It was a hut. The hut stood on a small hill where the forest opened up. It was small. It was a log cabin style building and looked like a smaller version of a shed. There were two people playing Go on a bench in front of the hut. One was an old man and the other was an awfully handsome man.
Yoshinaga-san fearlessly approached them and spoke to them.
“Hello, it’s been a while.”
“Oh, it’s you Ojou-san. It’s been a while,” the old man agreed.
“It’s been a while, Goddess of War,” said the handsome man. He tried to pat her hair, but she gracefully dodged and avoided his hand.
“You’re here too, Guillenor?”
“I just came here to play Go with Venerable Jonan.”
Venerable Jonan? I think I’ve heard Jonan from somewhere before, but I can’t remember where.
“By the way, Ojou-san, who’s the man standing behind you?”
“Oh, right. I’m sorry for not introducing you sooner. This is my new master. Come on, say hello.”
She was unreasonable, but I’ve had experience in working for a black company. I put a polite smile on my face at the speed of light and bowed at a perfect angle.
“It is nice to meet you. I am Evil God, Hirano. I am in charge of the Demon King Draco who rules over Alunaha. I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“Oh my, how polite. I am Jonan, the God who governs over this forest, and this is Guillenor, the God of Elves from the far west. We’re both old friends of Ojou-san.”
“I’m Guillenor, nice to meet ya.”
The old man named Jonan looked kind.
Oh yeah, isn’t this forest called the <Red Forest of Jonan>? So, he’s the God of this whole area? He might actually be a great God. His head of white hair, long white beard and all-white clothes made him look like a hermit. Though, he was probably someone who was like a hermit.
The handsome guy named Guillenor was clearly showing his hostility. Oh, scary, scary. He had blonde hair, blue eyes and long ears which looked like bamboo fish cake. He looked like an elf. At any rate, it was very scary when a handsome person got angry, but my mentality wasn’t so weak that I’ll be scared by this level of hostility.
“Why didn’t you come to me if you needed a master, <Goddess of War>?”
“What are you saying, Guillenor? If I work under you, then I’ll be pregnant by the end of the day.”
I see, so he has a crush on Yoshinaga-san.
He seemed annoyed that Yoshinaga-san had become an employee of a God whom he knew nothing about. I was a little pissed off. I don’t know how long you and Yoshinaga-san have been working together as Gods here, but I met her way before you did.
“Hirano-kun, you say? Do you want to make a deal?”
“That’s right. It won’t be a bad deal for you. I want you to give me the <Goddess of War> Yoshinaga.”
What the fuck is this dude saying? There’s a limit to how much you can look down on someone. Yoshinaga-san looked at Guillenor in astonishment.
If Yoshinaga-san doesn’t like someone then we must eliminate him at all costs. That was the rule of the Go and Shogi high school club at Jonan University’s Education Faculty.
“Of course, I’m not saying you’ll give her to me for free. 20 million. I’ll give you 20 million karma. Isn’t that a lot of money?”
“20 million? I won’t give ‘Saori’ to you for such a measly amount.”
I called her by her first name and gently hugged her. She’ll probably beat me up later for this, but I don’t care.
“I’ll refuse even if you offer 100 million karma. ‘Saori’ and I have been in a relationship since our previous lives.”
I put the stone down with a snap.
We were playing Go.
My opponent was Guillenor, a creepy God of Elves.
We decided to play a game of Go at the suggestion of Venerable Jonan who had intervened between us.
You could say we were playing Go for stakes.
If I lose, I will cancel my contract with Yoshinaga-san.
But if I win, then I can ask him one thing.
I have a feeling the conditions were in my favour, but Guillenor insisted that these conditions were fine. He seemed confident in his abilities at Go.
The deciding match will take place on a bench in front of Venerable Jonan’s hut.
“Do you know much about the <Goddess of War>?”
He immediately launched a battle outside of the board. I don’t like his good looks, but I do like his eagerness to win.
“Yes, I was indebted to her in my previous life.”
“You were? Does that mean you two were close?”
“Well, you can interpret it that way.”
Guillenor narrowed his eyes. It would be a shame if he was upset after having started a battle of words.
Of course, we weren’t close. I was just bluffing.
