“I dare say it’ll be impossible.”
The emperor’s Go instructor, an entity known as the Grandmaster of Go, said to Jinshi with a laugh.
“If you fail to beat me even once, you have no hope.” The elderly individual set down a white stone with a clink, his expression unreadable.
“Ngh.” Jinshi could only be at a loss for words.
He knew this. Jinshi seems to be a jack of all trades, master of none. He’s capable of doing most things, but performed only slightly better than others at the majority of them. In no way was he outstanding.
Even if he was known as a talent, he couldn’t be called a genius.
Even so, this was better than doing nothing.
“You read into established tactics, but when you encounter unfamiliar out-of-the-box moves that do not extend beyond the limits of the average person, you become too hasty.”
“…don’t mince words.”
“ Isn’t that what you wanted to hear?” The Grandmaster of Go munched on a steamed bun Suiren had prepared. The act did not match his outward elegance, but apparently, it’s common to eat sweets while playing Go. You tend to crave sweet foods when you think. Was that why a certain weirdo tactician eats nothing but sweet foods?
A couple of days after borrowing the Grandmaster of Go from the emperor, Jinshi was earnestly playing Go after work.
‘You have no talent.”
“Your moves are too simplistic.”
“Your playstyle is that of an honour student’s. Boring.”
He was scolded harshly.
Jinshi had told him to not show any mercy when they first met, but the grandmaster really didn’t go easy on him.
When Jinshi asked him whether he spoke to his other opponents in this manner, he replied, “A person who said he won’t punish me had chosen it.”
“Can you beat that weirdo at this rate?”
The way the grandmaster lit the fire under his feet was also good.
Jinshi, holding onto a black stone, set it down on the board while agonising over the correct answer.
The reason Jinshi had borrowed the Grandmaster of Go as his instructor was because he was the only one capable of beating the weirdo tactician, Rakan.
“Didn’t you just say that I can’t?” Jinshi asked.
“Yes, you cannot. The Prince of the Moon is too honest. Shall we say you’re honest to a fault?”
“So I’m looking for a way to win despite that.”
“You even have me as the teacher. But, it’s utterly impossible.” The Grandmaster of Go ate another steamed bun.
“Even if it’s a one in a hundred chance, make it so I can win,” Jinshi said.
“Even my chance of defeating Rakan-dono is cleaved by half when he is in peak form. Even when I’m at my peak.”
“….I don’t understand though.”
The Grandmaster of Go is stronger than Rakan, hence he was known as such.
“No, it’s not that you don’t understand. Does the Prince of the Moon think you can defeat a bear alone in unarmed combat?”
“That’s obviously impossible.”
“…I might be able to depending on the situation, but it’ll be difficult.”
“I think I can manage that somehow.”
It was something he was taught when he was hunting. Humans are weak for their size. They could only win using tools, and when barehanded, their chance of defeating a dog is uncertain.
“What do you think you’ll need to win?” The Grandmaster of Go set down a stone.
Jinshi groaned again at the action that saw through his moves. “If it’s to emerge unscathed, I was going to say a hand cannon, but I’ll probably miss. I would prefer a sword I’m familiar with. Otherwise, a dagger and an armguard.”
He can fight with a sword in narrow spaces, but doing so in wide and open settings will be more difficult. He would lead the opponent to a place where it can’t veer off, have it bite his armguard, then aim for the head.
“Unlike your appearance, you like underhanded methods.”
“…It’s not that I like them. I’m just not that talented with a sword.”
Basen can probably do better. That guy might be able to square off against a bear.
“Hm, then, it would be easy for me to teach you a secret trick,” The grandmaster said.
“No, it’s nothing major. I’m just teaching you about a condition that will make it easy to beat Rakan-dono.” The Grandmaster of Go grinned—unthinkable for the individual who usually walked with the mien of a cultured person. “It doesn’t break any rules. Since this, in the end, is a battle outside the legal board.”
“If you don’t use this move, you can never defeat Rakan-dono for as long as you live,” the Grandmaster of Go declared.
Even if he were to count the stones he picked up and positioned on the board, they were not as spread out as the white ones.
It was only a difference of two eyes. But it was a huge difference.
How great was his lead during the middle stage? Jinshi’s positions had been settled; he thought a reversal would be impossible.
Even though Jinshi didn’t mean to play so obviously terribly following that.
Currently, the individual who was munching on a baked pastry was filling in the differences with overwhelming speed.
Around them, stood Basen and a handful of guards.
Several days after the Go tournament, Jinshi was working in his office when the monocle tactician suddenly showed up and said, “Let’s continue.”
It would be a different matter if he was procrastinating from work, but it was lunch time.
A Go board along with stones were set up in a gazebo near the office. It was laid out with the formation of the interrupted game from the tournament a few days ago.
Although there were spectators watching from a distance, he had no reason to decline.
Since then, he had thought many times about how to take the lead and win.
He thought he wouldn’t lose with such a wide margin.
“…impossible.” Basen cried out in surprise.
Impossible—it was exactly that word.
Just what kind of mind does he have?
‘You can never defeat Rakan-dono for as long as you live.’
He recalled the Grandmaster of Go’s words.
Why had he compared his opponent to a beast rather than a human?
Jinshi felt a sense of regret. Bear, wolf, dog, it was none of those. Rakan himself probably didn’t know that he is a monster known as Rakan.
The man who was adjusting his monocle and gulping down fruit juice had a healthy complexion. His sleep deprivation was cured and he was no longer fatigued from playing consecutive games. Neither his drink nor pastries contained alcohol; he looked refreshed.
It was somewhat miserable feeling.
Even though Jinshi used so many underhanded methods. To think that he would lose in the end…
It was too unsightly, but Jinshi didn’t have the liberty to maintain his image.
