Cover Ryuuou No Oshigoto! Novel Volume 1 Chapter 3
Ryuuou No Oshigoto! Novel Volume 1 Chapter 3
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Read Ryuuou No Oshigoto! Novel Volume 1 Chapter 3

Chapter 3

[RYUUOU V1] 3RD SCORE

/To the Association“T-this is…the Shogi Association…!”We arrived before the Kansai Shogi Association, and Ai looked really impressed as she said this.“It’s so…so recognizable!”“Because the words ‘Shogi Association’ on the wall are really large, aren’t they?”From the Osaka Train Station, we took one stop down the Osaka Loop Line to Fukushima. From that Fukushima station, it would be a two minute walk to a five storey building.This is the location of the Japanaese Shogi Association, Kansai branch–normally called the ‘Association’.We came here on this day to apply for Ai’s Training Group Test, and also, for my official match.Anedeshi left in a huff on the previous day, while Ai and I stayed at Master’s house. We enjoyed the piping hot breakfast prepared by Keika, returned to my house for some preparations, and came here.“Ca-can anyone…really come in?”“The first floor has restaurants and shop, the second floor is the dojo, and for the 3rd floor and onwards, it’s prohibited for everyone except for those authorized. Let’s go then.”“Y-yes!”I prompted Ai in, and she boldly took a step forward.The door opened.And standing right in front of us was anedeshi.“…”“…”“…”An awkward atmosphere lingered.“…Loli king.”She muttered vexedly right at my ear as I passed her, opened her parasol, and hurried off somewhere. What’s with this new title…Master’s order was that I was to have a disciple (temp), but the ‘Snow White of Naniwa’ was giving Ai and me a frosty, snowy look. It’s basically Ai and the Snow Queen here.As I was given Master’s permission, it seemed she was being more stubborn than usual.We watched anedeshi vanish into the buzz of the morning crowd, and Ai tilted her head,“…Why is aunt here?”“Probably here to sign some colored paper or fans, since she’s a popular shogi player…also, don’t call her aunt in front of her.”Or else my lift will be endangered, you know?We entered the building, and Ai squealed, running to the shops on the right side.“Amazing! Are all these shogi books?”There was a shop in the corner of the building, filled with all kinds of shogi-related books and goods, even signed books. If possible, please drop by to have a look.“Woah, the shogi board and pieces are amazing…ehh!? The board needs, 1, 10, 100, 1000, 10000…a 1,000,000 Yen!?”Wah! Wah! Ai excitedly pressed her head against the glass display, like the boy from the Alps staring at the trumpet inside the show window. The middle-aged part-time cashier lady at the cash register narrowed her eyes, looking at this cheery scene.What left Ai most excited was—“Master! Master! They sell fans here!”“Yeah they do.”Topselling items in this shop are the fans signed by popular shogi player, because when one holds them, it makes the person feels really strong!“Woah…there’s so many difficult kanji! (>_<)”Ai opened a sample, checking the words written on it. Those were kanji that were somewhat difficult for third graders, and she tilted her head, “Ehh?”“How do I read this one?”“‘A Thousand Gold in One Stride’. It means that sometimes, one move is more valuable than thousands of gold pieces, a classic saying in shogi.” (TN: 一歩千金)“And this? Fl…?”“This is ‘flight’. Probably means that they hope to have a flying progression.” (TN: 飛翔)“And this?”“‘Chaos’.” (TN: 混沌)“What does this mean?”“Erm…very messy? Something like that?”“Why is such a thing written on the fan?”“…Who knows?”Calligraphy words are chosen by the shogi players, and sometimes, there are words whose meanings are only beknownst to the person. Just to note, what Master wrote on his fan was ‘My prime shall come tomorrow’. So cool.“…This isn’t it…this isn’t it either…”“What are you looking for?”“Do all the shogi players have signed fans?”“Not all. Just the popular ones.”“Popular ones?”“Like past grandmasters, or A-list players…title players too basically have signed fans.”Ai’s expression immediately lit up.“So you have a fan too, Master?”“Nn? Ah, yeah…”I slipped the sample of my signed fans to the gap in the cupboard so that Ai wouldn’t find it.Honestly, my handwriting’s really distinct.“Scum ryuuou’s handwriting is scum too LOLOLOLOL.”“This will be an embarrassment all the way to the later generations…”“If it’s me, I would have surrendered my title right there.”No way can I let such extraordinary samples be seen by Ai when they caused quite a commotion on the internet.…Not like I could have helped it. Even I never expected to win the title…if I did, I would have practiced my handwriting more often.“Eh…well~ there was one here. Yep, might be sold out!”“You’re really popular, Master! As expected of you!”“Hahaha, let’s go upstairs, shall we?”I laughed, and left the shop.I need to put the fan back later…Registering the new discipleWe went up the stairs to the second level.“Shogi dojo’, we saw the words there, and Ai tugged hard at my sleeve.“!!“Ai’s eyes were glittering with expectations as she looked at me.I could only give a wry smile.“Before that, we need to apply for the Training Group Test in the office upstairs. Introduce you to the other staff members too.”“Nn~!”“You’ll be able to play immediately.”While Ai continued to murmur, unable to wait for long, I nudged her from behind and left the dojo.I used to be like that too…as I indulged in my memories, I went up to the 3rd floor.The office’s at this floor, and many members of the Shogi Association were gathered here.“Pardon us.”“Ah, Yaichi-kun…no, Kuzuryuu-sensei. Good morning.”Greeting me was the staff member whose face I knew very well–though to be honest, I have been here for more than a decade, and there’s no one I didn’t know. It was one of the more experienced staff members who greeted me.When I was younger, I often angered him, so to me, he was like a school teacher, but he’s the one calling me ‘sensei’ after I became a pro player. It’s an intriguing feeling.The staff are in charge of the running of the Associations, so in a certain sense, they’re more valuable than Shogi players.It’s fine if there are five or ten players missing, but without one of these people, it’s possible that there won’t be any matches.I gave my most sincere smile possible, and introduced Ai.“I came by because of this girl…were you notified?”“Ah, yes, heard about it, heard about it.”The staff member glanced aside at Ai, who was shrivelling as she stood beside me,“Sora-sensei just dropped by and said, ‘A pervert who tried to imprison an elementary school kid in his house will be dropping by later. Please call the police once you see him.’”That Ginko…“A-anedeshi sure likes to joke huh!? Me imprisoning an elementary school kid? That’s impossible, right?”“I thought so too.”“Isn’t that obvious?”Hahaha, we laughed heartily.“And so? Who’s this cute little lady here?”“Uchideshi!”Before I could answer, Ai answered heartily. I was left hanging.““Eh?””Everyone present echoed in unison.They didn’t appear to be listening, but they were…hey, someone’s actually reaching for the phone. What’s with this reaction? Some skit?“U-Uchideshi? Kuzuryuu-sensei? At this age? An elementary school girl?”“No, erm, well…”Since it turned out this way, I guessed I could only just insist all the way, “Yes, that’s right? Got a problem with that?” I nodded nonchalantly with that attitude.“Yep, our school’s directive.”“A-ahh…Kiyotaki’s…”Anedeshi and I are rather famous for being Master’s Kiyotaki’s uchideshi since young, so it’s  not rare for me, under the Kiyotaki school, to be taking in uchideshis. Not at all!“I have Master’s letter here.”“Yes…”“Well, anyway, she’ll be staying at my house until the Training Group Test is over.”I checked the schedule of the test as I explained how Ai came all the way from Hokuriku, hoped to join the Training Group so that she could become a female Shogi pro, and that Master had negotiated this with her parents.“Isn’t it Spring break now? It’s better for her development if she stays in Osaka to focus on it. Once she passes, she probably will return to her home in Hokuriku.”“Ahh, I see–”The staff member finally seemed to have heaved a sigh of relief. At this moment–“Eh? I want to continue staying at your house, Master!”A nerve-wrecking atmosphere spread in the office again, and I felt anxious.“Eh, Ai-Ai-chan. Wait…”“I’m willing to do anything! I can cook, clean the house and clothes! If-if Master wants to…I’m willing to do perverted things too…”Chatters.“Heeeeeyyyyooooo enough with those words that can be taken for another meaning, okay!? I didn’t say that at all!? Got it!?”“B-but…’try out little girls’…”“Kuzuryuu-sensei…”“No no no no!! That’s just anedeshi being all petty again!”I really, really did my best to try and explain this. I didn’t accept this kid as my uchideshi willing!! I’m serious!!“And besides, I like mature women like Keika; I don’t have any interest in kids at all! You know right!? We know each other for a long time already!”“…Understood. I shall trust you on this, sensei.”It seemed the staff finally believed my words, and the trust I’ve built up for more than ten years finally prevailed. The most important aspect of a shogi player is credibility. Everything settled, I intended to leave the office, but the staff member gave me a grim look, one I had never seen over the past decade, saying,“Kuzuryuu-sensei.”“Yes?”“…Is this really fine?”He didn’t trust me at all~Association’s DojoWe left the office, and Ai exhaled deeply,“Ahh…I was so nervous there!”“Me too…”A single misstep would have erased my standing in society, and I was really tense. However, it’s not that I didn’t have a feeling that I mishandled this.I struck first before the strange rumors would spread, but what would happen as a result…?Well, it’s pointless to be worrying about this.A shogi player’s job is to read the moves, but even pro players misread moves in matches. In the end, there are some with the ‘I’ll see what the opponent moves’ line of thought, and would just do their best, and leave everything else to fate.“Anyway, Master.”“Hm?”“What is the Training, Group?”I barely managed to find my landing on the stairs.“Wait…I explained a lot, a lot of times yesterday!”“E-erm…the okonomiyaki was too yummy…so…”Ai excused herself as her fingers rubbed on the handrail. Well, Keika’s okonomiyaki’s really delicious. This girl here ate three of them by herself. Did she think they’re pancakes or something?“…The Training Group is like a school that grooms pro female players, where you get to play against people aiming to be shogi players. By winning, you can increase your ranking.”“Increase ranking by ranking…it’s like a game, isn’t it?”“Well, shogi is a game.”The board game, invented over a thousand years ago, is the most difficult game in the world. That’s shogi.“You start off with F rank when you enter, then E2, E1, D2, D1, C2, and once you get to C1, you’ll get the right to be a female player.”“Once I become a female player, I’ll be able to think of shogi as my job like you, right Master?”“You won’t get as many matches as that for a pro player, but simply put, that should be the case.”“Then what’s the difference between a pro player and a female player?”“It’s a long story, so I’ll explain to you next time.”I pointed my thumb at the dojo entrance on the second floor,“This is where you’re interested in right now, right?”“Yes!”I opened the door to the dojo, and stepped in with my disciple (temp)All I saw were kids in the dojo.Typically, most of the people hanging around at this time were old folks, but Spring Break just started for the Public Schools, and there were many young boys and girls passionate about shogi present, the enthusiastic sounds of shogi playing music to my ears.Looking around, I saw that they were all elementary school kids? Students of the kids classroom?“I want to register a ‘match record card’ for this kid–”I was about to introduce Ai to the staff at the counter of the dojo,But,A group of kids looked at me in unison, and said,“Dr-“Dr? “Dragon King!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”” Isn’t that too much of a direct translation, kids?“An autograph please!” “Please sign this!” “Sign! Sign!” “Dragekin, let’s play!”The kids swarmed me. None of them called me the Ryuuou. They were pulling, knocking, pushing, kicking me. These kids showed no respect or concern to me, just kicking him, or making all sorts of selfish requests.I forgot as Ai’s a really good girl, but elementary school children are like this huh. But stop calling me Dragekin!“Okay okay! Line up in a single file…no, in three!!”I had the kids line up in trios, and called Ai, who was opposite the table. There were three shogi boards on the table.Sponsored Content