The pieces on the board continued to be placed down despite our battle of words. The way he played Go was standard, but I could see that he used Yoshinaga’s moves.
“Did Yoshinaga-san teach you how to play Go?”
“Yeah, a long time ago. The people who play Go in the Divine Realm are all disciples and grand-disciples of the <Goddess of War>.”
I see. I had a feeling that time flows differently here, and it looked like I was correct. Even Yoshinaga-san can’t mass produce Go enthusiasts in a place that had the same time flow as modern Japan. It was really interesting that all of them are Yoshinaga-san’s disciples.
“Ah, wait a minute.”
“No, I won’t wait.”
I knew it.
This guy is bad.
He was full of confidence, but now he was tilting in his head in thought and hmming to himself.
This was because his teacher was Yoshinaga-san.
Yoshinaga Saori-senpai, the most popular senior student at the high school attached to Jonan University.
But even though she was called the <Empress of the Cultural Clubs>, or something like that, she was bad at Go. Well, she was also bad at shogi, Othello and chess. She was also bad at writing and wasn’t a good illustrator. She was a bad actor and was tone-deaf, so she couldn’t play any instruments. She wasn’t good at tea ceremony, flower arrangement, calligraphy or anything in a similar field. She wasn’t interested in stars, photography, newspapers, the radio, or computers. I’m sure no one was more unsuitable for a cultural club than her.
But despite all this, she was called the <Empress of the Cultural Clubs> because she dominated all the cultural clubs with her overwhelming energy, determination, broad-mindedness, and communication skills.
I don’t believe I will lose if Yoshinaga-san taught him how to play Go.
I’ve only lost one game against Yoshinaga-san.
“… Hirobon, you’re still strong like an oni.”
The match was easily settled.
I won, of course. I could have lost, but I was confident that I would win.
My ‘entertainment Go skills’ have been refined through the unique unfamiliar entertainment world of black trading companies. I can’t win too much, and I can’t lose too much. My ability to read Go boards improved by continuing to play under such extreme conditions. I’ve been able to secure a lot of contracts thanks to this skill.
“So, Guillenor-san, what shall we do?”
“… Ah, it’s unfortunate, but it’s my loss. Just tell me what you want.”
Ah, dammit. I should have made him give me another favour for every time he took his piece back.
I thought as I tried to come up with a command, but I couldn’t think of one.
I could say something like, “Give me your karma,” but that’s a bit…
Honestly, I felt uncomfortable asking for any kind of favour when I won so easily.
“Ah, it’s alright. Can’t we just say that victory depends on the turn of luck? I don’t have anything in particular that I want.”
“That’s not how it works. You’re insulting the battle.”
Battle. I see, it was a battle. I didn’t pay much attention to it since we just ended up playing Go, but to this man, it was a man’s battle over a woman named Yoshinaga Saori. It was really pitiful for him to lose and have nothing to show for it.
“Yeah, just ask for anything.”
“Would you like to play Go with me from time to time?”
I feel at ease when I play Go, especially when I’m playing against a strong opponent.
Venerable Jonan sat on the other side of the board. He must have studied the game on his own. His moves were sometimes sharp and sometimes subtle. I felt bad for Guillenor, but the Venerable Jonan was a man of wits. They had both been taught how to play Go by Yoshinaga-san, but the level between them was completely different.
Go teacher. My Go teacher was my dad. He wasn’t a good dad, in fact, he was a bad one. He drank a lot, met with women, and gambled a lot. He hardly brought any money home.
I don’t remember studying in primary or intermediate. I didn’t have time to study. I delivered newspapers and slept at school to survive. I even asked the boss of my newspaper delivery part-time job to secretly split my wages into two payments because even my pay was taken by my dad to pay for alcohol. That’s why I’m dumb.
I’ve never seen my mum. I found evidence that she was alive when she gave birth to me, but I couldn’t find anything else on her after that. Maybe she ran away because she didn’t love my dad anymore, or maybe she ran away because she felt like she was in danger because he hit her, or maybe she died from a disease.
At any rate, I have no memories of being loved by my mum.
All I remember was my father’s violence, abuse and hatred.
But my father did teach me how to play Go.
Of course, he taught me so he could use me as a pawn in betting games. Apparently, kids who are good at Go can be used at the start to gain an advantage in various bets.
But that didn’t matter to me.