If there were no spectators surrounding them, he would probably plant his face onto the board and groan.
It was a trifling display, but Jinshi had crafted an elegant appearance. He wanted people to admire the thickness of the skin he tempered from his time in the inner palace.
If he didn’t lift his face…
If he didn’t don the appearance of losing after learning the basics…
As he slowly raised his face, he saw a finger on the Go board.
“This move at the end of the game. If you launched an attack here, huh.”
It was Rakan’s voice.
“….” Jinshi looked up.
The weirdo, while stroking the stubble on his chin, was pointing as he explained.
“Place it here, like so. Then, white will have nowhere to move to—“
Although he was mumbling, he was clearly giving an explanation.
“Rakan-sama is giving a post-game review?”
It was Rakan’s aide, wearing a look of wonderment.
“A post-game review, he said.”
When everyone heard that, they started an uproar.
“Esteemed adoptive father never does post-game reviews,” Rahan said, appearing out of nowhere.
Did he rush over upon hearing the game was resumed? His breathing was a little unsteady.
“Could this mean he acknowledges the Prince of the Moon?”
He emphasised the acknowledges part of his sentence.
The spectators became rowdy.
“Why did I make a move here at this point in time? Muuu.” The weirdo tactician, while giving a post-game review, was holding a review meeting alone. Apparently, he was talking about the aforementioned failed move; the person himself doesn’t seem to understand why he made such a move.
Even though he was sleepy, fatigued and drunk, he remembered all the moves in order.
Jinshi could only laugh.
“…anyhow, I had fun.” The weirdo closed in on Jinshi. “I don’t know what your goal was, but the way you in which you did it was interesting.”
Leaving the Go board as is, he walked away while swinging his sake bottle.
Jinshi was left dumbfounded.
The crowd of onlookers scattered. Some people looked like they wanted to approach Jinshi, but Basen and other guards’ eyes flashed.
Only Rahan aloofly came to stand before Jinshi. Basen permitted Rahan’s presence with a look of shame. Jinshi hardly saw the two converse, but it seems their compatibility wasn’t great.
“I apologise that you weren’t able to achieve it. But esteemed adoptive father looks satisfied,” Rahan said.
“…satisfied, huh. At that shoddy strategy?”
Have I been taken for a fool? Jinshi’s lips twisted with irony.
“No, it doesn’t matter what method you used. If that person finds it amusing, then it is amusing,” Rahan said.
Jinshi didn’t understand.
However, Jinshi didn’t know if it was due to blood relation, or that they both possess a unique talent, but Rahan’s choice of words allowed Jinshi to understand something he couldn’t grasp before.
Suddenly, he decided to voice the question on his mind. ““Why do you think Rakan-dono held a Go tournament? Honestly, I feel he has the character to play Go whenever he likes, regardless of whether money is involved.”
“Yes, that’s true. If it was esteemed adoptive father alone, he’ll surely to do that,” Rahan said and took out a book from his breast pocket. It was the Go book that had become a part of the craze. “The Go games recorded here contain many settings from matches esteemed adoptive father and a certain woman played together. Even games from over twenty years ago, esteemed adoptive father still remembers them. Even though he has no recollection of who he encountered yesterday. To him, just this alone is something that cannot be replaced. More than likely, they are remnants of the past he can no longer be added to.”
“…ahhh.” Jinshi had an inkling who that certain woman was.
She was probably a courtesan of Rokushoukan, the woman who was Maomao’s mother.
“That person no longer exists. Father also understands that. However, he is probably using games of the past to see if someone who plays like her will appear.”
“…is he seeking the past?”
“No. If I had to say then, he might be searching for a connection to what comes next. No, would he think that far?” As if he got uneasy, Rahan scratched the back of his head. “…however, like today’s match, it would be better if he also did post game reviews for his other opponents. If they demand a refund for the teaching fee, I’ll be troubled.”
“Teaching as in?” If Jinshi remembered correctly, he heard that people can play Go with Rakan by paying a fee. As Rakan was in bad shape, it got postponed.
“These couple of days, teaching took precedence. Mannn, it was also hard to match the days and times. Up until just now, he was playing a game with a different opponent, but then he suddenly disappeared, and I find him here.”
He had thought Rahan was out of breath; apparently, that was the reason.
“I have a question too,” Rahan said,
“Was it the Grandmaster of Go who gave Jinshi-sama the suggestion.”
It wasn’t phrased as a question. Rahan probably deduced it as the Grandmaster was also at the match.
“I took some of his majesty’s time and had him instruct me,” Jinshi answered.
“I see, then I understand,” Rahan nodded. “When esteemed adoptive father plays a game with the Grandmaster of Go, he always complains that the grandmaster only prepares salty dim sum.”
Apparently, it was true that he had no intentions of fighting a bear barehanded.
“Then, it’s about time I excused myself, oh, before that.” Rahan gave a sweep of his surroundings. “Amongst the spectators just now, there are around two people who are part of the waiting-and-seeing faction. Their attitudes might change hereafter. And one more thing.”
Rahan’s mouth curled into a smile. “The baked pastries that were given out the other day, esteemed adoptive father seems to have taken a fancy to them. He said he wants to know the recipe. Ahh, and if possible, without the alcohol.”
After whispering such, the short man, who was yet another weirdo, left.
“It seems you were deep in discussion about various things, but how was it?” Basen asked, approaching Jinshi with a look of slight displeasure.
“What of it. We were chatting. Can you tell Suiren to put together a recipe for the baked pastries?” Jinshi asked.
“Y-yes. Understood, but.”
“Without alcohol. Okay?”
“Okay.” Basen tilted his head as he followed Jinshi.