I want to go back.
Maomao thought as she mixed honey and salt into the water.
The location was the same as yesterday’s: the plaza where the Go tournament is held. Maomao was at the edge of the theatre, earnestly making drinks.
Even though she was meant to work yesterday and take the day off today. Even though she planned on lazing around the lodgings while reading a book she borrowed off Court Physician Ryuu.
She was back here again.
Yao and En’en are currently keeping her company after being sent by Court Physician Ryuu, just like Maomao was yesterday. En’en liked Go, so she found the work enjoyable.
Maomao was grateful for their presence, but Dad had said to her, “You stay here,” so she was stuck at the theatre by herself.
The reason for that goes without saying.
She didn’t want to think about what happened when she was brought here yesterday.
Let’s just say, as usual, that old man raised a ruckus, that old man yelled, and Dad had to pacify him.
A great number of Go boards were set up inside the large theatre. Purportedly, contestants will first compete outside for several matches, and those with consecutive wins will move onto the stage.
Only a handful of people made it that far yesterday, so they played against the weirdo tactician one by one.
The number of victors had increased today, so the weirdo is currently playing against three people simultaneously.
Wouldn’t he get confused, she thought. But that aspect of him, though rotten, was just like the weirdo. He struggles with everyday tasks, but sure enough, every challenger was leaving the Go board with bowed heads, one after another.
Occasionally, he would look in her direction and wave, but Maomao ignored him.
“Maomao, you’re all done?” Yao came over with a kettle.
“Yes. I want some citrus since they’re running out.” Maomao carefully poured the honey infused drinks she’d just made into the kettle.
“Understood,” Yao said.
“Shall we switch?” Maomao was the only one inside. She felt bad that Yao and En’en were running around outside.
“Ahh, it’s okay. No problem.” Yao pushed out her bountiful chest as if to say don’t worry, you can leave it to us.
“Leaving that aside, do we have enough snack refill?”
Whilst keeping a lookout for participants who may have collapsed, they also handed out snacks. Apparently, it was already included in the entry fee.
“We might run out soon.” Maomao snuck a glance at the weirdo tactician. There was a mountain of mooncakes and steamed buns next to that guy.
He liked to eat sweet things when using his brain to play board games, it would seem.
Supposedly, that was the reason behind the distribution of snacks, but it was probably Rahan’s idea. The steamed buns and mooncakes were filled with sweet potato.
The use of sweet potato was probably intended to encourage its uptake given it has yet to appear on the market.
Its innate sweetness should lower production costs associated with added sugar.
By the way, the snacks were also available on food carts for non-participants to enjoy. How cunning.
“What’s it like outside?” Maomao asked.
“Nothing much? Just fights between people who keep losing and children falling over in the crowds and getting hurt.”
“It ends with minor injuries. Since military officials are loitering around and skipping out to be here, they’re resolved quickly. In this case, are they considered to be working, or not working?” Yao picked up the filled kettle with a look of surprise. “Then I’ll add sweeteners and citrus.”
“Yes, I’ll leave it to you.” Maomao saw Yao off.
“Sis, I won.”
Maomao was being called, so she went to receive the new participant at the entrance of the theatre.
(Employ someone else to be the receptionist at least.)
Rahan allocated tasks to his liking before disappearing off somewhere.
The old man at the entrance passed her the tags bearing the names of opponents he defeated.
You receive the opponent’s tag upon winning. Once you’ve collected three tags, you are told to move to the main venue.
However, there are different types of wins. Some participants choose to reach their three wins by only competing against weak opponents. When she asked him if it was allowed, Rahan said only “As long as the entry fee is paid, there’s no problem.”
(Either way, the weak ones are beaten black and blue.)
When you lose once, you must once again return to the plaza.
Maomao passed him a new tag, a drink and a mooncake.
“The people on the right are waiting to compete. Please play against them at once.”
You cannot pick your opponent. The old man made a look of distaste but reluctantly moved to sit on the right.
If he had voiced any words of dissent, she’d have him leave immediately.
To make sure he doesn’t try to pull anything, a number of the weirdo’s subordinates were on standby alongside Dad.
“Excuse me, may I have a refill of mooncakes?” A timid looking man said to Maomao.
Not a participant. It was the man who recently became the substitute for the weirdo’s subordinate, Rikuson. A man of average build, he didn’t seem like a military official.
Rikuson is a gentle man with a self-assured personality, but this one had the air of a pushover.
“Understood,” Maomao said.
Did he eat it all already? With a look of surprise, she handed over the small amount of steamed buns left over laboriously. “Here you go.”
“N-no, um….” The subordinate looked like he had something difficult to say. “…can you bring it over to Rakan-sama?”
“I-I’m sorry. You seem busy so I’ll do it myself.”
As soon as he saw Maomao’s face, he retreated. Good. He understands.
She heard a sad voice.
It was Dad.
“Don’t make such a face,” he said.
“Such a face, you say.” Maomao relaxed her face. It seems her temple was throbbing and her lips were terribly twisted.
“I’m sorry.” Apologising to the subordinate, Dad looked towards the old man concerned. “Has Rakan been feeling unwell lately?”
“You can tell?” The subordinate looked at Dad.
“Rakan-sama seemed to be looking forward to today’s tournament, that he, so, so unusually, to the point that it was truly unbelievable, yes, very, worked extremely hard.”
How much does he work normally?
“Normally he would come to work at noon and leave right before the sun sets, but he was in the office like other people, and moreover, didn’t take any naps.”
“That child is working hard, considering. Normally he would sleep half the day away.”
So he finally turned into an average person.
Dad stared at the weirdo tactician.
Maomao wasn’t entirely sure herself, but apparently that thing gets tired too.
It was hard to tell since he was extremely lively when playing Go.
“He’ll probably start work from tomorrow onwards, but my apologies, can you allow him some time to sleep? If he doesn’t get enough sleep, his judgement ability will plummet all at once.”
“What judgement. Seems to me he’s rampaging on the regular,” Maomao murmured, and Dad lowered his brows a little desolately.
Dad is somewhat soft on the weirdo.
“Maomao, I’m going to walk around outside.”
“Understood. Call me if anything comes up.”
He could probably just leave the apprehending to a nearby military official.
Rahan’s intention in calling Maomao and Dad over was to use them to buffer the weirdo tactician’s antics. He was behaving himself right now, and it was more important for Dad to check for any unwell people outside.
“There are a lot of people, so be careful,” she said.
“I’ll be fine.”
So he said, but Dad had a disabled leg and was walking with a cane. While worrying over him being pushed around by the crowd and falling over, she picked up a mooncake.
“They should have prepared rice crackers as well.”
It was delicious, but she wanted something salty—as she entertained such whimsical thoughts, she decided to make more honey infused drinks.