One person to take on three—three-pronged.“If you can beat her, you can have my autograph.”“Who?” “Who’s that girl~?”“My disciple (temp).”“Disciple? Little Dragon! Is Little Dragon Strong?”“Really strong.”“So if we can beat Little Dragon, we can get the autograph?” “How do we play?”“How huh? Hm, let’s see…no handicaps.”I moved a swivel chair over, and had Ai sit down.“Ai, I want you to play against three at the same time. Can you do it?”“O-okay!”Ai seemed taken aback, “Alrighty!” but she proceeded to roll her sleeves, and got into battle position, and immediately got ready for battle.The first wave of trio hurriedly lined the pieces, and Ai lined up three boards worth, looking very busy.““Please take care of me!””They lined up the pieces, and the matches began.I checked the kids’ record cards that were placed at the middle side of the table. It’s like a dojo membership card, a green card that has the name, dojo rank, and the recent match records.“The one at the upper table is a second dan, and the rest are kyu ranks…now that, how many matches can you win?”When playing against many simultaneously, it’s hard to concentrate on one, and even with a difference in ability, it’s hard to beat every single one.However, Ai was invincible.Typically, any kid would play whatever move they thought of immediately, and end up making all kinds of mistakes, to a point where self-destructing moves were often played.On the other hand, Ai was holding tightly onto the hem of her skirt as she read the moves faster than anyone else. She was extremely cautious. A born player.Compared to the kids here, her talent’s a whole different dimension.“Little Dragon’s so strong!” “We can’t beat her…”In forty minutes, she killed off twelve players.I thought she would lose once or twice, but she beat them all…“Haa…haa…th-thank you very much…!”Once Ai beat the last person, she bowed and thanked them while panting furiously. It seemed it took her a lot of physical exhaustion as she was swivelling around on the chair, playing against them. I guess she was basically jumping sideways while playing shogi.“Sen-sensei, her ranking is…?”The staff of the dojo asked me, holding a blank record card, clearly looking pale.“Sec…no, please register her as first dan. Ah, here’s the attendance fee. She’ll be spending the entire day here playing shogi.”Given her ability, I could have registered her as a second or third dan, but I hope that she’ll be able to experience the joy of winning matches and increasing her rank. This is my parental mindset at work as I registered this ranking.Looking at this normally however, it’s very abnormal to see someone with the ability of an amateur first dan.“Ai!”I received the record card from the staff, and handed it over to Ai, who was running over to me without realizing that her skirt was being flipped, and her white panties were exposed.“It’s your record card. Try filling it with white stars, okay?”“…Yes!!”First dan, Ai Hinatsuru-dono, my first disciple (temp) wrote the words onto the green card, and raised it up with both hands as though it was a treasure, giving a delighted smile.Showing up! Silver Knight!“Here, drink up.”“Yes! Tucking in ♡”I bought a packet of orange juice at the vending machine of the dojo, and Ai thanked me before she gulped it down through the straw. It’s easy to get thirsty while playing shogi.“Fuah! …Master, do you have any matches today? At what time?”“About 10am or so.”“Eh!? Is it really fine for you to hang around here!?”“Hang around…well, isn’t there still another fifteen minutes?”There’s basically nothing to prepare for before a match, and it’ll be awkward to sit at the shogi board way too early. Besides, it’s a four hour long Title Ranked round-robin match, a marathon match that is to be played until night. (TN: 帝位戦リーグ)If I were to go all out right away, I’ll be likely to tire out.“The match venue is just above here. I’ll just head there when it’s almost time.”“Y-you can’t! You have to reach there five minutes before it starts!”Ai pushed me from behind, trying to get me upstairs. Didn’t I say there’s another fifteen minutes?“Ah, maybe you want to have a look at the venue?”“Is that okay?”“You can come along with me.”The match venues on the fourth floor and beyond typically aren’t open to public…but the Kansai Shogi Association provides a service for dojo users to attend official matches, and not forbid them from entering. Also, if there’s prior booking, anyone can lease the match venue (with payment)“This is the ‘match board’. There’s the names of the match rooms and the players of the doay on  on the magnets.”We walked to the fifth floor, and I started explaining various things to Ai.“Once the match ended, the loser has to move his nameplate to a lower position. This is a system to indicate the results.”“Oh…”Ai, who had been tentative all this while, was interested in this after all. I could see her eyes sparkling.“Master…are you at the Upper Room? Ho-how do I read this?” (TN: Ai can’t read the full name)“It’s the Upper Tier Room” (TN: おんじょうだんのま, Onjoudannnoma. 御上段の間. Yes, these are actual locations inside the place, https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%B0%86%E6%A3%8B%E4%BC%9A%E9%A4%A8#.E3.83.95.E3.83.AD.E3.82.A2_2 and yes, that is the actual place in Osaka. )“And the opponent is…Kami, Kami…erm, how do I read this?”“6th dan Ayumu Kannabe. A young player from Kansai.” (TN: Just to note, the kanji for Ayu, 歩, means pawn.)I was about to remove my shoes, ready to show her the room, and at that moment!“Fufufu…this is my alias as a disguise on this word. My actual name is…!” (TN: The term actual name here, 真名(マナ), is an archaic form)“Y-you’re–”I turned my head around, and standing before us was a person in white. He covered his noble-like face with a hand, making a pretentious pose, revealing a right eye with colored contact lens between his fingers as he solemnly gave his name!!”“A shogi player and a Knight! I am the ‘Silver Knight’–God Cauldron Ayumu!”At this moment, an association staff member passed by, and greeted him,“Ah, good morning, Kannabe-sensei.”“IT’S GOD CAULDRON!!” (TN: Kannabe (神鍋), taking both kanji words separately, literally translates as God Cauldron.)This 6th dan God Cauldron (aged 18) really seemed to insist on this name.The staff didn’t mind, as though it was per usual. It’s hard to be a staff member if one can’t get along with such weirdos.“Goodness…Westerners (Kansai People) are a bother. They lack grace…”As he said that, Ayumu removed the magnet with the name ‘Kannabe’, and swapped it with the ‘God Cauldron’. Did he bring this along? Not bad…Upon seeing Ayumu, Ai (and only her) immediately paled.“Master! Th-that person…is wearing a mantle!?”“…Yep. A mantle.”“This is the first time I’ve seen one!”It’s the first time I’m seeing someone wear a mantle at an official shogi match…‘Hoh…little girl! Surely you have outstanding talent in shogi (taste) to notice this mantle. I cannot say that I cannot allow you to join our Kanto Knights Division.”God Cauldron Ayumu gracefully raised his right arm, and flapped the white mantle.He basically looks–like a noble!The shogi world is divided into ‘Kanto’, which Ayumu belongs to, and ‘Kansai’, which I belong to.The Kanto Shogi Association is located near the youth streets of Harajuku, and has three times the number of affiliated players to Kansai’s. Most of the title holders are Kanto players, so most of the rookies and veterans are from Kanto.In contrast to the stylish, trendy Kanto players, the Kansai players are considered barbaric and pesky for choosing to deviate from normal plays and pulling full-scale skirmishes, and are treated as bandits.“Us Kanto players have a delicate and fresh style of play! Young girl, if you want to learn, choose our Kanto’s style of play that seeks to hone our skills in the name of research!”“I-I’m the disciple of the ryuuou Kuzuryuryu! I won’t give in to someone like you!”My disciple couldn’t say my name properly.“Fufufu…hahaha! So the Ryuuou’s (Dragekin) life shall come to an end today! Enjoy your short master-disciple relationship while you can!”“What did you say?”Really, this God Cauldron-sensei was able to instantly get along with nine-year-old kids, the perfect candidate to promote kids’ shogi. So you’re the guy who spread the nickname ‘Dragekin’ amongst the kids.I kept a slight distance, physically and mentally, from the duo who were in a mood to duke it out, and asked,“Ayumu, where did you buy that mantle?”“Blue Mountain.”You could have just said Aoyama. It’s not like it’s coffee. Anyway, they really do sell everything in Tokyo, huh…? (TN: Aoyama Tradings: http://www.aoyama-syouji.co.jp/english/, Blue Mountain Coffee of Jamaica: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamaican_Blue_Mountain_Coffee)“They also sell black ones of the same style. I can buy one for you.”“Master! You have a black one!?”“Thanks, but no thanks.”I showed my intent, and Ayumu looked a little dejected, “I see…” Ai too looked sad. Did they really want me to wear a mantle…“Hmph…whatever.”Ayumu flipped the mantle when there was no need to do so.“I shall be waiting for you in the Upper Room!” (TN: And this Chuu2 can’t read it either…)“It’s the Upper Tier Room’.”Fhahahaha…he gave a pretentious laugh, and vanished. Ai looked at me.“Master! Are you familiar with that weird person?”“Familiar…well, we often met in the past.”The shogi world’s a small world. Those aiming to be professionals often matched up against each other in the tournaments since young, and once formal apprenticeship begins, we would end up meeting more often at both East and West Shogi Associations.Once we became pro players, we had to fight against the same opponents for the rest of our lives. This is our destiny as shogi players.“Ayumu’s older than me by two academic years, but we started aiming to be pro players at around the same time, so it kinda feels like we’re classmates.”“I see! So a rival!?”“Rival huh. Well, I’ll be honoured if that’s the thought…”Ayumu’s in Kanto, and I’m in Kansai. While our bases are different, it’s a fact that both of us strongly knew of each other’s presence since young. People often talked about how we were fated rivals in our past lives or something.But Ayumu’s defiance against me reached its peak when I became the Ryuuou.It’s not that he let a rival, a peer, overtake him…not at all.He, who declared himself as a holy knight, saw this ‘Ryuuou’ as a symbol of evil, a demon lord to be taken down. In other words—Ryuuou, Dragon King = Demon = Me.Knight = Holy = Himself à I have to beat him! ( ` •w• ’ )So it seemed. Really impressive.“He was already someone with either some noble-like tendencies or Chuu2 madness, but it looks like it got worse when he became a pro player and had money to use.”“So he bought that mantle?”“He’s been on a winning streak recently, and the money’s has been rolling in. It’s for certain that the winning streak and the win rate awards will be taken by him, and once he wins today’s match, the chances of him challenging for the title will increase massively…I can’t say that I’m his rival when I’m on an eleven match losing streak…Ryuuou’s going to get taken down…”“That’s not true! You’re the strongest, Master!”–Strongest?Every shogi player has such a thought to such an extent, or else, it’ll be impossible for them to continue fighting in the world of pro shogi. Due to consecutive defeats and ridicule on the internet, my self-confidence was rattled.However, after I was called ‘the strongest’, I felt some confidence rising in me for some reason. Shogi players are actually quite simple-minded.“Master! I hope you’ll win!!”“Haha…I’ll do my best.”With my disciple (temp) encouraging me, I could not help but give a wry smile, and walked towards the match arena where the ‘Silver Knight’ is waiting.Start of the matchThere are three match rooms on the 5th floor of the Kansai Shogi Association–‘The Black Library’.This level is an imitation of the Edo’s Castle Black Academy (said to be an actual place), and there are the ‘Upper Tier Room’, ‘Lower Tier Room’, and the ‘Lotus Room’. Between them, the ‘Lotus Room’ is of a higher tier, a room only the high ranked could use, the most sacred place in the Kansai Shogi Association, and also the place my master peed. (TN: The Black Academy is a study for the generals and officials. There was one built in Nijo Castle, but as the text here implies, I can’t tell if there’s one in Edo Castle.)‘Man Obeys Earth’‘Earth Obeys Sky’‘Sky Obeys Tao’ (TN: 人法地 地法天 天法道, quote from the Laozi, a classical Taoist text. There isn’t a proper translation of this out there, so I thought I should just contribute mine.)There’s the three pieces of famed calligraphy hanging on the wall, and kneeling at the only lower seat of the ‘Upper Tier Room’ was Ayumu, the collar of his mantle standing as he gracefully sipped at some red tea while raising a tea cup and saucer.“Fuu…so the fearless fool has arrived.”“Of course I did. It’s a match.”I walked to the upper seat, knelt on the thin cushion, making sure I was comfortable as I took off my watch and put it on the tatami. I then took out a fan, a handkerchief, glasses, and water. (TN: As a reminder, lolicon here is the title holder, so he gets the upper seat, while the challenger gets the lower seat)If it’s that soft, expensive cushion, my legs would numb easily, and it would be uncomfortable. An old cushion like this was more comfortable. Some players would request for special cushions from the Association when playing elsewhere.Every player has their own habits when it comes to preparations before the match.Some would rub their eyes, some would close them to relax, and some, like Ayumu, would bring their favorite tea set and leaves along, and brew some tea. Ah, some would bring their personal air purifier along (anions generators). Basically, they just had to make sure that it wouldn’t be too loud.There’s a long table placed by the side of the shogi board, and the ‘recorder’ in charge of keeping the time and recording the moves. The board set and the cushions were also provided by the recorder.Seeing that it was time, I said.“Let’s get arranging.”“Right.”I put on my glasses, and reached for the pieces box on the board, taking out the contents in the silk bag. It’s the job of the higher rank to take out the pieces from the board.After that, we arranged the pieces accordingly.The arranging styles can basically be classified into two different ones, ‘Ito Order’ and ‘Ohashi Order’, the latter being the mainstream. Just to note, I’m the Ohashi style, and Ayumu naturally has his own unique style of arrangement.  (TN: In order, the placement order goes as 1. King. Gold generals, silver generals and then knights for both styles. For Ito, the player places 5. the pawns (from left to right), 6. the lances, 7. bishop, 8. and rook. In Ohashi, it’s 5. Lances, 6. Bishop, 7. Rook. 8. Pawns (starting from center, and then one left, one right until the board is filled).Once we were done arranging, the recorder told us.“Starting first, Kannabe-sensei.”“Please call me God Cauldron.”He carried out a familiar conversation with the recorder (and naturally, was ignored). A few minutes before the match started, we closed our eyes, adjusted our breathing, and our minds were already running at full speed.“It’s now 10am. Begin the match.”““Please take care of me!””Both competitors bow to each other in respect, and Ayumu made the first move. He slowly removed his mantle, which he did not before the match; this indicated that it was formal clothing to him, and in other words, respect for the opponent. To be honest, I wished he stopped with that. It’s rattling me.I immediately made the second move.The order of turns for today’s match were decided beforehand, so I came up with a strategy at home. We played fast, and a certain formation developed on the board.And then, it finally showed up on the board.Ayumu moved the piece, giving a maniacal grin as he looked at me.“Kukuku…do you think you’re able to beat my iron ‘citadel’?”Isn’t it just a Fortress? (TN: Fortress, 矢仓, yagura, a form of castling, and a static rook opening.)“6th dan Kannabe, formation as Yagura…”In contrast to the highly agitated Ayumu, the reporter sitting beside the recorder was calmly making a record, and it looked really surreal.Right, a watching reporter.It’s the important match to determine the challenger for one of the seven major titles in the tourney circuit—‘the Throne’. Shogi magazine reporters, and even mainstream reporters will publicize the results. There’s a shogi column in the newspapers, isn’t there? That’s the place.Till this point, Ayumu won every match, and by winning this, it’ll be a pathway towards the role of the challenger.In contrast, I lost every match, and it’s decided that I wouldn’t participate in the next Tournament. In other words, I was just there to finish the group stage.But in the world of shogi, that’s an exalted philosophy that goes,‘Even if it’s not an important match to you, if it’s important to the opponent, go all out to crush him’.If I win, Ayumu’s title challenge would be a mere dream that vanishes, and all I needed to do was to crush him as according to this philosophy. Besides—“I don’t want to be called Scum Ryuuou again.”I muttered, and played a Fortress myself. Fiendish move! Kannabe-Style 1-Five-kaThirty minutes into the match, and we had already played forty six moves.The double Fortress (both sides playing fortress) formation was detailed, and the match was progressing quickly. It’s common to play twenty moves or so without using the standby time, and playing accordingly, this can be played up to ninety moves. Deeply interesting, this fortress.“Watch this—-! Upgrading ‘fortress’ to ‘Bear in the Hole’! Defense up by two thousand!!!” (TN: Anaguma, Bear in the Hole)Ayumu held the piece as though it was Cardfight V ● nguard, and improved the defences, sealing the jade general to the left side of the board. This is the ‘Bear in the Hole’ formation. While I didn’t know if it ups the defense by two thousand points, the formation was sturdy.Of course, I’m not the one just taking hits.A unique characteristic of the double fortress is that both sides would solidify their defences and attack formations, and then a massive battlefront. Harden, harden, and explode! Something like that.“Now then…now then, now then, now then.”Sponsored Content

