Lekan threw a leg over the arm of his chair, something his father would never have done.
Staring at him in a silence a beat longer than comfortable, Obi smiled. “It’s been a while since we played, and you’re not eight anymore.” He set the remaining cards to one side of the table and picked up his hand.
Lekan frowned at his hand. “What does my age have to do with your abilities? I’m fairly sure I’ll come out victorious yet again in this case.”
Keeping his lips still and out of the smirk they wanted to fall into, Obi murmured contemplatively, “Do you want to know why I love playing cards? What’s your bet?”
“Are we betting with real coin or like we used to?” His eyes were bright over his cards.
Rolling his eyes, Obi asked, his voice soft and dry, "Do you have any money to lose?"
"I won't need it. Ah… Four gold pieces. Why do you love cards?"
"A man reveals himself when he plays cards. If you watch closely enough, you can tell any number of things which will be useful later.”
Scoffing, Lekan leaned back in his chair. “I don’t believe you. “
Obi laughed. “Then don’t. I did it several times while I was away. It saved my life a few times.” He looked at his hand one more time and shook his head in disgust. “I’ll give this to you.” Flipping his hand over to show him what he’d had, he waved at Lekan’s cards.
Ignoring him, Lekan raised an eyebrow. “Prove it. What do you see in me and why? I’ll know if you’re full of shit.”
Suppressing a smug smile, Obi raised an eyebrow and studied his nephew, taking in every aspect. “You’re impatient. You bet high and fast. You’re also not completely confident in your skills. Otherwise you would have kept quiet about how good you are. You’re one to mistake cockiness for dominance, so that’s expected, but I suppose that’s cheating since I knew that previously, so I’ll admit that it could be that you’re merely young and don’t know that surprise is a much better intimidator than talk.”
Eyebrows drawn together as they did in the rare times Lekan was intrigued and intellectually involved, his expression reminded Obi that his nephew wasn’t nearly as dull as his actions implied. A little hope bounced in his chest. If Qui’in could teach Lekan all she could in two weeks, Obi could slip in tiny lessons, and Lekan could actually make use of his good sense perhaps there was a chance.
“The longer the game goes on, the more you know?” he asked, his eyes flicking over Obi’s face as if he could glean the answer from that.
Nodding, Obi collected the cards without question, deciding the game was over. Lekan was much more interested than he could have ever hoped, and he didn’t want to push too far the first day. “Fencing is the same way, really. You just can’t take as long to make your observations, or you’re more likely to die.” He shrugged.
Leaning forward again, Lekan rested his chin on his hand. “And you’ve done this with complete strangers?”
“It takes a little practice, but yes.” Though he wasn’t planning to deal again, he shuffled the cards.
“Are you doing this because I’m leaving?”
Obi’s lips flattened, and he banged the cards loudly against the table for no good reason.
“Because, really, like you said, we haven’t talked much since you came back. I remember the house always being happy when you were here.” He fell into a contemplative silence for a short moment before looking up at his uncle who was wondering if he was free of suspicion. “You know, a conversation would have worked just as well.”
The large smile Obi gave him was sincere. “It wouldn’t have lasted as long though, and you wouldn’t have learned something new.” He fingered his deck, rubbing the top right corner fondly.
“I suppose that’s true.” He blinked when his uncle held out the deck. “What are you doing?”
Unable to meet his eye, Obi jerked one shoulder up. “Giving you my cards. It’s served me well, and I want you to have every advantage you can have.”
Taking the deck reverently, Lekan bowed his head a bit. “Thank you. Maybe I can practice, and I’ll see what I can tell about other people.”
Standing up abruptly, Obi stuck his hands in his pockets, a small smile hovering at the corners of his mouth. “Maybe.”