Because when it came to teaching Go, my dad wasn’t a ‘drunken, violent male’, but a ‘strict Go player’. I wanted him to compliment me, so I learnt Go and went wild at the commercial Go-playing parlour.
Now that I think about it, it was obvious that I couldn’t go to heaven.
Even as a child, I thought it was wrong to take money from the old people at the Go-playing parlour. It was a crime. Not wanting my dad to hate me also wasn’t a good defence.
Since then, I’ve been secretly saving some of my earnings to pay for historical strategy simulation games and historical novels.
“I won’t wait.”
Venerable Jonan is a strong player.
But he was only a little stronger than Yoshinaga-san.
I’m confident that I can control the board almost at will with an opponent at this level, but I went all out. It seemed like the right thing to do.
It was a miracle that I was able to slip into Jonan University’s Education Faculty’s attached high school.
I was able to pay for school from various income sources. I was already used to debt by then, so I wasn’t afraid of it.
My maternal grandfather was a great help to me before and after I entered school.
I rarely saw my dad at this time since he was often hospitalized.
Then, I met Yoshinaga-san.
“Did you say your name is Hirano-kun? You’re really strong.”
“It’s the only ability a talentless person like me has.”
After the game, I instructed Venerable Jonan on how to position his pieces through each stage of the game.
He was good at reasoning. Whenever I give him a little hint, Venerable Jonan asks questions about it one after the other. Maybe I should make a composed Go problem book for next time. I’m sure Yoshinaga-san doesn’t teach them about composed Go problems anyway.
“Now then, Ojou-san, you didn’t bring your Master here just to play Go did you?”
“Ah, nothing gets past you.”
“Of course not. Who do you think I am? I am Jonan, a Junior Third Rank and former councillor.”
What the fuck, he said some more divinity words that I don’t know. Junior Third Rank? Former councillor?
By any chance, does it have anything to do with the councillors in Japanese history?
“Ehehe, we’d like to get some advice from you, Jonan-sama.”
“You want some advice?”
“Yes, we were wondering what we should do to make Alunaha castle city flourish.”
Oh, so that’s why she took me here.
“Alunaha? That’s a difficult place to make prosperous,” Venerable Jonan said as he crossed his arms and pondered.
It wasn’t impossible, but I don’t think it has what it takes to flourish.
It’s at the corner of the Demon Realm and is surrounded by a jungle. There is a river nearby, but it wasn’t irrigated. They grow rice on dry land, so the soil is susceptible to damage. I’ve also heard that Alunaha doesn’t have good neighbours either, with mud slurpers to the south and lizardmen to the east. If we want to make Alunaha prosperous, then we’ll need to use some secret trick.
“Hmm, I have a suggestion or two.”
“As expected of a former councillor!”
“Fufu, I guess. Guillenor, sorry, but I need you to bring me that.”
Venerable Jonan said and Guillenor went to get something. Venerable Jonan beckoned Yoshinaga-san and I to gather around the Go board.
“First, this is Alunaha.”
A white stone was placed on the lower left corner of the board. It was really on the edge of the board.
“South of here is where the mud slurpers stay and east is inhabited by lizardmen.”
The stones he had beaten onto the board were black. The lizardmen have five towns?
“Let me be blunt, this place is dead, is it not?”
If there are this many black stones around the white stone, then the white stone won’t be able to breathe and would die.
If this was a game of Go, then the white stone would be taken as soon as possible.
“Now, what should you do to keep this white stone alive?”
If there was a way to replace the surrounding black stones with white ones, then it was possible to do that. But of course, there was no such rule in Go. The only way to overturn this situation in Go was to surround the black stones with white stones.
But I don’t think Draco has that kind of power right now. It would be hard for him to dispatch soldiers and occupy the city. Honestly, Alunaha was secured using a bizarre plan. A bizarre plan was so because it was rarely used. It wasn’t something you can keep using over and over again.
So, what should he do?
Just then, Guillenor came out carrying something.
“Oh, put it here.”
Guillenor the Elf had brought out a shogi board. Venerable Jonan placed the shogi board next to the Go board.
“So, this is what you will do.”
Yoshinaga-san was smiling mysteriously.
I see, so that’s how we do it.
“The Human Realm.”
There was more than one board.