I opened the fan and covered my mouth, muttering. The formation was basically loaded, and I made sure not to let it collapse as I moved the bishop, which could attack the corners from far, to the frontline.“Hah! Such petty tricks!”Ayumu immediately responded, and advanced the pawn to pressure the bishop.I played along and retreated the bishop back into the corner. This progression of actions was exactly as planned. My ultimate aim was to lure Ayumu out to attack and withstand it at the best possible moment. In other words, I was trying to lure him out.“Very good…”Ayumu again raised the piece as though he was doing that V ● nguard pose again. (Is that his signature pose?)“Hear my summon, leap on, Pegasus!”The bait was effective, and he left the Knight jump to the frontline. Both sides have declared war.This ideal situation caused me to smile.“‘The knight jumps high, and is still feed to the pawn’…so there.” (TN: 桂馬の高跳び歩の餌食, a common saying in shogi)“Mind calling it ‘Pegasus’ leap’?”Once the attack starts, it can’t stop, and Ayumu’s pawns swarmed me, while I too let my pawns counter. What they call the ‘shogi skin’ was being shed, and exposed flesh was clashing intensely.“Silver Sword! I’ll show you how sharp my blade is!”Ayumu came attacking at me with his Silver General.I replied in kind, cutting in with the Silver, and turned his Silver into mine. Now I get a Silver!Normally, Ayumu would use his rook to take down my Silver General, but,“Haaa…!”Ayumu exhaled, and the piece he raised was…the lance!!“Open your eyes!! This is my ultimate move—‘Rightwing Holylance’!”“Hm!? Thi-this is…!”I couldn’t help but feel a chill as I watched the lance charge down the right wing of the board.It’s an assault without any care for the sacrifices, a suicidal chain attack using the sharp lance after the silver sword!“So you’re planning to break through from the corner even if you have to sacrifice your piece…?”I did expect Ayumu to use this move during my prior research.But it’s stressful to actually be attacked like this.“Th-this is…the ‘Kannabe-style 1-five ka…!” (TN: The ka here refers to the kasha, or the lance)“It’s the ‘Rightwing Holylance’!”Ayumu denied it vehemently. Whatever the name is.“6th dan Kannabe’s, expected next move is the 1-five ka…”The onlooking reporter ignored Ayumu’s protests, but the pen was obviously riled up.As the name of the move would imply, this Kannabe-style 1-five was a ‘new move’ Ayumu thought of. Ayumu had been using this move to charge up the road towards the Throne match, and it’s completely different from me, who lost all my matches! (sobs)As he called himself a Knight, Ayumu had a unique way of using the lance. I had to be extra careful whenever I move it. Also, this kasha here is read as Lance in English, so I guessed he didn’t name it on a whim. I guess.“Hm…”It’s easy to take down this lance, but even so…At the moment this move appeared in an official tournament, us Kansai players immediately began research on how to counter it. Us luring out this situation was due to our confidence in our research.Kansai shogi being crude and a pest is a thing of a past. There’s no way we’ll lose to the Kanto players when it comes to the amount of research done!But the Kanto side Ayumu belongs to probably did more in-depth research. There’s no way he could be playing the same move over and over again in an official tournament unless he was really confident.There’s a counter strategy…but I really had to read this thoroughly, and make sure the moves I prepared next had no flaws.“Fuuu……………………..right, now then…”I exhaled hard, released my legs from the kneeling position, removed my glasses, leaned onto the elbow rest, and began to ponder.I opened and shut the fan, making flapping, creating a rhythm as I read.Reading.Reading.Reading. Reading. Reading…“…Alright.”I sat in a kneeling position again, and made a move. The recorder and onlooking reporter gasped, leaning forward.I—did not take his lance.The sharp lance stabbed at my flank, but I didn’t bother with it, and didn’t take it out.Instead, I took down the Pegasus Ayumu moved right at the start—the Knight. Surely it was an unexpected move.How about that, Ayumu!? While I lifted my eyes to look at the opponent.“Fuu…such color, such fragrance, I suppose red tea is really the preferred type for English nobles after all…”You’re the son of a tofu maker, okay?I felt uneasy as I watched him sip the red tea elegantly and call himself a noble in an annoying manner. Was he pretending to remain calm? Or did he expect this beforehand…?Well, it didn’t matter what it was. I’ll be looking forward to see him pale once he finds out the real purpose of this move!“…The record, please.”“Please.”I checked the record that was handed over to me, and I paled, for I was the one who spent forty minutes on this move.“Ack!”I felt that I did not spend more than ten minutes on this move. I guess time quickly passed while I was immersed into reading the time. No wonder AYumu was drinking red tea.The allotted time for the Throne Tournament matches was four hours per person, and I could only spend at most twenty minutes on this move. Forty minutes was way too long. He was the one who pulled the distance on me when it came to the allotted time.“Excuse me.”It was almost noon break, and the staff-in-charge started to ask the competitors what they would like for lunch, and they would ask for takeout delivery.“What will you have for lunch, Kannabe-sensei?”“Hm…well, ‘Chaos of the Phoenix and Sacred Egg’.”“So, oyakodon.”Ayumu would typically order the same thing for lunch, and the staffc could understand despite this weird name.“What about you, Kuzuryuu-sensei?”“Ah, I won’t be having anything.”Ayumu looked surprised.“You’re not eating?”“I think I’ll like to go out and eat.”“I see…”Ayumu looked at me like a Chihuahua in a pet shop nobody wanted. Maybe he was worried about the prospect of having eat lunch alone in the Kansai Shogi Association.But I couldn’t leave my disciple (temp) just like that. Sorry Ayumu.Noon BreakI walked down to the dojo on the second floor, and Ai was enthusiastically playing shogi.“Oh! She’s playing.”The record cards were placed between the shogi board and the pieces box, and the chess clock was on the other side of the board. It appeared someone brought the clock to her while she was playing, and taught her how to use it.Her opponent’s the girl I often met in the dojo. The large eyes and short brown hair left a lasting impression on me, and she too seemed to be a kid who hated to lose. She’s about the same age as Ai, and as they’re of the same age, both of them were serious.“It’s see…”I sneaked over to avoid interrupting their concentrations, and observed the board.The match was about to end, and the board was chaotic, a story of a fiery battle going on.“…Argh I don’t understand at all! Eh!”The opponent girl decided to stop reading as there was not enough time, and made a move. She appeared to be a straightforward one. It was Ai’s turn.“…Like this, like this, like this like this like this like this…”She muttered, creating her own rhythm, trying to quickly recite the moves that could allow her to win, her body swaying slightly.–…There’s a lot of moves, but it’s possible to checkmate the opponent.A pro player can tell from a glance, but during matches, there are some moments whereNow then, would Ai be able to figure it out in an actual match?“…This!”Ai reached for a piece, exhaled hard, and slammed the piece on the board, making a check.“Eh!? …erm…”The opponent panicked due to this unexpected move. She hesitantly moved her king to the side right before her allotted time was about to end, but this king—was dead meat.Once Ai made this move, she continued on without wasting much time. About three steps before she was about to win, the opponent realized the match was lost, and forfeited.“…I lost!”“Th-thank you very much!”After a little breath, the girl gave a cheerful smile, talking to Ai.“You’re Ai Hinatsuru, right? You’re really strong! Where are you from? You’re not joining the Research Group?”“Erm…I-I’ll be taking the test…!”“Really!? Then we’ll be able to play shogi together!”Once the match ended, they reverted back to being ordinary elementary school kids. Such a fast transformation is really something unique to kids.“Ai.”“Ah, sensei.”The girls were chatting chatting away, looking really happy, but if I kept waiting, my lunch break was going to end.“Good work. You were able to see that mate possibility, huh?”I put my hand on the head of my disciple (Temp), praising her, and she was grinning away like a puppy “ehehe ♡” looking really happy.“You’re hungry now, right? Shall we go eat?”“Okay!”The rule of this dojo is that the winner has to bring the loser’s record card along and request for recording. I looked over at Ai’s opponent—“…!!”That girl held the green record card, being stiff all over as she looked at me.“Erm, you. Your record card—““A-are you Kuduryuryuryuryu…?”Is it that the elementary school kids can’t read my name?“Ah, yes. Kuzuryuu.”“!!”The girl fell off her chair, tumbled about, stood up, and walked towards me.“Erm, I-I-I’m, erm, Mi, Mio Mizukochi!”Mio Mizukochi, huh?I took the record card, and found her name.“…Mio Mizukoshi. Hm. Good play there.”Like a teacher, I praised her. “Woah!” And Mio-chan let out a strange sound, reaching her little hand out as she trembled.“E-erm! P-please let me shake your hand!”“Okay. Do your best.”“Hawawa…hawawawawa…”Mio-chan’s face went completely beetroot, her body practically heating up.I did encounter a few moments of people wanting to shake hands with me after I became the Ryuuou, but this was the first time someone was so touched. I was so happy…but it was a little embarrassing, and the other visitors were smiling.“I-I’ll never wash this hand…for the rest of my life!”“I-I see…”“I’ll be using the toilet later, but I’m definitely not washing my hand!!”“No, better wash it.”I made a note on the record card, and returned it to Mio-chan who was nodding away. “Please get along well with Ai.” I requested, and we left the dojo.“Such an interesting kid. She’s decent at shogi too. Maybe you two will be good friends?”“…”“Hm? What’s the matter, Ai?”The disciple (temp) who was still being gleeful just a moment back pouted for some reason, muttering.“…Ai never held Master’s hand before…Ai’s supposed to be the disciple here…how sneaky…”“Huh? Erm…Ai-chan?”“Master!”“Y-yes?”“E-erm……………….eh!!!”Ai suddenly grabbed my right hand with her hands, and pressed her thumbs all over my palm.What’s this kid doing?“Erm…you happy now?”“Teehee ♪”Elementary school kids are really hard to understand.We walked out of the gloomy building, and the sunlight of Spring was so dazzling. “Unnn!!” I stretched my back, and turned to the disciple (temp) right beside me.“Okay, what do you want to eat?”“Erm..Master, do you have anything you want to eat?”“Well, I’ve basically eaten everything the shops around here have to offer.”“Er-erm…then, erm…”“What is it?”“B-bentos! I made them…so…”“Eh? Even mine?”“Of course! I woke up early to make it for you, Master!!”“Oh…!”This considerate disciple (temp)’s thoughts really left this Master grateful.I never thought a third grader would have prepared so much…unlike that anedeshi who would just tell me to go to the convenience store (Family Mart) opposite the Association to buy lunch. Even now, she’s the same.“In that case, we’ll eat outside then. The weather’s nice.”“Okay!”And so, we held hands, and went to a nearby park.The East Fukushima Park that was slightly further up was filled with greenery…or to be precise, the trees planted by the taxi company next door filled up half the park. It’s a small, unique park, befitting of the whimsical culture of Osaka.We sat side by side on the bench under the shadow of the trees, and opened the bentos Ai made.“So there’s fried egg on the onigiri?”“You don’t like this…?”“No, I’m happy. I don’t really eat much during matches after all.”“Thank goodness!”Ai took the onigiri with both hands, and started munching in large gulps. However, her mouth was small to begin with, so despite munching, the onigiri didn’t look like it was going to disappear. She’s like a cute animal nibbling away. How cute.Ai munched down the onigiri, and after a while, she lifted her head to look up at me, looking timid as she asked.“Master, erm…ho-how’s the match…?”“Erm, not too bad.”I alternated between eating the fried egg onigiri and answering her question. The egg and onigiri are delicious, and there’s the salmon inside the onigiri, which I liked. Did she ask Keika?“I played a fortress, and Ayumu played a bear in the hole fortress…ah, you know what they are, don’t you?”“I don’t (>_<)”“I guessed so.”I guess that it’ll be easier for her to understand if I described it in notation rather than formation name. But even though she’s an elementary school kid, if I’m to describe the board and exchange suggestions, it might be considered as ‘helping’. I would be executed.“Anyway, it’s a hard formation facing a super hard one. The super hard one is really solid, and even tried to attack. That’s the situation.”“So Master, you’re the super hard one, right?”“No, I’m the hard one.”“Eh?”Ai’s face froze. The fillings of the onigiri (salmon) felt to the floor.Well, she obviously felt that the situation ‘was advantageous to Ayumu’, and it’s no wonder. He did have a really solid formation.Sponsored Content

