Contrary to its seemingly German name, the Malkund was a very Japanese-style building.
According to Yoshinaga-san’s explanation, all of the Malkund buildings in various parts of the divine world are built in an odd manner. She said that an odd aura was important for this building.
It was a gambling den.
It was said that the <God of Gambling> Von Malkund organised the gambling in the divine world and consolidated them in the form of the Malkund stores. It was the quickest way to exchange karma and many gods have become addicted to gambling. Is this world alright?
“I guess our goal today is to make money for the war effort.”
“War effort, huh?”
She made it sound so easy, but that doesn’t mean I’m not confident. The game that I’m playing at East main street’s 112th Malkund store is ‘betting Go’.
In other words, it is what I’m best ‘at’.
I didn’t tell Yoshinaga-san that I was making money from Go, so she must have chosen this method because I’m good at playing it. I have to live up to her expectations, but I couldn’t.
“What is your opinion on getting karma from gambling, Yoshinaga-san?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean from a God’s ethical point of view. The karma they use is a result of the faith they have, right?”
“Oh, those who use up the results of their faith? Don’t worry about them and just take everything. Plus, the gods who gamble here are delinquents who leave their actual job to a substitute. They’re delinquents. More importantly…”
“I’m surprised that Master isn’t thinking about losing. How reliable.”
“No, no, my heart is racing. I don’t have much karma.”
“Do your best. If you make about 10 million here, then it’ll make your entry into the human world easier.”
I hope I’m not too rusty.
There was a stream flowing through the gate which was crossed with stepping stones; around me was a bamboo grove.
It seemed like whoever designed this place was trying to twist Japanese culture.
The strong footman standing at the shoe-removal area seemed to be influenced by old yakuza movies, but since the footman was pale, he must be a god who couldn’t pay the karma he had lost here. It’s interesting that it was easy to guess this.
There were several rooms in the long, long corridor.
Walking down the corridor, which was created with nightingale flooring, I could see a series of name plates that read ‘Japanese Mah-jong’, Oicho-kabu, and Cee-lo. Mah-jong was deliberately referred to as ‘Japanese’ because of the theme of this store.
Now let’s move to the tatami room. The room was about 100 tatami mats182.4m2 . There were many gods, who had too much free time, sitting around.
All these people were here just to play Go. I heard there was another room for shogi.
I looked around in my amateurish outfit and called out to an old man who was sitting closest to the entrance. His face was square.
“May I play a game with you?”
“Sure, Nii-chan, do you have the balls?”
He glanced at me and started preparing the board. He had taken the bait.
“How about we bet 3,000?”
“You’re broke. Well, let’s see how you do.”
Now comes the part where I show my skills.
The square-faced old man is the ‘floater’ in fishing.
He was testing to see if I would bite. People with medium or high-level skills are always defeated by amateurs.
If these people are conspiring together then they would use this method.
The amateurs struggle but somehow manage to win. It was a trap to lure the amateur in.
Of course, I’ll take advantage of this. There was no point in losing here.
“Oh, Nii-chan, you’re pretty good.”
“No, it was just a fluke. I won with luck.”
I accepted the wrinkled 3000 karma bills and bowed slightly.
I proceeded to the back of the room in search of my next opponent. I deliberately stepped on the threshold.
I remembered that there was someone who frowned at me when he saw me do that. Stepping on the threshold is prohibited. People who gamble are oddly superstitious. The guy who looked at me just now may have been a gambler in his previous life or he may be from Japan.
Such a dangerous bridge must be avoided.
Next, I spotted a skinny guy who was clearly looking at me.
He is skilled.
An amateur probably loses once here and by a small margin.
They become frustrated and try to win again. In the next round, the amateur wins by a small margin. Now they’re hooked. They fall into an illusion and believe themselves to be skilled. The next thing they know, their wallet is empty.
But there was no need to draw attention to myself.
As the plot goes, I lose by two and a half points, then played again and won by six and a half points.
I see, how skilful.