“Well, it’s true that Ayumu’s king is more secured, and hee’s the one attacking.”“That’s interesting…”“But Ayumu lost quite a few pieces while trying to force his way through. Once he stops, the situation will turn around dramatically.”“Will it stop?”“Looking at our research, probably.”“Research?”I munched at the onigiri, and explained the world of pro shogi to Ai.“If we’re talking about what shogi players do when they don’t have any matches, they spend the time preparing for the next match, do research on the opponent’s weaknesses and tactics. A genius player has a sudden idea, and made a wonderful move to win! There’s no way such a thing can happen in the current world of shogi.”Well, speaking of which, there are some people who are god-like enough to actually do such a thing, like the current Meijin. That guy’s godly.“That move next is actually the answer my friends and I found. This move will be able to stop Ayumu’s attacks…but this isn’t actually winning on ability, but on how precise the research is.”“…”Ai lowered her head silently.Did her ideals get shattered? While I thought so, the moment she lifted her head again—“So cool!!”“Co…ehhh?”“This is the special technique you thought of, right, Master? You went through strict training, and thought of a secret move to change everything…as to be expected of you, Master! The strongest Dra…no, Ryuuou!”She nearly said Dragon King there, didn’t she?“But well…I see. So that’s what you think…”“Hm? Did I say anything weird?”“It’s nothing…”I secretly wiped away the tears from my eyes, so that my disciple (temp) wouldn’t find out.After the ninety or so fixed opening moves, when winning pro shogi boils down to research into every single move, ripping off moves from research reports or shogi templates is often criticized by shogi fans. The internet too will cause an uproar over this. They’re right, and I’m not too willing to play such shogi, but this isn’t the era where I can simply play and win without being overly reliant on research.At this point, almost all players will organize their ‘research groups’, and carry out a battle of research through computer simulation. Depending on the formation, some might even analyse until the very last move.One move that appears in an official match.Is supported by thousands of hands that did not show up for this match.“So, Master, you can make the opponent surrender with the next move?”“No, at most, it’ll just be a deadlock, or maybe the situation will change slightly to my advantage.”“What? Not a super move!?”The world isn’t that smooth sailing.“Well, the opponent’s that Ayumu, and I’m second, so I guess things are going smoothly now that we’re even at the moment?”“That Go…Kannabe-sensei, right? Is he that strong?”“He’s a shogi player.”“…That sensei seems to be a little strange.”“He’s a shogi player.”Most situations could be explained with this.“Well, if I’m to ask other players how Ayumu’s ability is, ten out of ten will answer—‘Kannabe? He’s strong. No weaknesses in openings, middle game and end game’—”“There’s no way to break through?”“Well, it’s not like he doesn’t have his weakness…but I can’t attack right now.”“Fue!?””“Alright! Time to head back.”We spoke too much. I licked the rice off my fingertips, and stood up.“Thanks for your bento. It was nice.”“Ehehe!”I patted Ai on the head, and she narrowed her eyes happily, grinning away. Sooo cute.“Keika will be picking you up in the evening, so you’ll be staying at Master’s house tonight. I’ll go pick you up tomorrow.”“…Okay!”Though she had some hesitation. Ai nodded obediently.Miscalculation“Take this——-!!”The match continued, and Ayumu impaled the lance that was stabbed at my flank further in.”“Next, change! Normal Lance grows up into Golden Lance!!”Promoted lance…that’s what he meant, right? He flipped the piece over, so I guess that’s right.“Fu…caught you! Ryuuou!!”“Who knows who caught who.”“Ugh!?”I saw that this attack was a feint, and ignored the promoted lance that was behind the king, took the pawn from the board, and attacked another piece on the board. As for the attacked piece, that was—“The rook…!?”“Right!”The attack of the promoted lance from the corner was just to hold me off, a jab.“Ayumu! Your real purpose is to jab at me and swing a hard straight punch while I’m defending! That straight punch is this rook! In other words, you won’t be able to attack as long as I seal it!”“Fufu…I see, as to be expected of you, Ryuuou, sharp observation there! However, is that feeble attack power of yours able to seal my strongest piece!?”“How you forgotten, Ayumu!? The piece I took before noon break—?”“!? Ah…ahh—!!”“Come forth, Pegasus! I summon the Knight from the board, target the rook!!”I had an advantage on the board, and so, I too was excited, and completely ignored the cold look from the recorder!“What now, noble? Your graceful expression has crumbled there, you know?”“Ugh….!”Naturally, the Rook’s the strongest piece. Once it gets taken, one’s offensive power is reduced drastically, and it’s basically giving the strongest weapon to the enemy.Leaving aside the end game, giving up the rook to the enemy in the middle game meant that it would be a lost cause for Ayumu, so logically, Ayumu would choose to let the rook escape.So I thought.“Ku…kukukuku…kuhahahahaa! I’ve been waiting…for this!”“!? …What…did you say…?”Ayumu didn’t move his rook, but another important piece—the ‘Bishop’.“Bishop?”He’s abandoning his rook!? Is he for real?I couldn’t help but look at Ayumu’s face.Self-destruction…didn’t feel that way. He looked relaxed, and drinking red tea.My instincts were telling me that I should take down that rook.Once I take it down, Ayumu wouldn’t be able to continue attacking, and I should be able to hang on, barely. I had a pawn and another Silver general in hand, no problems with defending!So I tried to make sure my instincts weren’t wrong, and grabbed the knee of my pants with my right hand, reading.Read. Read. Read…“…Right!”After more than an hour’s worth of thinking, I finally made up my mind and decided to take down the rook with the Knight. How about this, Ayumu!“Just as planned!!” (TN: No, I didn’t make up the 計画とおりpart. Yes, it’s Death Note, but the doori in hiragana instead of the more memetic version…)“What!?”“I see your pale ‘Horse’ now…!”Again, Ayumu raised the bishop with a V ● nguard-like pose, and laid it on the board.“The name of the one riding on that horse—is Death!”Ayumu’s bishop upgraded to a ‘Dragon Horse’ (TN: When a piece moves to the furthest one-third of the board, it can be promoted at the end of the turn. Unlike real life jobs, promotions here are permanent. In this case, the Dragon Horse is also known as the Promoted Bishop (Ryuuma))“How naïve, Ayumu! I’ve read your attack!”I slid my king to the side, and skilfully evaded the Dragon Horse’s attack.Activating the shogi phrase ‘King Escapes Early!’ (TN: 王の早逃げ八手の得)“How about that? You can’t attack again, right?”I thought it would end up as a middle game where both sides would prep themselves again.Ayumu reached for the pieces board, and not the shogi board. Once I saw that, I felt a chill run up my spine, like an ice pick.“Take this! The other hidden lance!!”The pianist-like movement of the fingers swept the lance from the pieces, and laid it on the board. Ahh!!“Dragon Killer!! George—-!!”“Uh oh…!”He played this move, which made me shudder in more ways then one.I was about to use the pawn to attack the rook, but Ayumu played a lance from behind. This would result in a nifu (foul) situation. I couldn’t take this with the pawn! I couldn’t defend…!! (TN: While there is a drop rule where both players can play captured pieces, there is a rule called nifu, or double pawns. A pawn cannot be dropped onto a column (vertical) containing another pawn of the same player)“6th dan Kannabe shows up with a stunning new move ‘Kannabe Style 3-six ka…”“Didn’t I just say that it’s the ‘Dragon Slayer! George’!?” (TN: Saint George and the Dragon. By all accounts, the weapon should have been the sword Ascalon, so I have no idea as to why a lance is used instead. On a side note, I’m really tempted to continue snarking for the rest of the volume)Ayumu corrected the onlooking reporter, and pointed his fan at me, saying,“How about that, Your Highness Ryuuou? How’s my new super move ‘Dragon Slayer! George’?”“Ugh…!!”I bit my lips hard, and observed the board..I want information. What’s Ayumu aiming for next? How bad is it now? What are my chances if I let my king charge through? Is there a possibility of counterattacking—?“And just to explain, the origin of this name is from the Saint Knight George who was famous for killing a dragon. He stabbed a spear into the mouth of the dragon that was breathing out toxic air, leashed the dragon with the belt the princess granted him, dragged it along like a dog, and killed it.”I don’t want such information…“No! Add more emphasis on the ‘!’ at the back of the ‘Dragon Killer!’ Ayumu bothered the onlooking reporter. I guess it’s like ‘Super Speed! Black 3-Seven Silver Formation’ or such? (TN: That Super Fast title, yes, it exists. 超速!▲3七銀戦法. It’s a common playstyle in the pro meta during 2010, where the player aims to get the Silver General out as quickly as possible.)It’s obviously a combination strategy that picks a target. It was obviously a Chuu2 name he came up with after thinking of it for so long.In other words…was he waiting for this thirteen moves ago, when I took down his pawn?No, probably longer than that…the moment he started Fortressing, he probably expected the situation to change, and lured me into that.If that’s the case—Ayumu did research until the very last move. Setting the Stage“Kuzuryuu-sensei, we have run out of the allocated time. Following this, please continue with ‘one minute shogi’.”The recorder stated the cold truth with a stoic tone.“…Yes.”And the voice that responded “Yes” was hoarse.From this point onwards, every move I make has to be made in a minute, or I will overrun my time, and end the match by fouling out.“Thirty…forty…”The recorder read the time, with a unique enunciation in the tone.It was 9pm.Including the one hour noon break, it has been almost eleven hours since the start of our match at 10am.Ayumu has one hour of his allotted time left.And as for me—none.“Fifty, one, two, three—”“…!”At the moment the recorder said ‘seven’, I made my move.In this critical juncture, where I had no time to even head to the toilet, I gritted my teeth, and continued playing shogi despite being battered all over.In this bitter one-sided defensive battle, the hopeless battle of attrition continued to wear at my nerves.In contrast, Ayumu continued to attack successfully. “Now, here’s my turn!”What was a situation of Ayumu’s advantage became a winning situation.“Hoho. Time to end your life and head for dinner…”There’s no rest time for dinner during the Title Round-Robin tournament, and it has been more than eight hours without rest or nap.We’re mentally driven to our limits, and yet my mind was unable to focus while I had to play this one minute shogi.–Where did I make a mistake?–Was it a bad move to take the rook back then?–…No, thinking back about it, I shouldn’t have let Ayumu play a fortress, should I…? (TN: Fortress, 矢仓, yagura, a form of castling, and a static rook opening.)With the recorder prompting while reading the seconds, all I could do was just regret.I could simply drag this until the very end.But…as the title holder, the Ryuuou, I don’t want to do something this gaudy.–Is it really okay for me to continue on?–But if I’m to give up at this moment, the internet’s going to let me have it for giving up too easily…All my mind, I was only thinking about this. I was focusing on ‘how to lose beautifully’ rather than reading the board.At this point, I had completely given up the will to fight—the winner was determined.It was evident to everyone else in the room, it seemed, as the reporter who was in the rest room returned to the table side without me knowing. Clearly, it was to record the moment I surrender.–At the very least, a pretty record…For a shogi player, a shogi record is the one thing that can be shown to later generations to indicate one’s presence. It’s as important as music sheets for a composer.Losing doesn’t matter. I can handle it.But if I’m going to be laughed at forever for “such a poor game”, I couldn’t take that.This terrible game was going to be shown nationally.It was inevitable that I would lose. If I couldn’t avoid losing and embarrass myself before everyone…at the very least, I could leave something decent.The act of ‘Setting the stage’ is no different from a samurai being a ‘kaishaku. (TN: Kaishaku, the one to behead someone who commits seppuku.)To go along with that move, to create the impression of an intense match until the very end.This wasn’t a feint. Losing heartily is an artistry for a pro player; closing this splendidly is also a skill required of a pro player.Once I decided on this, I made my check towards Ayumu’s Jade King with my own King.“Hm?”At that moment, Ayumu showed a surprised look on his face.“Ho…I see. So you have prepared yourself…”He muttered, sounding a little gloomy, and took my check.To all the shogi fans on the internet watching this match through the Shogi Association’s internet telecast, this is likely the moment where you would go, “Now here’s a wonderful check with the king!”Right, this was a memorable king check.Doing this would leave behind a record of ‘a bold king check for an exciting match’, creating an impression of a final struggle.All I needed to do next was to offer the head of the king. I just needed to retreat to my camp, and try to move my pieces around as quickly and beautifully as possible. Ayumu’s probably able to end this quickly too.–Just end my misery already. Please, Ayumu…I had this thought, and was about to move my head over. At that moment,“Hm?”The moment I lifted the piece, I lifted my head slightly, and something that wasn’t supposed to appear entered my eyes.“…Fuee?”I didn’t know if I was seeing things, and couldn’t help but let out a weird squeal.I saw Ai. The disciple (temp) whom Keika should have brought home to Master’s house was at the arena, watching the match with the recorder and the onlooking reporter.Now that’s weird? An elementary school girl in the arena?Were my eyes playing tricks because I was staring at the board?“Fifty, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine—”“—Oto!”The recorder reading the time caused me to recover, and I hurriedly made a move.I originally wanted to create a false impression of setting the stage, but I panicked, and made another move. ‘You still want to continue?’ The recorder and onlooking reporter looked troubled, but this wasn’t the time to be worried about that.Why?Why was Ai here?I checked the time, and it was already past 10pm. She should be at Master’s house, ready to brush her teeth and sleep.But Ai’s in the room. The little feet stepped into the Upper Tier room. The elementary school kid, seated obediently between the recorder and the onlooking reporter, was watching with eyes dazzling, leaning her body over the long table, staring at the board.“Wait…ehhh? Eh, Eh…?”I looked at Ai. Hey, you, look at me.Ai never noticed my stare, her eyes staring intently somewhere else.She was staring at—Ayumu’s King (TN: Remember, the Jade King is shortened as 玉, and can be read as tama.)Seeing her body sway slightly, I knew what she was thinking.She was reading the board.With her entire body, and all her concentration.“…Like this, like this, like this, like this, like this, like this, like this, like this, like this, like this…”It appeared that she did not notice my stare at all, merely puffing her cheeks, her ears red, concentrating as she continued to look for something.What was she looking for? What else?Of course, it’s the move so that I could win.She was fully focused on reading, trying to look for the move to lead to victory through this situation of despair.“…Like this, like this, like this like this…no! Then…like this, like this like this like this like this like this like this like this like this like this like this like this like this like this…too slow! If there’s…there’s a faster way–!”The reason why Ai didn’t look at me was simple.All I was looking at was my own king, and I never considered attacking. I merely lowered my head, shrinking back like a turtle, defending, just thinking about defending my pride and face as the Ryuuou. The weight of the throne bogged me down, and all I could only do was lower my head and keep regretting.But Ai was different.She lifted her head, and stared right at Ayumu’s King. She was only thinking about attacking, and not defending.She believed there’s a chance to win, that her Master would win.“…I guess.”Such a little girl left home alone from far away in Hokuriku, came over to me, and introduced herself as my disciple. In her eyes, I’m the strongest, amazing, coolest undefeatable Dragon King in the world. Just like my impression of Master Kiyotaki back then.Because of this, I can’t lower my head at this moment! I can’t give up!!“Now then…how about I play a requiem for you?”Ayumu raised the piece like a pianist, letting out an exceptionally crisp sound, playing a move that was basically prompting me to hurry up and surrender. ‘I can play along with you’.“…Sorry Ayumu. I changed my mind.”“What?”I ignored his response, read the board while the clock ticked until the very end, and played a move that mixed things up.It ended up as a situation where the King abandoned his subordinates to escape alone, a shitty, sticky move.This was a move a pro player would not make, and would surely be sneered at by other players. It’s a really shameful move—but I chose to play such a move, and continue hanging on.As expected, the recorder gave me a cold look, and clearly looked annoyed while recording. The onlooking reporter sighed due to the added, unnecessary work. It was as though I added to their workload.And as for Ayumu, opposite me—“You intend to continue defying fate…imbecile…ha!”He pressed his hand on the right eye with the color contact.“…Fufufu, hahahaha!! Wonderful! Absolutely wonderful! Now this is befitting of the eternal, strongest enemy of them all! Now you are worthy of being the embodiment of evil, Dragekin!”The White Knight, ‘God Cauldron’ Ayumu laughed out loud, and with the loud sound of the shogi piece being played, it was to be expected that he would play the most offensive move. He then clipped his long bangs with a hairclip, and leaned his body towards the shogi board.He should have chosen a safer way to win, but he gave up that right and came right at my throat. Isn’t that too cool, you noble!?“Come! Let us continue the eternal war between Holiness and demons that has lasted since our past lives!!”“I don’t know if this will last forever—”I replied in kind, and showed my most confident smile possible, saying,“But I’ll be willing to play with you until the sun rises. Throne MatchRed-White RingBlack – 6th dan Ayumu Kannabe (3 wins)White – Ryuuou Yaichi Kuzuryuu (3 losses)(TN: As a reminder, Black moves first. Prior to this, Ayumu won 3 of his matches in the tournament, lolicon lost all 3)Did anyone expect this to be such an intense match before this?At the most sacred place in the Kansai Shogi Association, the Upper Tier Room, neither party stopped moving their hands. Every move they made was increasing fast, fiery, intense, like the hearting racing.Once Kuzuryuu ran out of time, Kannabe fought back without using his time. Truly, this is impossible to explain without logic, as shogi players of the same era refused to back down, their egos robbing their sanities.“Fiery.”The celebrated member in charge of recording muttered, as this intense battle was decided in the end game, where Kannabe made a hasty move, resulting in the end.“…To be honest, I was actually thinking about when to surrender all this while.”Kuzuryuu said hoarsely when the match ended. His words were probably not a lie.What happened that changed his mind after that?“I wanted to struggle until the end, as the title holder…as the Ryuuou. I didn’t want to leave a poor game record behind. So I intended to break the situation. I didn’t want to continue harassing. I was just looking for a chance to surrender. But…”Kuzuryuu lifted his head, looked forward, and declared confidently,“Even if I had to play a harassing game, it’s better than losing. I didn’t want to lose anymore. That’s the thought that changed my mind.”It’s said that before the mmatch, Kuzuryuu had a disciple.When the match was proceeding, it was this elementary school girl who sat by the board, watching the match.Perhaps it was because she knelt by the side until the very end, firmly believing that her Master would win, that changed his mind.“Maybe. I just don’t want to let my disciple see me lose.”The Ryuuou who’s yet to be sixteen said, and showed a stiff smile at his nine year old disciple.It might be too early to declare with this one match,But this reporter dares to declare.The young Ryuuou has completely revived. No, he shall continue to grow, and be stronger.(Kugui) Returning Home“Wah! It’s so cold!”I could not help but exclaim as I exited the association, and my body shivered. Naniwasuji, bustling in the day, was completely devoid of people; it was already past 5am, already the next morning.The match ended at 3.48am. 402 moves altogether.Ayumu’s body went limp right when he lowered his head, intending to surrender, and his head crashed onto the board. Thus, the match recorder and I had to lift him, moved him down to the resting room on the third floor, and put him on the bed. After that, I had to attend an interview with the viewing reporter, and thus it dragged on to this time.“…Goodness. That noble is pesky until the very end.”“Good work there, Master!”Ai, who followed me out of the Association, bowed towards me.This fellow here is excited. An energetic one.“Ai…aren’t you tired?”“I normally sleep at 9! But today, I just feel very awake today though!”“When the mind’s going at full speed at high speeds due to a match, you can’t sleep because of how excited you get, huh?”We returned home, and I started chatting away for some strange reason.“So once the matches end in the middle of the night, some would head out to drink beer to calm their nerves, or go vent it out by playing mah-jong.”“But Master, you still can’t drink, right?”“And I don’t know the rules to Mah-jong.”“Then how do you calm yourself down?”“Well…like this, just walking up and down Naniwasuji in the middle of the night…”“But doesn’t that make you look like some dangerous person?”Well, she’s right.We walked down, and I asked Ai why she was still at the Association.It’s about as I imagined. Ai asked Keika, saying that she hoped to watch my match, so Keika and Master Kiyotaki discussed this, and Master agreed to Ai’s wishes, even praising her for how enthusiastic she was. Of course, it was Master’s initiative to have Ai stay by the shogi board and watch.I wasn’t angry.It was because of Ai’s presence that I was able to win.“So, how about it? Did you learn anything from a pro’s match?”“It’s really amazing! You made a comeback in that sort of situation…as to be expected of you, Master!”“Hahaha. It was really a Super Sticky ☆match though!”Normally, a match would only require a single chess notation paper, but this match here needed three. I believe you can understand how much I was trying to cling on until the very end. I heard that this was the match with the most moves ever since the Second World War ended.“Shogi’s a game where the tide can change at any given moment, and the one who makes the wrong move at the very end is the loser.”“But, he made a mistake there…he had a lot of opportunities to win, right?”“And that’s why he made a mistake.”“Fuee…? Wh-why?“If there’s just one possibility of winning, and there’s a very small difference between them, there’s no hesitation in taking action. But if there’s a huge gap between both sides, there’s a lot of possibilities to win, and it’s easy to hesitate over which method to win.”“Ah…!”“With a moment of hesitation, the ‘turning point’ or ‘change’ that determines the outcome will slip in. So I played some bad moves to increase the number of openings from one to two. It’s deliberate!”“Th-that’s amazing, Master!! You created two openings and lured the opponent into making mistakes…it’s like a pro player!!”“But thinking about it calmly, I would be a goner if both openings were broken through (LOL).”“That’s bad, isn’t it (>_<)?”“Well, I won, so let’s not itpick. I won anyway.”If it had been the usual Ayumu, such little tricks couldn’t possibly beat him.So I played another tactic to seal him off, to tackle his weakness, and got him to easily make mistakes.“But a match between pro players is really amazing! One match can last this long!”“Well, it started from morning until the next morning after all. Were you surprised to see us play so long?”“Yes! It’s amazing how you two were suddenly shouting and saying some cool lines to each other!”“No, I don’t normally talk that much, huh?”It’s because of Ayumu making a ruckus. That guy’s a thorough weirdo.Was he trying to agitate the opponent during a match? Now…that’s really a weirdo.“Anyway, Master.”“Hm?”“You mentioned God-sensei’s weakness at noon, but what is it?”God-sensei?“…His family runs a tofu shop in Fukagawa, and he was a High School student until last month. Just graduated.” (TN: Fukagawa, a suburb town in Tokyo.)“And?”“Tofu makers can’t stay up late into the night, you know? He had to go to school, and because of that, he has to be disciplined in his lifestyle.”“So…so that’s his weakness?”“He did make a mistake, and that changed the match, right?”This didn’t just apply to Ayumu; most student pro players have such a weakness.And just to note, I stopped schooling once I graduated from Middle School, and I’m living by myself, so my lifestyle ain’t normal. I already overcome this weakness!“Once a player turns pro, they’ll typically adjust their night lifestyle. Back then, Master used to train us disciples who became pros through overnight mah-jong.”Some might think I’m saying this for show, but the main aim is actually to get a table full of players.To be honest however, deliberately dragging this match till midnight to attack this weakness wasn’t something to be praised.“He’s still trying to win?”“Terrible of that title holder to pull such cheap tricks. Scumbag.”I guess there’ll be such criticism flying on the internet. To be honest, even I felt that it was a crappy game…“I don’t dare to look at ‘2ch Meijin’…or ‘boujin-kun’…” (TN: 2ch Meijin site: i2chmeijin.blogg.fc2.com, boujin-kun: shogis.com/s)“Master? You’re shivering. Is it really cold?”“It-it’s nothing…I’m fine…”I knew that my gut would wince whenever I had a look at that, yet I could not help but switch on my phone and search for my name. Is this some kind of disease?As expected, there’s quite an intense discussion on the internet, and there’s all kinds of insults directed towards me at an unprecedented speed.And written there— “But today’s match was rather interesting, right?” These unexpected words caused me to stop scrolling midway through.“Heart-pounding until the very end.” “Very interesting.” “They finally get to bath!” “Good work, both sides”…I played poorer than usual.But why were the comments more comforting than usual?I didn’t know…what kind of shogi match would not embarrass a title holder, the Ryuuou. I couldn’t play the shogi even I couldn’t understand.I decided to stop worrying over this, and play my own style of shogi, the good old harassing style. As long as I continue to win, I believe there’ll be someone who’ll acknowledge me, like today. Surely.While I stopped, and thought about that.“Master!”Ai, who crossed the road before I did, turned around to call me. “I want to hurry up and play that kind of shogi too!”   “…I guess.”Seeing that pure angelic look of hers, I recalled a feeling I had forgotten for a long time.The day dad taught me shogi.The day Master gave me a guidance match.The day I met anedeshi at Master’s house, and played until my nails cracked.The day I had Master hold my hand and entered the Kansai Shogi AssociationThe day when anedeshi and I exclaimed “We don’t wanna go home!” because we wanted to continue playing shogi at the dojo.The day I cheered because I was on a winning streak.The day I cried because I was on a losing streak.The day when anedeshi and I held hands as we returned home late at night because we forgot the time, playing too much shogi.Such simple days of liking shogi showed up from Ai’s back.If I could reignite such feelings again—“…I guess taking in disciples isn’t a bad thing after all.”Ai hopped around before me, turned her head around, and put her hand by her ear.“Master, what did you say?”“It’s nothing!”I put my hands behind my neck, looking up at the sky that was gradually brightening.I was about to reach my apartment.Ever since I became a pro and moved out to live alone, whenever a match ended, I had a tendency of not wanting to return to that empty, cold apartment.During my losing streak, I hoped that I could mix into the darkness of the night, just like that, and I feared the dawn, feared the next match. I once hid my shogi board in the cabinet, because I did not want to see it in my house.But for some reason, I just wanted to hurry up and return home.Once I get home, I would eat some stuff, take a bath, and sleep. And continue playing shogi.

[RYUUOU V1] 3RD SCORE

/To the Association

“T-this is…the Shogi Association…!”

We arrived before the Kansai Shogi Association, and Ai looked really impressed as she said this.

“It’s so…so recognizable!”

“Because the words ‘Shogi Association’ on the wall are really large, aren’t they?”

From the Osaka Train Station, we took one stop down the Osaka Loop Line to Fukushima. From that Fukushima station, it would be a two minute walk to a five storey building.

This is the location of the Japanaese Shogi Association, Kansai branch–normally called the ‘Association’.

We came here on this day to apply for Ai’s Training Group Test, and also, for my official match.

Anedeshi left in a huff on the previous day, while Ai and I stayed at Master’s house. We enjoyed the piping hot breakfast prepared by Keika, returned to my house for some preparations, and came here.

“Ca-can anyone…really come in?”

“The first floor has restaurants and shop, the second floor is the dojo, and for the 3rd floor and onwards, it’s prohibited for everyone except for those authorized. Let’s go then.”

“Y-yes!”