They didn’t play like this just from Yoshinaga-san’s teachings. There must have been several people who had played Go in their previous lives, and they must have studied the game. I can see the way they plan their moves.
“Nii-chan, you’re good.”
“Haha, am I? I might do surprisingly well.”
We exchanged karma notes while I was responding to the ear-splitting wheedling voice of the skinny man. I had just won 3,000 karma, so my war chest had 6,000 karma. I borrowed 100,000 karma from Venerable Jonan so I can show off, so I have 106,000 karma on hand.
It starts from now.
My first target was an overbearing old man.
He was making eye contact with the skinny guy who I was playing against, so I’m sure they’re associates.
“One game, please.”
“Oh, scary. Young man, you’ve been barely winning since a while ago. How much?”
“5,000, is it? I can bet 6,000 or even 7,000 if you want?”
Amateurs who win games will be enticed by this.
I checked my wallet two times and nodded.
The old man tilted his head in confusion.
I won by a slight margin. It was difficult to make it look like a fluke.
He would be wary if he had been playing with an expert, but he overlooked this since he was playing against an amateur. I played moves that were all over the place. He was winning until mid-game, then the game became a close match towards the end when an exquisite stone I had played in the early game came into play.
“My, Nii-chan, you’re really good.”
“I’m not. It was a fluke. I won by chance.”
“I’ll be troubled if you fluked that well. How about it Nii-chan, would you like to place another match for 10,000?”
We had spectators. We thought long before each move. The old man had apparently come to his senses. He immediately threw away his act and played seriously, but I was going to continue to pretend that I was a beginner for a while longer.”
“Nii-chan, what kind of move are you playing?”
“I’m just a beginner at Go.”
“I’m telling you that’s not a move a beginner would make.”
“Then that’s not a beginner move, but I am a beginner.”
I screwed up. This is going to be an all-out game. I can’t use the trick of repeatedly winning and losing to raise the stakes. But this kind of cheap trick is where my true worth lies.
“How much do you want to bet, Brat?”
“How about 50,000?”
“That’s a big number. Don’t cry when you lose.”
“What? You can’t back out now.”
“Double the amount if one of us wins by the opponent’s resignationA Go move.”
The spectators started whispering among themselves.
Winning by an opponent’s resignation is a “called game”. It means that the game is decided while it’s still on instead of when it ends. In other words, it was a challenge.
“You’re making a fool of me.”
“Do you accept or not?”
“Of course, I’m going to accept, you fucking brat!”
He took the bait.
“How was it, Master?”
I met up with Yoshinaga-san who was waiting for me at a sweet shop near Malkund.
The owner of this place was also Yoshinaga-san’s Go buddy, so apparently our order was free.
“I won. Ah, Can I have another anmitsu here.”
“I know you won. I hope you made at least 1,000,000 karma.”
Her wonderful trust almost brought tears to my eyes.
No matter how good one is, a game is a game; it was all up to chance. Sometimes you trip up and sometimes your condition isn’t good. It is important to maintain your concentration especially when you play continuously, like I had just done. But I must confess, I’m happy that she trusts me this much.
“Well, how should I put this… we can’t use this method anymore.”
I put a wrapping cloth on the table. It was really heavy.
“… Hirabon, is this…?”
“Yes. There’s 7,800,005,400 karma there.”
Yoshinaga-san looked conflicted.
I will never be able to step over the threshold of Malkund again. I might have done something regrettable. I thought as I watched the anmitsu being brought to me.
The mercenaries began to gather.
The place in front of the walls of Pazan Castle City became a gathering place for strong men in armour.
Goblins, kobolds, and orcs. There were also centaurs there, which was rare. The mercenaries who were smoldering nearby have gathered. Their heat could be felt even over the castle walls.
Ri Gudang didn’t care about money in this recruitment.
It was someone else’s money. He had declared that he would pay them handsomely and his notice travelled far. He had to gather numbers since he was dealing with the <Dethroned Crown Prince>.
The <Succubus Princess> Palmyra didn’t intend to lend him her reserve army.
She was probably weighing her opinions between Ri Gudang and Draco. Shapeshifters are hated because they use such dirty tricks.