I prompted Ai in, and she boldly took a step forward.

The door opened.

And standing right in front of us was anedeshi.

“…”

“…”

“…”

An awkward atmosphere lingered.

“…Loli king.”

She muttered vexedly right at my ear as I passed her, opened her parasol, and hurried off somewhere. What’s with this new title…

Master’s order was that I was to have a disciple (temp), but the ‘Snow White of Naniwa’ was giving Ai and me a frosty, snowy look. It’s basically Ai and the Snow Queen here.

As I was given Master’s permission, it seemed she was being more stubborn than usual.

We watched anedeshi vanish into the buzz of the morning crowd, and Ai tilted her head,

“…Why is aunt here?”

“Probably here to sign some colored paper or fans, since she’s a popular shogi player…also, don’t call her aunt in front of her.”

Or else my lift will be endangered, you know?

We entered the building, and Ai squealed, running to the shops on the right side.

“Amazing! Are all these shogi books?”

There was a shop in the corner of the building, filled with all kinds of shogi-related books and goods, even signed books. If possible, please drop by to have a look.

“Woah, the shogi board and pieces are amazing…ehh!? The board needs, 1, 10, 100, 1000, 10000…a 1,000,000 Yen!?”

Wah! Wah! Ai excitedly pressed her head against the glass display, like the boy from the Alps staring at the trumpet inside the show window. The middle-aged part-time cashier lady at the cash register narrowed her eyes, looking at this cheery scene.

What left Ai most excited was—

“Master! Master! They sell fans here!”

“Yeah they do.”

Topselling items in this shop are the fans signed by popular shogi player, because when one holds them, it makes the person feels really strong!

“Woah…there’s so many difficult kanji! (>_<)”

Ai opened a sample, checking the words written on it. Those were kanji that were somewhat difficult for third graders, and she tilted her head, “Ehh?”

“How do I read this one?”

“‘A Thousand Gold in One Stride’. It means that sometimes, one move is more valuable than thousands of gold pieces, a classic saying in shogi.” (TN: 一歩千金)

“And this? Fl…?”

“This is ‘flight’. Probably means that they hope to have a flying progression.” (TN: 飛翔)

“And this?”

“‘Chaos’.” (TN: 混沌)

“What does this mean?”

“Erm…very messy? Something like that?”

“Why is such a thing written on the fan?”

“…Who knows?”

Calligraphy words are chosen by the shogi players, and sometimes, there are words whose meanings are only beknownst to the person. Just to note, what Master wrote on his fan was ‘My prime shall come tomorrow’. So cool.

“…This isn’t it…this isn’t it either…”

“What are you looking for?”

“Do all the shogi players have signed fans?”

“Not all. Just the popular ones.”

“Popular ones?”

“Like past grandmasters, or A-list players…title players too basically have signed fans.”

Ai’s expression immediately lit up.

“So you have a fan too, Master?”

“Nn? Ah, yeah…”

I slipped the sample of my signed fans to the gap in the cupboard so that Ai wouldn’t find it.

Honestly, my handwriting’s really distinct.

“Scum ryuuou’s handwriting is scum too LOLOLOLOL.”

“This will be an embarrassment all the way to the later generations…”

“If it’s me, I would have surrendered my title right there.”

No way can I let such extraordinary samples be seen by Ai when they caused quite a commotion on the internet.

…Not like I could have helped it. Even I never expected to win the title…if I did, I would have practiced my handwriting more often.

“Eh…well~ there was one here. Yep, might be sold out!”

“You’re really popular, Master! As expected of you!”

“Hahaha, let’s go upstairs, shall we?”

I laughed, and left the shop.

I need to put the fan back later…

Registering the new disciple

We went up the stairs to the second level.

“Shogi dojo’, we saw the words there, and Ai tugged hard at my sleeve.

“!!“

Ai’s eyes were glittering with expectations as she looked at me.

I could only give a wry smile.

“Before that, we need to apply for the Training Group Test in the office upstairs. Introduce you to the other staff members too.”

“Nn~!”

“You’ll be able to play immediately.”

While Ai continued to murmur, unable to wait for long, I nudged her from behind and left the dojo.

I used to be like that too…as I indulged in my memories, I went up to the 3rd floor.

The office’s at this floor, and many members of the Shogi Association were gathered here.

“Pardon us.”

“Ah, Yaichi-kun…no, Kuzuryuu-sensei. Good morning.”

Greeting me was the staff member whose face I knew very well–though to be honest, I have been here for more than a decade, and there’s no one I didn’t know. It was one of the more experienced staff members who greeted me.

When I was younger, I often angered him, so to me, he was like a school teacher, but he’s the one calling me ‘sensei’ after I became a pro player. It’s an intriguing feeling.

The staff are in charge of the running of the Associations, so in a certain sense, they’re more valuable than Shogi players.

It’s fine if there are five or ten players missing, but without one of these people, it’s possible that there won’t be any matches.

I gave my most sincere smile possible, and introduced Ai.

“I came by because of this girl…were you notified?”

“Ah, yes, heard about it, heard about it.”

The staff member glanced aside at Ai, who was shrivelling as she stood beside me,

“Sora-sensei just dropped by and said, ‘A pervert who tried to imprison an elementary school kid in his house will be dropping by later. Please call the police once you see him.’”

That Ginko…

“A-anedeshi sure likes to joke huh!? Me imprisoning an elementary school kid? That’s impossible, right?”

“I thought so too.”

“Isn’t that obvious?”

Hahaha, we laughed heartily.

“And so? Who’s this cute little lady here?”

“Uchideshi!”

Before I could answer, Ai answered heartily. I was left hanging.

““Eh?””

Everyone present echoed in unison.

They didn’t appear to be listening, but they were…hey, someone’s actually reaching for the phone. What’s with this reaction? Some skit?

“U-Uchideshi? Kuzuryuu-sensei? At this age? An elementary school girl?”

“No, erm, well…”

Since it turned out this way, I guessed I could only just insist all the way, “Yes, that’s right? Got a problem with that?” I nodded nonchalantly with that attitude.

“Yep, our school’s directive.”

“A-ahh…Kiyotaki’s…”

Anedeshi and I are rather famous for being Master’s Kiyotaki’s uchideshi since young, so it’s  not rare for me, under the Kiyotaki school, to be taking in uchideshis. Not at all!

“I have Master’s letter here.”

“Yes…”

“Well, anyway, she’ll be staying at my house until the Training Group Test is over.”

I checked the schedule of the test as I explained how Ai came all the way from Hokuriku, hoped to join the Training Group so that she could become a female Shogi pro, and that Master had negotiated this with her parents.

“Isn’t it Spring break now? It’s better for her development if she stays in Osaka to focus on it. Once she passes, she probably will return to her home in Hokuriku.”

“Ahh, I see–”

The staff member finally seemed to have heaved a sigh of relief. At this moment–

“Eh? I want to continue staying at your house, Master!”

A nerve-wrecking atmosphere spread in the office again, and I felt anxious.

“Eh, Ai-Ai-chan. Wait…”

“I’m willing to do anything! I can cook, clean the house and clothes! If-if Master wants to…I’m willing to do perverted things too…”

Chatters.

“Heeeeeyyyyooooo enough with those words that can be taken for another meaning, okay!? I didn’t say that at all!? Got it!?”

“B-but…’try out little girls’…”

“Kuzuryuu-sensei…”

“No no no no!! That’s just anedeshi being all petty again!”

I really, really did my best to try and explain this. I didn’t accept this kid as my uchideshi willing!! I’m serious!!

“And besides, I like mature women like Keika; I don’t have any interest in kids at all! You know right!? We know each other for a long time already!”

“…Understood. I shall trust you on this, sensei.”

It seemed the staff finally believed my words, and the trust I’ve built up for more than ten years finally prevailed. The most important aspect of a shogi player is credibility.

 

Everything settled, I intended to leave the office, but the staff member gave me a grim look, one I had never seen over the past decade, saying,

“Kuzuryuu-sensei.”

“Yes?”

“…Is this really fine?”

He didn’t trust me at all~

Association’s Dojo

We left the office, and Ai exhaled deeply,

“Ahh…I was so nervous there!”

“Me too…”

A single misstep would have erased my standing in society, and I was really tense. However, it’s not that I didn’t have a feeling that I mishandled this.

I struck first before the strange rumors would spread, but what would happen as a result…?

Well, it’s pointless to be worrying about this.

A shogi player’s job is to read the moves, but even pro players misread moves in matches. In the end, there are some with the ‘I’ll see what the opponent moves’ line of thought, and would just do their best, and leave everything else to fate.

“Anyway, Master.”

“Hm?”

“What is the Training, Group?”

I barely managed to find my landing on the stairs.

“Wait…I explained a lot, a lot of times yesterday!”

“E-erm…the okonomiyaki was too yummy…so…”

Ai excused herself as her fingers rubbed on the handrail. Well, Keika’s okonomiyaki’s really delicious. This girl here ate three of them by herself. Did she think they’re pancakes or something?

“…The Training Group is like a school that grooms pro female players, where you get to play against people aiming to be shogi players. By winning, you can increase your ranking.”

“Increase ranking by ranking…it’s like a game, isn’t it?”

“Well, shogi is a game.”

The board game, invented over a thousand years ago, is the most difficult game in the world. That’s shogi.

“You start off with F rank when you enter, then E2, E1, D2, D1, C2, and once you get to C1, you’ll get the right to be a female player.”

“Once I become a female player, I’ll be able to think of shogi as my job like you, right Master?”

“You won’t get as many matches as that for a pro player, but simply put, that should be the case.”

“Then what’s the difference between a pro player and a female player?”

“It’s a long story, so I’ll explain to you next time.”

I pointed my thumb at the dojo entrance on the second floor,

“This is where you’re interested in right now, right?”

“Yes!”

I opened the door to the dojo, and stepped in with my disciple (temp)

All I saw were kids in the dojo.

Typically, most of the people hanging around at this time were old folks, but Spring Break just started for the Public Schools, and there were many young boys and girls passionate about shogi present, the enthusiastic sounds of shogi playing music to my ears.

Looking around, I saw that they were all elementary school kids? Students of the kids classroom?

“I want to register a ‘match record card’ for this kid–”

I was about to introduce Ai to the staff at the counter of the dojo,

But,

A group of kids looked at me in unison, and said,

“Dr-“

Dr?

 

“Dragon King!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!””

 

Isn’t that too much of a direct translation, kids?

“An autograph please!” “Please sign this!” “Sign! Sign!” “Dragekin, let’s play!”

The kids swarmed me. None of them called me the Ryuuou. They were pulling, knocking, pushing, kicking me. These kids showed no respect or concern to me, just kicking him, or making all sorts of selfish requests.

I forgot as Ai’s a really good girl, but elementary school children are like this huh. But stop calling me Dragekin!

“Okay okay! Line up in a single file…no, in three!!”

I had the kids line up in trios, and called Ai, who was opposite the table. There were three shogi boards on the table.

One person to take on three—three-pronged.

“If you can beat her, you can have my autograph.”

“Who?” “Who’s that girl~?”

“My disciple (temp).”

“Disciple? Little Dragon! Is Little Dragon Strong?”

“Really strong.”

“So if we can beat Little Dragon, we can get the autograph?” “How do we play?”

“How huh? Hm, let’s see…no handicaps.”

I moved a swivel chair over, and had Ai sit down.

“Ai, I want you to play against three at the same time. Can you do it?”

“O-okay!”

Ai seemed taken aback, “Alrighty!” but she proceeded to roll her sleeves, and got into battle position, and immediately got ready for battle.

The first wave of trio hurriedly lined the pieces, and Ai lined up three boards worth, looking very busy.

““Please take care of me!””

They lined up the pieces, and the matches began.

I checked the kids’ record cards that were placed at the middle side of the table. It’s like a dojo membership card, a green card that has the name, dojo rank, and the recent match records.

“The one at the upper table is a second dan, and the rest are kyu ranks…now that, how many matches can you win?”

When playing against many simultaneously, it’s hard to concentrate on one, and even with a difference in ability, it’s hard to beat every single one.

However, Ai was invincible.

Typically, any kid would play whatever move they thought of immediately, and end up making all kinds of mistakes, to a point where self-destructing moves were often played.

On the other hand, Ai was holding tightly onto the hem of her skirt as she read the moves faster than anyone else. She was extremely cautious. A born player.

Compared to the kids here, her talent’s a whole different dimension.

“Little Dragon’s so strong!” “We can’t beat her…”

In forty minutes, she killed off twelve players.

I thought she would lose once or twice, but she beat them all…

“Haa…haa…th-thank you very much…!”

Once Ai beat the last person, she bowed and thanked them while panting furiously. It seemed it took her a lot of physical exhaustion as she was swivelling around on the chair, playing against them. I guess she was basically jumping sideways while playing shogi.

“Sen-sensei, her ranking is…?”

The staff of the dojo asked me, holding a blank record card, clearly looking pale.

“Sec…no, please register her as first dan. Ah, here’s the attendance fee. She’ll be spending the entire day here playing shogi.”

Given her ability, I could have registered her as a second or third dan, but I hope that she’ll be able to experience the joy of winning matches and increasing her rank. This is my parental mindset at work as I registered this ranking.

Looking at this normally however, it’s very abnormal to see someone with the ability of an amateur first dan.

“Ai!”

I received the record card from the staff, and handed it over to Ai, who was running over to me without realizing that her skirt was being flipped, and her white panties were exposed.

“It’s your record card. Try filling it with white stars, okay?”

“…Yes!!”

First dan, Ai Hinatsuru-dono, my first disciple (temp) wrote the words onto the green card, and raised it up with both hands as though it was a treasure, giving a delighted smile.

Showing up! Silver Knight!

“Here, drink up.”

“Yes! Tucking in ♡”

I bought a packet of orange juice at the vending machine of the dojo, and Ai thanked me before she gulped it down through the straw. It’s easy to get thirsty while playing shogi.

“Fuah! …Master, do you have any matches today? At what time?”

“About 10am or so.”

“Eh!? Is it really fine for you to hang around here!?”

“Hang around…well, isn’t there still another fifteen minutes?”

There’s basically nothing to prepare for before a match, and it’ll be awkward to sit at the shogi board way too early. Besides, it’s a four hour long Title Ranked round-robin match, a marathon match that is to be played until night. (TN: 帝位戦リーグ)

If I were to go all out right away, I’ll be likely to tire out.

“The match venue is just above here. I’ll just head there when it’s almost time.”

“Y-you can’t! You have to reach there five minutes before it starts!”

Ai pushed me from behind, trying to get me upstairs. Didn’t I say there’s another fifteen minutes?

“Ah, maybe you want to have a look at the venue?”

“Is that okay?”

“You can come along with me.”

The match venues on the fourth floor and beyond typically aren’t open to public…but the Kansai Shogi Association provides a service for dojo users to attend official matches, and not forbid them from entering. Also, if there’s prior booking, anyone can lease the match venue (with payment)

“This is the ‘match board’. There’s the names of the match rooms and the players of the doay on  on the magnets.”

We walked to the fifth floor, and I started explaining various things to Ai.

“Once the match ended, the loser has to move his nameplate to a lower position. This is a system to indicate the results.”

“Oh…”

Ai, who had been tentative all this while, was interested in this after all. I could see her eyes sparkling.

“Master…are you at the Upper Room? Ho-how do I read this?” (TN: Ai can’t read the full name)

“It’s the Upper Tier Room” (TN: おんじょうだんのま, Onjoudannnoma. 御上段の間. Yes, these are actual locations inside the place, https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%B0%86%E6%A3%8B%E4%BC%9A%E9%A4%A8#.E3.83.95.E3.83.AD.E3.82.A2_2 and yes, that is the actual place in Osaka. )

“And the opponent is…Kami, Kami…erm, how do I read this?”

“6th dan Ayumu Kannabe. A young player from Kansai.” (TN: Just to note, the kanji for Ayu, 歩, means pawn.)

I was about to remove my shoes, ready to show her the room, and at that moment!

“Fufufu…this is my alias as a disguise on this word. My actual name is…!” (TN: The term actual name here, 真名(マナ), is an archaic form)

“Y-you’re–”

I turned my head around, and standing before us was a person in white. He covered his noble-like face with a hand, making a pretentious pose, revealing a right eye with colored contact lens between his fingers as he solemnly gave his name!!”

“A shogi player and a Knight! I am the ‘Silver Knight’–God Cauldron Ayumu!”

At this moment, an association staff member passed by, and greeted him,

“Ah, good morning, Kannabe-sensei.”

“IT’S GOD CAULDRON!!” (TN: Kannabe (神鍋), taking both kanji words separately, literally translates as God Cauldron.)

This 6th dan God Cauldron (aged 18) really seemed to insist on this name.

The staff didn’t mind, as though it was per usual. It’s hard to be a staff member if one can’t get along with such weirdos.

“Goodness…Westerners (Kansai People) are a bother. They lack grace…”

As he said that, Ayumu removed the magnet with the name ‘Kannabe’, and swapped it with the ‘God Cauldron’. Did he bring this along? Not bad…

Upon seeing Ayumu, Ai (and only her) immediately paled.

“Master! Th-that person…is wearing a mantle!?”“…Yep. A mantle.”

“This is the first time I’ve seen one!”

It’s the first time I’m seeing someone wear a mantle at an official shogi match…

‘Hoh…little girl! Surely you have outstanding talent in shogi (taste) to notice this mantle. I cannot say that I cannot allow you to join our Kanto Knights Division.”

God Cauldron Ayumu gracefully raised his right arm, and flapped the white mantle.

He basically looks–like a noble!

The shogi world is divided into ‘Kanto’, which Ayumu belongs to, and ‘Kansai’, which I belong to.

The Kanto Shogi Association is located near the youth streets of Harajuku, and has three times the number of affiliated players to Kansai’s. Most of the title holders are Kanto players, so most of the rookies and veterans are from Kanto.

In contrast to the stylish, trendy Kanto players, the Kansai players are considered barbaric and pesky for choosing to deviate from normal plays and pulling full-scale skirmishes, and are treated as bandits.

“Us Kanto players have a delicate and fresh style of play! Young girl, if you want to learn, choose our Kanto’s style of play that seeks to hone our skills in the name of research!”

“I-I’m the disciple of the ryuuou Kuzuryuryu! I won’t give in to someone like you!”

My disciple couldn’t say my name properly.

“Fufufu…hahaha! So the Ryuuou’s (Dragekin) life shall come to an end today! Enjoy your short master-disciple relationship while you can!”

“What did you say?”

Really, this God Cauldron-sensei was able to instantly get along with nine-year-old kids, the perfect candidate to promote kids’ shogi. So you’re the guy who spread the nickname ‘Dragekin’ amongst the kids.

I kept a slight distance, physically and mentally, from the duo who were in a mood to duke it out, and asked,

“Ayumu, where did you buy that mantle?”

“Blue Mountain.”

You could have just said Aoyama. It’s not like it’s coffee. Anyway, they really do sell everything in Tokyo, huh…? (TN: Aoyama Tradings: http://www.aoyama-syouji.co.jp/english/, Blue Mountain Coffee of Jamaica: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamaican_Blue_Mountain_Coffee)

“They also sell black ones of the same style. I can buy one for you.”

“Master! You have a black one!?”

“Thanks, but no thanks.”

I showed my intent, and Ayumu looked a little dejected, “I see…” Ai too looked sad. Did they really want me to wear a mantle…

“Hmph…whatever.”

Ayumu flipped the mantle when there was no need to do so.

“I shall be waiting for you in the Upper Room!” (TN: And this Chuu2 can’t read it either…)

“It’s the Upper Tier Room’.”

Fhahahaha…he gave a pretentious laugh, and vanished. Ai looked at me.

“Master! Are you familiar with that weird person?”

“Familiar…well, we often met in the past.”

The shogi world’s a small world. Those aiming to be professionals often matched up against each other in the tournaments since young, and once formal apprenticeship begins, we would end up meeting more often at both East and West Shogi Associations.

Once we became pro players, we had to fight against the same opponents for the rest of our lives. This is our destiny as shogi players.

“Ayumu’s older than me by two academic years, but we started aiming to be pro players at around the same time, so it kinda feels like we’re classmates.”

“I see! So a rival!?”

“Rival huh. Well, I’ll be honoured if that’s the thought…”

Ayumu’s in Kanto, and I’m in Kansai. While our bases are different, it’s a fact that both of us strongly knew of each other’s presence since young. People often talked about how we were fated rivals in our past lives or something.

But Ayumu’s defiance against me reached its peak when I became the Ryuuou.

It’s not that he let a rival, a peer, overtake him…not at all.

He, who declared himself as a holy knight, saw this ‘Ryuuou’ as a symbol of evil, a demon lord to be taken down. In other words—

Ryuuou, Dragon King = Demon = Me.

Knight = Holy = Himself à I have to beat him! ( ` •w• ’ )

So it seemed. Really impressive.

“He was already someone with either some noble-like tendencies or Chuu2 madness, but it looks like it got worse when he became a pro player and had money to use.”

“So he bought that mantle?”

“He’s been on a winning streak recently, and the money’s has been rolling in. It’s for certain that the winning streak and the win rate awards will be taken by him, and once he wins today’s match, the chances of him challenging for the title will increase massively…I can’t say that I’m his rival when I’m on an eleven match losing streak…Ryuuou’s going to get taken down…”

“That’s not true! You’re the strongest, Master!”

–Strongest?

Every shogi player has such a thought to such an extent, or else, it’ll be impossible for them to continue fighting in the world of pro shogi. Due to consecutive defeats and ridicule on the internet, my self-confidence was rattled.

However, after I was called ‘the strongest’, I felt some confidence rising in me for some reason. Shogi players are actually quite simple-minded.

“Master! I hope you’ll win!!”

“Haha…I’ll do my best.”

With my disciple (temp) encouraging me, I could not help but give a wry smile, and walked towards the match arena where the ‘Silver Knight’ is waiting.

Start of the match

There are three match rooms on the 5th floor of the Kansai Shogi Association–‘The Black Library’.

This level is an imitation of the Edo’s Castle Black Academy (said to be an actual place), and there are the ‘Upper Tier Room’, ‘Lower Tier Room’, and the ‘Lotus Room’. Between them, the ‘Lotus Room’ is of a higher tier, a room only the high ranked could use, the most sacred place in the Kansai Shogi Association, and also the place my master peed. (TN: The Black Academy is a study for the generals and officials. There was one built in Nijo Castle, but as the text here implies, I can’t tell if there’s one in Edo Castle.)

‘Man Obeys Earth’

‘Earth Obeys Sky’

‘Sky Obeys Tao’ (TN: 人法地 地法天 天法道, quote from the Laozi, a classical Taoist text. There isn’t a proper translation of this out there, so I thought I should just contribute mine.)

There’s the three pieces of famed calligraphy hanging on the wall, and kneeling at the only lower seat of the ‘Upper Tier Room’ was Ayumu, the collar of his mantle standing as he gracefully sipped at some red tea while raising a tea cup and saucer.

“Fuu…so the fearless fool has arrived.”

“Of course I did. It’s a match.”

I walked to the upper seat, knelt on the thin cushion, making sure I was comfortable as I took off my watch and put it on the tatami. I then took out a fan, a handkerchief, glasses, and water. (TN: As a reminder, lolicon here is the title holder, so he gets the upper seat, while the challenger gets the lower seat)

If it’s that soft, expensive cushion, my legs would numb easily, and it would be uncomfortable. An old cushion like this was more comfortable. Some players would request for special cushions from the Association when playing elsewhere.

Every player has their own habits when it comes to preparations before the match.

Some would rub their eyes, some would close them to relax, and some, like Ayumu, would bring their favorite tea set and leaves along, and brew some tea. Ah, some would bring their personal air purifier along (anions generators). Basically, they just had to make sure that it wouldn’t be too loud.

There’s a long table placed by the side of the shogi board, and the ‘recorder’ in charge of keeping the time and recording the moves. The board set and the cushions were also provided by the recorder.

Seeing that it was time, I said.

“Let’s get arranging.”

“Right.”

I put on my glasses, and reached for the pieces box on the board, taking out the contents in the silk bag. It’s the job of the higher rank to take out the pieces from the board.

After that, we arranged the pieces accordingly.

The arranging styles can basically be classified into two different ones, ‘Ito Order’ and ‘Ohashi Order’, the latter being the mainstream. Just to note, I’m the Ohashi style, and Ayumu naturally has his own unique style of arrangement.  (TN: In order, the placement order goes as 1. King. Gold generals, silver generals and then knights for both styles. For Ito, the player places 5. the pawns (from left to right), 6. the lances, 7. bishop, 8. and rook. In Ohashi, it’s 5. Lances, 6. Bishop, 7. Rook. 8. Pawns (starting from center, and then one left, one right until the board is filled).

Once we were done arranging, the recorder told us.

“Starting first, Kannabe-sensei.”

“Please call me God Cauldron.”

He carried out a familiar conversation with the recorder (and naturally, was ignored). A few minutes before the match started, we closed our eyes, adjusted our breathing, and our minds were already running at full speed.

“It’s now 10am. Begin the match.”

““Please take care of me!””

Both competitors bow to each other in respect, and Ayumu made the first move. He slowly removed his mantle, which he did not before the match; this indicated that it was formal clothing to him, and in other words, respect for the opponent. To be honest, I wished he stopped with that. It’s rattling me.

I immediately made the second move.

The order of turns for today’s match were decided beforehand, so I came up with a strategy at home. We played fast, and a certain formation developed on the board.

And then, it finally showed up on the board.

Ayumu moved the piece, giving a maniacal grin as he looked at me.

“Kukuku…do you think you’re able to beat my iron ‘citadel’?”

Isn’t it just a Fortress? (TN: Fortress, 矢仓, yagura, a form of castling, and a static rook opening.)

“6th dan Kannabe, formation as Yagura…”

In contrast to the highly agitated Ayumu, the reporter sitting beside the recorder was calmly making a record, and it looked really surreal.

Right, a watching reporter.

It’s the important match to determine the challenger for one of the seven major titles in the tourney circuit—‘the Throne’. Shogi magazine reporters, and even mainstream reporters will publicize the results. There’s a shogi column in the newspapers, isn’t there? That’s the place.

Till this point, Ayumu won every match, and by winning this, it’ll be a pathway towards the role of the challenger.

In contrast, I lost every match, and it’s decided that I wouldn’t participate in the next Tournament. In other words, I was just there to finish the group stage.

But in the world of shogi, that’s an exalted philosophy that goes,

‘Even if it’s not an important match to you, if it’s important to the opponent, go all out to crush him’.

If I win, Ayumu’s title challenge would be a mere dream that vanishes, and all I needed to do was to crush him as according to this philosophy. Besides—

“I don’t want to be called Scum Ryuuou again.”

I muttered, and played a Fortress myself.

 

Fiendish move! Kannabe-Style 1-Five-ka

Thirty minutes into the match, and we had already played forty six moves.

The double Fortress (both sides playing fortress) formation was detailed, and the match was progressing quickly. It’s common to play twenty moves or so without using the standby time, and playing accordingly, this can be played up to ninety moves. Deeply interesting, this fortress.

“Watch this—-! Upgrading ‘fortress’ to ‘Bear in the Hole’! Defense up by two thousand!!!” (TN: Anaguma, Bear in the Hole)

Ayumu held the piece as though it was Cardfight V ● nguard, and improved the defences, sealing the jade general to the left side of the board. This is the ‘Bear in the Hole’ formation. While I didn’t know if it ups the defense by two thousand points, the formation was sturdy.

Of course, I’m not the one just taking hits.

A unique characteristic of the double fortress is that both sides would solidify their defences and attack formations, and then a massive battlefront. Harden, harden, and explode! Something like that.

“Now then…now then, now then, now then.”

I opened the fan and covered my mouth, muttering. The formation was basically loaded, and I made sure not to let it collapse as I moved the bishop, which could attack the corners from far, to the frontline.

“Hah! Such petty tricks!”

Ayumu immediately responded, and advanced the pawn to pressure the bishop.

I played along and retreated the bishop back into the corner. This progression of actions was exactly as planned. My ultimate aim was to lure Ayumu out to attack and withstand it at the best possible moment. In other words, I was trying to lure him out.

“Very good…”

Ayumu again raised the piece as though he was doing that V ● nguard pose again. (Is that his signature pose?)

“Hear my summon, leap on, Pegasus!”

The bait was effective, and he left the Knight jump to the frontline. Both sides have declared war.

This ideal situation caused me to smile.

“‘The knight jumps high, and is still feed to the pawn’…so there.” (TN: 桂馬の高跳び歩の餌食, a common saying in shogi)

“Mind calling it ‘Pegasus’ leap’?”

Once the attack starts, it can’t stop, and Ayumu’s pawns swarmed me, while I too let my pawns counter. What they call the ‘shogi skin’ was being shed, and exposed flesh was clashing intensely.

“Silver Sword! I’ll show you how sharp my blade is!”

Ayumu came attacking at me with his Silver General.

I replied in kind, cutting in with the Silver, and turned his Silver into mine. Now I get a Silver!

Normally, Ayumu would use his rook to take down my Silver General, but,

“Haaa…!”

Ayumu exhaled, and the piece he raised was…the lance!!

“Open your eyes!! This is my ultimate move—‘Rightwing Holylance’!”

“Hm!? Thi-this is…!”

I couldn’t help but feel a chill as I watched the lance charge down the right wing of the board.

It’s an assault without any care for the sacrifices, a suicidal chain attack using the sharp lance after the silver sword!

“So you’re planning to break through from the corner even if you have to sacrifice your piece…?”

I did expect Ayumu to use this move during my prior research.

But it’s stressful to actually be attacked like this.

“Th-this is…the ‘Kannabe-style 1-five ka…!” (TN: The ka here refers to the kasha, or the lance)

“It’s the ‘Rightwing Holylance’!”

Ayumu denied it vehemently. Whatever the name is.

“6th dan Kannabe’s, expected next move is the 1-five ka…”

The onlooking reporter ignored Ayumu’s protests, but the pen was obviously riled up.

As the name of the move would imply, this Kannabe-style 1-five was a ‘new move’ Ayumu thought of. Ayumu had been using this move to charge up the road towards the Throne match, and it’s completely different from me, who lost all my matches! (sobs)

As he called himself a Knight, Ayumu had a unique way of using the lance. I had to be extra careful whenever I move it. Also, this kasha here is read as Lance in English, so I guessed he didn’t name it on a whim. I guess.

“Hm…”

It’s easy to take down this lance, but even so…

At the moment this move appeared in an official tournament, us Kansai players immediately began research on how to counter it. Us luring out this situation was due to our confidence in our research.

Kansai shogi being crude and a pest is a thing of a past. There’s no way we’ll lose to the Kanto players when it comes to the amount of research done!

But the Kanto side Ayumu belongs to probably did more in-depth research. There’s no way he could be playing the same move over and over again in an official tournament unless he was really confident.

There’s a counter strategy…but I really had to read this thoroughly, and make sure the moves I prepared next had no flaws.

“Fuuu……………………..right, now then…”

I exhaled hard, released my legs from the kneeling position, removed my glasses, leaned onto the elbow rest, and began to ponder.

I opened and shut the fan, making flapping, creating a rhythm as I read.

Reading.

Reading.

Reading. Reading. Reading…

“…Alright.”

I sat in a kneeling position again, and made a move. The recorder and onlooking reporter gasped, leaning forward.

I—did not take his lance.

The sharp lance stabbed at my flank, but I didn’t bother with it, and didn’t take it out.

Instead, I took down the Pegasus Ayumu moved right at the start—the Knight. Surely it was an unexpected move.

How about that, Ayumu!? While I lifted my eyes to look at the opponent.

“Fuu…such color, such fragrance, I suppose red tea is really the preferred type for English nobles after all…”

You’re the son of a tofu maker, okay?

I felt uneasy as I watched him sip the red tea elegantly and call himself a noble in an annoying manner. Was he pretending to remain calm? Or did he expect this beforehand…?

Well, it didn’t matter what it was. I’ll be looking forward to see him pale once he finds out the real purpose of this move!

“…The record, please.”

“Please.”

I checked the record that was handed over to me, and I paled, for I was the one who spent forty minutes on this move.

“Ack!”

I felt that I did not spend more than ten minutes on this move. I guess time quickly passed while I was immersed into reading the time. No wonder AYumu was drinking red tea.

The allotted time for the Throne Tournament matches was four hours per person, and I could only spend at most twenty minutes on this move. Forty minutes was way too long. He was the one who pulled the distance on me when it came to the allotted time.

“Excuse me.”

It was almost noon break, and the staff-in-charge started to ask the competitors what they would like for lunch, and they would ask for takeout delivery.

“What will you have for lunch, Kannabe-sensei?”

“Hm…well, ‘Chaos of the Phoenix and Sacred Egg’.”

“So, oyakodon.”

Ayumu would typically order the same thing for lunch, and the staffc could understand despite this weird name.

“What about you, Kuzuryuu-sensei?”

“Ah, I won’t be having anything.”

Ayumu looked surprised.

“You’re not eating?”

“I think I’ll like to go out and eat.”

“I see…”

Ayumu looked at me like a Chihuahua in a pet shop nobody wanted. Maybe he was worried about the prospect of having eat lunch alone in the Kansai Shogi Association.

But I couldn’t leave my disciple (temp) just like that. Sorry Ayumu.

Noon Break

I walked down to the dojo on the second floor, and Ai was enthusiastically playing shogi.

“Oh! She’s playing.”