Still, he was happy that she was opening her ‘poison storage’.
He couldn’t offend the mud-slurpers by releasing weak poisons. So, he had nothing to worry about if he used poison from Palmyra’s ‘poison storage’. He had been shown it once and she had a tremendous number of poisons.
Ri Gudang didn’t know why she was so obsessed with poison.
According to one theory, she had begun to accumulate an endless supply of poisons while researching them for use in the battles over the throne. He also heard that Palmyra’s beautiful garden had originally been used to cultivate poisonous flowers.
But that wasn’t important right now.
He had poison now. That was what was important. It didn’t matter if it wasn’t poison. If the mud-slurpers are weak against oil, then it didn’t matter if he poured poison in the river instead. Ri Gudang wasn’t powerful enough to be concerned about the method he used. He had to use what is available at the time as a weapon.
In this sense, the mercenaries who were gathered here were fine weapons.
Especially the centaurs. Cavalry greatly expanded the tactics he could use.
Speed, in other words, is power.
They can be used to flank the enemy or as scouts. If they’re used skillfully, the range of tactics he could use would double or even triple.
The best thing was that Draco had no cavalry.
Draco might be skilled with using cavalry, but people in the <Red Forest of Jonan> didn’t use horses in warfare. There were a large number of farm horses here, but they couldn’t be used in warfare. They could only be used as packhorses.
“Ri Gudang-sama, you were here?”
“Ah, sorry, Cartier. I was watching the soldiers.”
Cartier was a young harpy woman who he hired in Pazan.
She was a harpy with rare green feathers, and she said she had studied tactics, though Gudang didn’t know if this was true or not.
She was hired as his secretary and second-in-command, but he wasn’t sure if she was up to the task.
“How is the review going?”
“It’s hard to say that it went smoothly. The inspectors who we borrowed from Palmyra are bad.”
“I thought so.”
Interviews were conducted when hiring mercenaries.
A mere peasant couldn’t become a mercenary since combat power was bought as a commodity. They were basically troops since they are equipped with weapons and armour. The minimum number of mercenaries hired for a platoon was at least 20 men.
The inspectors were recording the wrong number of people.
A unit of 20 men is registered as 22, and the inspector pockets the advance payment for the extra two heads. They also take bribes from the mercenaries. Inspectors are a great source of extra income for military officers.
“I’m borrowing her money, so it’s out of my control. I don’t mind a little dishonesty as long as the unit can maintain their strength.”
“I thought you might say that. I paid the inspectors an appropriate amount of money in advance. I haven’t found the reviewers adding extra people to units.”
With that, Cartier pulled out a ledger made out of vellum paper.
The number of mercenaries registered, the amount paid for them, their actual numbers, and the difference. The amount of food required for the march was also roughly calculated in this ledger as well as small horse loads that would carry the supplies and the amount of food they ate.
I see, she’s somewhat resourceful. I don’t know how she will do as my second-in-command, but she’s a good secretary.
“Well done. But we don’t have enough small horse loads for this march.”
“I thought so. I’ll recalculate the numbers.”
“No, you didn’t miscalculate. I have other things I want to bring.”
Cartier thought frantically.
There aren’t many crazy people who would hire a harpy drifter. She was trying not to make him unhappy, so that he wouldn’t fire her.
“Do you understand?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Well, that’s understandable. No one would expect me to carry something like that in the <Red Forest of Jonan>.”
“In the Red Forest… ah.”
“Do you know what I’m talking about?”
Cartier was already running away as soon as she answered.
Or rather, she flew away. She is a bird person, after all.
“I will procure buckets to carry water, horses and their fodder!”
Ri Gudang nodded in satisfaction at her answer.
This wasn’t an ordinary battle. Even Draco wouldn’t prepare water.
A smile broke out on his face.
First, Aalunaha. Then, Pazan. He could level the frontier and take control of the south. The <Northern Overlord> is an old man.
“It’s going to be fun.”
He gazed out of the castle. The lines of gathering mercenaries was still to come to an end.