The record cards were placed between the shogi board and the pieces box, and the chess clock was on the other side of the board. It appeared someone brought the clock to her while she was playing, and taught her how to use it.

Her opponent’s the girl I often met in the dojo. The large eyes and short brown hair left a lasting impression on me, and she too seemed to be a kid who hated to lose. She’s about the same age as Ai, and as they’re of the same age, both of them were serious.

“It’s see…”

I sneaked over to avoid interrupting their concentrations, and observed the board.

The match was about to end, and the board was chaotic, a story of a fiery battle going on.

“…Argh I don’t understand at all! Eh!”

The opponent girl decided to stop reading as there was not enough time, and made a move. She appeared to be a straightforward one. It was Ai’s turn.

“…Like this, like this, like this like this like this like this…”

She muttered, creating her own rhythm, trying to quickly recite the moves that could allow her to win, her body swaying slightly.

–…There’s a lot of moves, but it’s possible to checkmate the opponent.

A pro player can tell from a glance, but during matches, there are some moments where

Now then, would Ai be able to figure it out in an actual match?

“…This!”

Ai reached for a piece, exhaled hard, and slammed the piece on the board, making a check.

“Eh!? …erm…”

The opponent panicked due to this unexpected move. She hesitantly moved her king to the side right before her allotted time was about to end, but this king—was dead meat.

Once Ai made this move, she continued on without wasting much time. About three steps before she was about to win, the opponent realized the match was lost, and forfeited.

“…I lost!”

“Th-thank you very much!”

After a little breath, the girl gave a cheerful smile, talking to Ai.

“You’re Ai Hinatsuru, right? You’re really strong! Where are you from? You’re not joining the Research Group?”

“Erm…I-I’ll be taking the test…!”

“Really!? Then we’ll be able to play shogi together!”

Once the match ended, they reverted back to being ordinary elementary school kids. Such a fast transformation is really something unique to kids.

“Ai.”

“Ah, sensei.”

The girls were chatting chatting away, looking really happy, but if I kept waiting, my lunch break was going to end.

“Good work. You were able to see that mate possibility, huh?”

I put my hand on the head of my disciple (Temp), praising her, and she was grinning away like a puppy “ehehe ♡” looking really happy.

“You’re hungry now, right? Shall we go eat?”

“Okay!”

The rule of this dojo is that the winner has to bring the loser’s record card along and request for recording. I looked over at Ai’s opponent—

“…!!”

That girl held the green record card, being stiff all over as she looked at me.

“Erm, you. Your record card—“

“A-are you Kuduryuryuryuryu…?”

Is it that the elementary school kids can’t read my name?

“Ah, yes. Kuzuryuu.”

“!!”

The girl fell off her chair, tumbled about, stood up, and walked towards me.

“Erm, I-I-I’m, erm, Mi, Mio Mizukochi!”

Mio Mizukochi, huh?

I took the record card, and found her name.

“…Mio Mizukoshi. Hm. Good play there.”

Like a teacher, I praised her. “Woah!” And Mio-chan let out a strange sound, reaching her little hand out as she trembled.

“E-erm! P-please let me shake your hand!”

“Okay. Do your best.”

“Hawawa…hawawawawa…”

Mio-chan’s face went completely beetroot, her body practically heating up.

I did encounter a few moments of people wanting to shake hands with me after I became the Ryuuou, but this was the first time someone was so touched. I was so happy…but it was a little embarrassing, and the other visitors were smiling.

“I-I’ll never wash this hand…for the rest of my life!”

“I-I see…”

“I’ll be using the toilet later, but I’m definitely not washing my hand!!”

“No, better wash it.”

I made a note on the record card, and returned it to Mio-chan who was nodding away. “Please get along well with Ai.” I requested, and we left the dojo.

“Such an interesting kid. She’s decent at shogi too. Maybe you two will be good friends?”

“…”

“Hm? What’s the matter, Ai?”

The disciple (temp) who was still being gleeful just a moment back pouted for some reason, muttering.

“…Ai never held Master’s hand before…Ai’s supposed to be the disciple here…how sneaky…”

“Huh? Erm…Ai-chan?”

“Master!”

“Y-yes?”

“E-erm……………….eh!!!”

Ai suddenly grabbed my right hand with her hands, and pressed her thumbs all over my palm.

What’s this kid doing?

“Erm…you happy now?”

“Teehee ♪”

Elementary school kids are really hard to understand.

We walked out of the gloomy building, and the sunlight of Spring was so dazzling. “Unnn!!” I stretched my back, and turned to the disciple (temp) right beside me.

“Okay, what do you want to eat?”

“Erm..Master, do you have anything you want to eat?”

“Well, I’ve basically eaten everything the shops around here have to offer.”

“Er-erm…then, erm…”

“What is it?”

“B-bentos! I made them…so…”

“Eh? Even mine?”

“Of course! I woke up early to make it for you, Master!!”

“Oh…!”

This considerate disciple (temp)’s thoughts really left this Master grateful.

I never thought a third grader would have prepared so much…unlike that anedeshi who would just tell me to go to the convenience store (Family Mart) opposite the Association to buy lunch. Even now, she’s the same.

“In that case, we’ll eat outside then. The weather’s nice.”

“Okay!”

And so, we held hands, and went to a nearby park.

The East Fukushima Park that was slightly further up was filled with greenery…or to be precise, the trees planted by the taxi company next door filled up half the park. It’s a small, unique park, befitting of the whimsical culture of Osaka.

We sat side by side on the bench under the shadow of the trees, and opened the bentos Ai made.

“So there’s fried egg on the onigiri?”

“You don’t like this…?”

“No, I’m happy. I don’t really eat much during matches after all.”

“Thank goodness!”

Ai took the onigiri with both hands, and started munching in large gulps. However, her mouth was small to begin with, so despite munching, the onigiri didn’t look like it was going to disappear. She’s like a cute animal nibbling away. How cute.

Ai munched down the onigiri, and after a while, she lifted her head to look up at me, looking timid as she asked.

“Master, erm…ho-how’s the match…?”

“Erm, not too bad.”

I alternated between eating the fried egg onigiri and answering her question. The egg and onigiri are delicious, and there’s the salmon inside the onigiri, which I liked. Did she ask Keika?

“I played a fortress, and Ayumu played a bear in the hole fortress…ah, you know what they are, don’t you?”

“I don’t (>_<)”

“I guessed so.”

I guess that it’ll be easier for her to understand if I described it in notation rather than formation name. But even though she’s an elementary school kid, if I’m to describe the board and exchange suggestions, it might be considered as ‘helping’. I would be executed.

“Anyway, it’s a hard formation facing a super hard one. The super hard one is really solid, and even tried to attack. That’s the situation.”

“So Master, you’re the super hard one, right?”

“No, I’m the hard one.”

“Eh?”

Ai’s face froze. The fillings of the onigiri (salmon) felt to the floor.

Well, she obviously felt that the situation ‘was advantageous to Ayumu’, and it’s no wonder. He did have a really solid formation.

“Well, it’s true that Ayumu’s king is more secured, and hee’s the one attacking.”

“That’s interesting…”

“But Ayumu lost quite a few pieces while trying to force his way through. Once he stops, the situation will turn around dramatically.”

“Will it stop?”

“Looking at our research, probably.”

“Research?”

I munched at the onigiri, and explained the world of pro shogi to Ai.

“If we’re talking about what shogi players do when they don’t have any matches, they spend the time preparing for the next match, do research on the opponent’s weaknesses and tactics. A genius player has a sudden idea, and made a wonderful move to win! There’s no way such a thing can happen in the current world of shogi.”

Well, speaking of which, there are some people who are god-like enough to actually do such a thing, like the current Meijin. That guy’s godly.

“That move next is actually the answer my friends and I found. This move will be able to stop Ayumu’s attacks…but this isn’t actually winning on ability, but on how precise the research is.”

“…”

Ai lowered her head silently.

Did her ideals get shattered? While I thought so, the moment she lifted her head again—

“So cool!!”

“Co…ehhh?”

“This is the special technique you thought of, right, Master? You went through strict training, and thought of a secret move to change everything…as to be expected of you, Master! The strongest Dra…no, Ryuuou!”

She nearly said Dragon King there, didn’t she?

“But well…I see. So that’s what you think…”

“Hm? Did I say anything weird?”

“It’s nothing…”

I secretly wiped away the tears from my eyes, so that my disciple (temp) wouldn’t find out.

After the ninety or so fixed opening moves, when winning pro shogi boils down to research into every single move, ripping off moves from research reports or shogi templates is often criticized by shogi fans. The internet too will cause an uproar over this. They’re right, and I’m not too willing to play such shogi, but this isn’t the era where I can simply play and win without being overly reliant on research.

At this point, almost all players will organize their ‘research groups’, and carry out a battle of research through computer simulation. Depending on the formation, some might even analyse until the very last move.

One move that appears in an official match.

Is supported by thousands of hands that did not show up for this match.

“So, Master, you can make the opponent surrender with the next move?”

“No, at most, it’ll just be a deadlock, or maybe the situation will change slightly to my advantage.”

“What? Not a super move!?”

The world isn’t that smooth sailing.

“Well, the opponent’s that Ayumu, and I’m second, so I guess things are going smoothly now that we’re even at the moment?”

“That Go…Kannabe-sensei, right? Is he that strong?”

“He’s a shogi player.”

“…That sensei seems to be a little strange.”

“He’s a shogi player.”

Most situations could be explained with this.

“Well, if I’m to ask other players how Ayumu’s ability is, ten out of ten will answer—‘Kannabe? He’s strong. No weaknesses in openings, middle game and end game’—”

“There’s no way to break through?”

“Well, it’s not like he doesn’t have his weakness…but I can’t attack right now.”

“Fue!?””

“Alright! Time to head back.”

We spoke too much. I licked the rice off my fingertips, and stood up.

“Thanks for your bento. It was nice.”

“Ehehe!”

I patted Ai on the head, and she narrowed her eyes happily, grinning away. Sooo cute.

“Keika will be picking you up in the evening, so you’ll be staying at Master’s house tonight. I’ll go pick you up tomorrow.”

“…Okay!”

Though she had some hesitation. Ai nodded obediently.

Miscalculation

“Take this——-!!”

The match continued, and Ayumu impaled the lance that was stabbed at my flank further in.”

“Next, change! Normal Lance grows up into Golden Lance!!”

Promoted lance…that’s what he meant, right? He flipped the piece over, so I guess that’s right.

“Fu…caught you! Ryuuou!!”

“Who knows who caught who.”

“Ugh!?”

I saw that this attack was a feint, and ignored the promoted lance that was behind the king, took the pawn from the board, and attacked another piece on the board. As for the attacked piece, that was—

“The rook…!?”

“Right!”

The attack of the promoted lance from the corner was just to hold me off, a jab.

“Ayumu! Your real purpose is to jab at me and swing a hard straight punch while I’m defending! That straight punch is this rook! In other words, you won’t be able to attack as long as I seal it!”

“Fufu…I see, as to be expected of you, Ryuuou, sharp observation there! However, is that feeble attack power of yours able to seal my strongest piece!?”

“How you forgotten, Ayumu!? The piece I took before noon break—?”

“!? Ah…ahh—!!”

“Come forth, Pegasus! I summon the Knight from the board, target the rook!!”

I had an advantage on the board, and so, I too was excited, and completely ignored the cold look from the recorder!

“What now, noble? Your graceful expression has crumbled there, you know?”

“Ugh….!”

Naturally, the Rook’s the strongest piece. Once it gets taken, one’s offensive power is reduced drastically, and it’s basically giving the strongest weapon to the enemy.

Leaving aside the end game, giving up the rook to the enemy in the middle game meant that it would be a lost cause for Ayumu, so logically, Ayumu would choose to let the rook escape.

So I thought.

“Ku…kukukuku…kuhahahahaa! I’ve been waiting…for this!”

“!? …What…did you say…?”

Ayumu didn’t move his rook, but another important piece—the ‘Bishop’.

“Bishop?”

He’s abandoning his rook!? Is he for real?

I couldn’t help but look at Ayumu’s face.

Self-destruction…didn’t feel that way. He looked relaxed, and drinking red tea.

My instincts were telling me that I should take down that rook.

Once I take it down, Ayumu wouldn’t be able to continue attacking, and I should be able to hang on, barely. I had a pawn and another Silver general in hand, no problems with defending!

So I tried to make sure my instincts weren’t wrong, and grabbed the knee of my pants with my right hand, reading.

Read. Read. Read…

“…Right!”

After more than an hour’s worth of thinking, I finally made up my mind and decided to take down the rook with the Knight. How about this, Ayumu!

“Just as planned!!” (TN: No, I didn’t make up the 計画とおりpart. Yes, it’s Death Note, but the doori in hiragana instead of the more memetic version…)

“What!?”

“I see your pale ‘Horse’ now…!”

Again, Ayumu raised the bishop with a V ● nguard-like pose, and laid it on the board.

“The name of the one riding on that horse—is Death!”

Ayumu’s bishop upgraded to a ‘Dragon Horse’ (TN: When a piece moves to the furthest one-third of the board, it can be promoted at the end of the turn. Unlike real life jobs, promotions here are permanent. In this case, the Dragon Horse is also known as the Promoted Bishop (Ryuuma))

“How naïve, Ayumu! I’ve read your attack!”

I slid my king to the side, and skilfully evaded the Dragon Horse’s attack.

Activating the shogi phrase ‘King Escapes Early!’ (TN: 王の早逃げ八手の得)

“How about that? You can’t attack again, right?”

I thought it would end up as a middle game where both sides would prep themselves again.

Ayumu reached for the pieces board, and not the shogi board. Once I saw that, I felt a chill run up my spine, like an ice pick.

“Take this! The other hidden lance!!”

The pianist-like movement of the fingers swept the lance from the pieces, and laid it on the board. Ahh!!

“Dragon Killer!! George—-!!”

“Uh oh…!”

He played this move, which made me shudder in more ways then one.

I was about to use the pawn to attack the rook, but Ayumu played a lance from behind. This would result in a nifu (foul) situation. I couldn’t take this with the pawn! I couldn’t defend…!! (TN: While there is a drop rule where both players can play captured pieces, there is a rule called nifu, or double pawns. A pawn cannot be dropped onto a column (vertical) containing another pawn of the same player)

“6th dan Kannabe shows up with a stunning new move ‘Kannabe Style 3-six ka…”

“Didn’t I just say that it’s the ‘Dragon Slayer! George’!?” (TN: Saint George and the Dragon. By all accounts, the weapon should have been the sword Ascalon, so I have no idea as to why a lance is used instead. On a side note, I’m really tempted to continue snarking for the rest of the volume)

Ayumu corrected the onlooking reporter, and pointed his fan at me, saying,

“How about that, Your Highness Ryuuou? How’s my new super move ‘Dragon Slayer! George’?”

“Ugh…!!”

I bit my lips hard, and observed the board..

I want information. What’s Ayumu aiming for next? How bad is it now? What are my chances if I let my king charge through? Is there a possibility of counterattacking—?

“And just to explain, the origin of this name is from the Saint Knight George who was famous for killing a dragon. He stabbed a spear into the mouth of the dragon that was breathing out toxic air, leashed the dragon with the belt the princess granted him, dragged it along like a dog, and killed it.”

I don’t want such information…

“No! Add more emphasis on the ‘!’ at the back of the ‘Dragon Killer!’ Ayumu bothered the onlooking reporter. I guess it’s like ‘Super Speed! Black 3-Seven Silver Formation’ or such? (TN: That Super Fast title, yes, it exists. 超速!▲3七銀戦法. It’s a common playstyle in the pro meta during 2010, where the player aims to get the Silver General out as quickly as possible.)

It’s obviously a combination strategy that picks a target. It was obviously a Chuu2 name he came up with after thinking of it for so long.

In other words…was he waiting for this thirteen moves ago, when I took down his pawn?

No, probably longer than that…the moment he started Fortressing, he probably expected the situation to change, and lured me into that.

If that’s the case—Ayumu did research until the very last move.

 

Setting the Stage

“Kuzuryuu-sensei, we have run out of the allocated time. Following this, please continue with ‘one minute shogi’.”

The recorder stated the cold truth with a stoic tone.

“…Yes.”

And the voice that responded “Yes” was hoarse.

From this point onwards, every move I make has to be made in a minute, or I will overrun my time, and end the match by fouling out.

“Thirty…forty…”

The recorder read the time, with a unique enunciation in the tone.

It was 9pm.

Including the one hour noon break, it has been almost eleven hours since the start of our match at 10am.

Ayumu has one hour of his allotted time left.

And as for me—none.

“Fifty, one, two, three—”

“…!”

At the moment the recorder said ‘seven’, I made my move.

In this critical juncture, where I had no time to even head to the toilet, I gritted my teeth, and continued playing shogi despite being battered all over.

In this bitter one-sided defensive battle, the hopeless battle of attrition continued to wear at my nerves.

In contrast, Ayumu continued to attack successfully. “Now, here’s my turn!”

What was a situation of Ayumu’s advantage became a winning situation.

“Hoho. Time to end your life and head for dinner…”

There’s no rest time for dinner during the Title Round-Robin tournament, and it has been more than eight hours without rest or nap.

We’re mentally driven to our limits, and yet my mind was unable to focus while I had to play this one minute shogi.

–Where did I make a mistake?

–Was it a bad move to take the rook back then?

–…No, thinking back about it, I shouldn’t have let Ayumu play a fortress, should I…? (TN: Fortress, 矢仓, yagura, a form of castling, and a static rook opening.)

With the recorder prompting while reading the seconds, all I could do was just regret.

I could simply drag this until the very end.

But…as the title holder, the Ryuuou, I don’t want to do something this gaudy.

–Is it really okay for me to continue on?

–But if I’m to give up at this moment, the internet’s going to let me have it for giving up too easily…

All my mind, I was only thinking about this. I was focusing on ‘how to lose beautifully’ rather than reading the board.

At this point, I had completely given up the will to fight—the winner was determined.

It was evident to everyone else in the room, it seemed, as the reporter who was in the rest room returned to the table side without me knowing. Clearly, it was to record the moment I surrender.

–At the very least, a pretty record…

For a shogi player, a shogi record is the one thing that can be shown to later generations to indicate one’s presence. It’s as important as music sheets for a composer.

Losing doesn’t matter. I can handle it.

But if I’m going to be laughed at forever for “such a poor game”, I couldn’t take that.

This terrible game was going to be shown nationally.

It was inevitable that I would lose. If I couldn’t avoid losing and embarrass myself before everyone…at the very least, I could leave something decent.

The act of ‘Setting the stage’ is no different from a samurai being a ‘kaishaku. (TN: Kaishaku, the one to behead someone who commits seppuku.)

To go along with that move, to create the impression of an intense match until the very end.

This wasn’t a feint. Losing heartily is an artistry for a pro player; closing this splendidly is also a skill required of a pro player.

Once I decided on this, I made my check towards Ayumu’s Jade King with my own King.

“Hm?”

At that moment, Ayumu showed a surprised look on his face.

“Ho…I see. So you have prepared yourself…”

He muttered, sounding a little gloomy, and took my check.

To all the shogi fans on the internet watching this match through the Shogi Association’s internet telecast, this is likely the moment where you would go, “Now here’s a wonderful check with the king!”

Right, this was a memorable king check.

Doing this would leave behind a record of ‘a bold king check for an exciting match’, creating an impression of a final struggle.

All I needed to do next was to offer the head of the king. I just needed to retreat to my camp, and try to move my pieces around as quickly and beautifully as possible. Ayumu’s probably able to end this quickly too.

–Just end my misery already. Please, Ayumu…

I had this thought, and was about to move my head over. At that moment,

“Hm?”

The moment I lifted the piece, I lifted my head slightly, and something that wasn’t supposed to appear entered my eyes.

“…Fuee?”

I didn’t know if I was seeing things, and couldn’t help but let out a weird squeal.

I saw Ai.

 

The disciple (temp) whom Keika should have brought home to Master’s house was at the arena, watching the match with the recorder and the onlooking reporter.

Now that’s weird? An elementary school girl in the arena?

Were my eyes playing tricks because I was staring at the board?

“Fifty, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine—”

“—Oto!”

The recorder reading the time caused me to recover, and I hurriedly made a move.

I originally wanted to create a false impression of setting the stage, but I panicked, and made another move. ‘You still want to continue?’ The recorder and onlooking reporter looked troubled, but this wasn’t the time to be worried about that.

Why?

Why was Ai here?

I checked the time, and it was already past 10pm. She should be at Master’s house, ready to brush her teeth and sleep.

But Ai’s in the room. The little feet stepped into the Upper Tier room. The elementary school kid, seated obediently between the recorder and the onlooking reporter, was watching with eyes dazzling, leaning her body over the long table, staring at the board.

“Wait…ehhh? Eh, Eh…?”

I looked at Ai. Hey, you, look at me.

Ai never noticed my stare, her eyes staring intently somewhere else.

She was staring at—Ayumu’s King (TN: Remember, the Jade King is shortened as 玉, and can be read as tama.)

Seeing her body sway slightly, I knew what she was thinking.

She was reading the board.

With her entire body, and all her concentration.

“…Like this, like this, like this, like this, like this, like this, like this, like this, like this, like this…”

It appeared that she did not notice my stare at all, merely puffing her cheeks, her ears red, concentrating as she continued to look for something.

What was she looking for? What else?

Of course, it’s the move so that I could win.

She was fully focused on reading, trying to look for the move to lead to victory through this situation of despair.

“…Like this, like this, like this like this…no! Then…like this, like this like this like this like this like this like this like this like this like this like this like this like this like this…too slow! If there’s…there’s a faster way–!”

The reason why Ai didn’t look at me was simple.

All I was looking at was my own king, and I never considered attacking. I merely lowered my head, shrinking back like a turtle, defending, just thinking about defending my pride and face as the Ryuuou. The weight of the throne bogged me down, and all I could only do was lower my head and keep regretting.

But Ai was different.

She lifted her head, and stared right at Ayumu’s King. She was only thinking about attacking, and not defending.

She believed there’s a chance to win, that her Master would win.

“…I guess.”

Such a little girl left home alone from far away in Hokuriku, came over to me, and introduced herself as my disciple. In her eyes, I’m the strongest, amazing, coolest undefeatable Dragon King in the world. Just like my impression of Master Kiyotaki back then.

Because of this, I can’t lower my head at this moment! I can’t give up!!

“Now then…how about I play a requiem for you?”

Ayumu raised the piece like a pianist, letting out an exceptionally crisp sound, playing a move that was basically prompting me to hurry up and surrender. ‘I can play along with you’.

“…Sorry Ayumu. I changed my mind.”

“What?”

I ignored his response, read the board while the clock ticked until the very end, and played a move that mixed things up.

It ended up as a situation where the King abandoned his subordinates to escape alone, a shitty, sticky move.

This was a move a pro player would not make, and would surely be sneered at by other players. It’s a really shameful move—but I chose to play such a move, and continue hanging on.

As expected, the recorder gave me a cold look, and clearly looked annoyed while recording. The onlooking reporter sighed due to the added, unnecessary work. It was as though I added to their workload.

And as for Ayumu, opposite me—

“You intend to continue defying fate…imbecile…ha!”

He pressed his hand on the right eye with the color contact.

“…Fufufu, hahahaha!! Wonderful! Absolutely wonderful! Now this is befitting of the eternal, strongest enemy of them all! Now you are worthy of being the embodiment of evil, Dragekin!”

The White Knight, ‘God Cauldron’ Ayumu laughed out loud, and with the loud sound of the shogi piece being played, it was to be expected that he would play the most offensive move. He then clipped his long bangs with a hairclip, and leaned his body towards the shogi board.

He should have chosen a safer way to win, but he gave up that right and came right at my throat. Isn’t that too cool, you noble!?

“Come! Let us continue the eternal war between Holiness and demons that has lasted since our past lives!!”

“I don’t know if this will last forever—”

I replied in kind, and showed my most confident smile possible, saying,

“But I’ll be willing to play with you until the sun rises.

 

Throne Match

Red-White Ring

Black – 6th dan Ayumu Kannabe (3 wins)

White – Ryuuou Yaichi Kuzuryuu (3 losses)

(TN: As a reminder, Black moves first. Prior to this, Ayumu won 3 of his matches in the tournament, lolicon lost all 3)

Did anyone expect this to be such an intense match before this?

At the most sacred place in the Kansai Shogi Association, the Upper Tier Room, neither party stopped moving their hands. Every move they made was increasing fast, fiery, intense, like the hearting racing.

Once Kuzuryuu ran out of time, Kannabe fought back without using his time. Truly, this is impossible to explain without logic, as shogi players of the same era refused to back down, their egos robbing their sanities.

“Fiery.”

The celebrated member in charge of recording muttered, as this intense battle was decided in the end game, where Kannabe made a hasty move, resulting in the end.

“…To be honest, I was actually thinking about when to surrender all this while.”

Kuzuryuu said hoarsely when the match ended. His words were probably not a lie.

What happened that changed his mind after that?

“I wanted to struggle until the end, as the title holder…as the Ryuuou. I didn’t want to leave a poor game record behind. So I intended to break the situation. I didn’t want to continue harassing. I was just looking for a chance to surrender. But…”

Kuzuryuu lifted his head, looked forward, and declared confidently,

“Even if I had to play a harassing game, it’s better than losing. I didn’t want to lose anymore. That’s the thought that changed my mind.”

It’s said that before the mmatch, Kuzuryuu had a disciple.

When the match was proceeding, it was this elementary school girl who sat by the board, watching the match.

Perhaps it was because she knelt by the side until the very end, firmly believing that her Master would win, that changed his mind.

“Maybe. I just don’t want to let my disciple see me lose.”

The Ryuuou who’s yet to be sixteen said, and showed a stiff smile at his nine year old disciple.

It might be too early to declare with this one match,

But this reporter dares to declare.

The young Ryuuou has completely revived. No, he shall continue to grow, and be stronger.

(Kugui)

 

Returning Home

“Wah! It’s so cold!”

I could not help but exclaim as I exited the association, and my body shivered. Naniwasuji, bustling in the day, was completely devoid of people; it was already past 5am, already the next morning.

The match ended at 3.48am. 402 moves altogether.

Ayumu’s body went limp right when he lowered his head, intending to surrender, and his head crashed onto the board. Thus, the match recorder and I had to lift him, moved him down to the resting room on the third floor, and put him on the bed. After that, I had to attend an interview with the viewing reporter, and thus it dragged on to this time.

“…Goodness. That noble is pesky until the very end.”

“Good work there, Master!”

Ai, who followed me out of the Association, bowed towards me.

This fellow here is excited. An energetic one.

“Ai…aren’t you tired?”

“I normally sleep at 9! But today, I just feel very awake today though!”

“When the mind’s going at full speed at high speeds due to a match, you can’t sleep because of how excited you get, huh?”

We returned home, and I started chatting away for some strange reason.

“So once the matches end in the middle of the night, some would head out to drink beer to calm their nerves, or go vent it out by playing mah-jong.”

“But Master, you still can’t drink, right?”

“And I don’t know the rules to Mah-jong.”

“Then how do you calm yourself down?”

“Well…like this, just walking up and down Naniwasuji in the middle of the night…”

“But doesn’t that make you look like some dangerous person?”

Well, she’s right.

We walked down, and I asked Ai why she was still at the Association.

It’s about as I imagined. Ai asked Keika, saying that she hoped to watch my match, so Keika and Master Kiyotaki discussed this, and Master agreed to Ai’s wishes, even praising her for how enthusiastic she was. Of course, it was Master’s initiative to have Ai stay by the shogi board and watch.

I wasn’t angry.

It was because of Ai’s presence that I was able to win.

“So, how about it? Did you learn anything from a pro’s match?”

“It’s really amazing! You made a comeback in that sort of situation…as to be expected of you, Master!”

“Hahaha. It was really a Super Sticky ☆match though!”

Normally, a match would only require a single chess notation paper, but this match here needed three. I believe you can understand how much I was trying to cling on until the very end. I heard that this was the match with the most moves ever since the Second World War ended.

“Shogi’s a game where the tide can change at any given moment, and the one who makes the wrong move at the very end is the loser.”

“But, he made a mistake there…he had a lot of opportunities to win, right?”

“And that’s why he made a mistake.”

“Fuee…? Wh-why?

“If there’s just one possibility of winning, and there’s a very small difference between them, there’s no hesitation in taking action. But if there’s a huge gap between both sides, there’s a lot of possibilities to win, and it’s easy to hesitate over which method to win.”

“Ah…!”

“With a moment of hesitation, the ‘turning point’ or ‘change’ that determines the outcome will slip in. So I played some bad moves to increase the number of openings from one to two. It’s deliberate!”

“Th-that’s amazing, Master!! You created two openings and lured the opponent into making mistakes…it’s like a pro player!!”

“But thinking about it calmly, I would be a goner if both openings were broken through (LOL).”

“That’s bad, isn’t it (>_<)?”

“Well, I won, so let’s not itpick. I won anyway.”

If it had been the usual Ayumu, such little tricks couldn’t possibly beat him.

So I played another tactic to seal him off, to tackle his weakness, and got him to easily make mistakes.

“But a match between pro players is really amazing! One match can last this long!”

“Well, it started from morning until the next morning after all. Were you surprised to see us play so long?”

“Yes! It’s amazing how you two were suddenly shouting and saying some cool lines to each other!”

“No, I don’t normally talk that much, huh?”

It’s because of Ayumu making a ruckus. That guy’s a thorough weirdo.

Was he trying to agitate the opponent during a match? Now…that’s really a weirdo.

“Anyway, Master.”

“Hm?”

“You mentioned God-sensei’s weakness at noon, but what is it?”

God-sensei?

“…His family runs a tofu shop in Fukagawa, and he was a High School student until last month. Just graduated.” (TN: Fukagawa, a suburb town in Tokyo.)

“And?”

“Tofu makers can’t stay up late into the night, you know? He had to go to school, and because of that, he has to be disciplined in his lifestyle.”

“So…so that’s his weakness?”

“He did make a mistake, and that changed the match, right?”

This didn’t just apply to Ayumu; most student pro players have such a weakness.

And just to note, I stopped schooling once I graduated from Middle School, and I’m living by myself, so my lifestyle ain’t normal. I already overcome this weakness!

“Once a player turns pro, they’ll typically adjust their night lifestyle. Back then, Master used to train us disciples who became pros through overnight mah-jong.”

Some might think I’m saying this for show, but the main aim is actually to get a table full of players.

To be honest however, deliberately dragging this match till midnight to attack this weakness wasn’t something to be praised.

“He’s still trying to win?”

“Terrible of that title holder to pull such cheap tricks. Scumbag.”

I guess there’ll be such criticism flying on the internet. To be honest, even I felt that it was a crappy game…

“I don’t dare to look at ‘2ch Meijin’…or ‘boujin-kun’…” (TN: 2ch Meijin site: i2chmeijin.blogg.fc2.com, boujin-kun: shogis.com/s)

“Master? You’re shivering. Is it really cold?”

“It-it’s nothing…I’m fine…”

I knew that my gut would wince whenever I had a look at that, yet I could not help but switch on my phone and search for my name. Is this some kind of disease?

As expected, there’s quite an intense discussion on the internet, and there’s all kinds of insults directed towards me at an unprecedented speed.

And written there—

 

“But today’s match was rather interesting, right?”

 

These unexpected words caused me to stop scrolling midway through.

“Heart-pounding until the very end.” “Very interesting.” “They finally get to bath!” “Good work, both sides”

…I played poorer than usual.

But why were the comments more comforting than usual?

I didn’t know…what kind of shogi match would not embarrass a title holder, the Ryuuou. I couldn’t play the shogi even I couldn’t understand.

I decided to stop worrying over this, and play my own style of shogi, the good old harassing style. As long as I continue to win, I believe there’ll be someone who’ll acknowledge me, like today. Surely.

While I stopped, and thought about that.

“Master!”

Ai, who crossed the road before I did, turned around to call me.

 

“I want to hurry up and play that kind of shogi too!”

 

 

 

“…I guess.”

Seeing that pure angelic look of hers, I recalled a feeling I had forgotten for a long time.

The day dad taught me shogi.

The day Master gave me a guidance match.

The day I met anedeshi at Master’s house, and played until my nails cracked.

The day I had Master hold my hand and entered the Kansai Shogi Association

The day when anedeshi and I exclaimed “We don’t wanna go home!” because we wanted to continue playing shogi at the dojo.

The day I cheered because I was on a winning streak.

The day I cried because I was on a losing streak.

The day when anedeshi and I held hands as we returned home late at night because we forgot the time, playing too much shogi.

Such simple days of liking shogi showed up from Ai’s back.

If I could reignite such feelings again—

“…I guess taking in disciples isn’t a bad thing after all.”

Ai hopped around before me, turned her head around, and put her hand by her ear.

“Master, what did you say?”

“It’s nothing!”

I put my hands behind my neck, looking up at the sky that was gradually brightening.

I was about to reach my apartment.

Ever since I became a pro and moved out to live alone, whenever a match ended, I had a tendency of not wanting to return to that empty, cold apartment.

During my losing streak, I hoped that I could mix into the darkness of the night, just like that, and I feared the dawn, feared the next match. I once hid my shogi board in the cabinet, because I did not want to see it in my house.

But for some reason, I just wanted to hurry up and return home.

Once I get home, I would eat some stuff, take a bath, and sleep.

 

And continue playing shogi.

Thank you for reading Ryuuou No Oshigoto! Novel Volume 1 Chapter 3

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