It was a day in early winter, near the end of our first year. I turned up at the SOS Brigade Clubroom, only to witness a rare occurrence.
“Umm, this, silver general, right? My silver general has been captured, right……”
“Shall we make it such that Asahina-san’s silver generals will never die?”
“Is something like that alright?”
“Of course. If anyone has a complaint, I’ll hop onto a train right now, proceed to the Sendagaya Shogi Association Headquarters in Tokyo and organize a Liberalization Demonstration.”
He and Asahina Mikuru-san were having a game of Shogi.
In the warm room, which was in stark contrast with the cold air outside, the two of them were facing each other harmoniously. That scene was quite incomprehensible, and was accompanied by a severe sense of abnormality.
“Then, I’ll gratefully take the space in this area. If you’ll excuse me……”
“Ah, that’s a good move. Brilliant! Amazing! Even a hymn by the Vienna Boys’ Choir wouldn’t hold a candle to this. I can feel my soul being cleansed.”
Tap, tap. Asahina-san gingerly moved a piece on the board in an uncertain fashion. Once again, she was clad in her maid costume today, and seemed like an employee of a special café, serving a customer by playing a board game with them.
He watched over her actions with a self-satisfied expression on his face. There are apparently shogi players who sing a hymn to themselves during a match to collect themselves, but Asahina-san’s cute behavior had probably produced the same effect in his heart.
“Oh, it’s the two of you. What is this turn of events?”
As I approached, his countenance instantly acquired a negative vector. In a curt voice, he then spat out a greeting that had been mass-produced in a machine-run factory.
“It’s good to do this once in a while. If I only play against you, it would be even more unbalanced than a typical high school student and kindergartner sitting on opposite ends of a see-saw. Since I’m trying to kill time anyway, wouldn’t it be natural to want a serious match with an opponent who can make me feel some tension?”
“So you chose Asahina-san as your opponent?”
“Well, she’s a better opponent than you, in every meaning.”
He shrugged exaggeratedly, then took a glance at the end of the clubroom.
Over there, in that usual space, fused in that bit of space-time, was Nagato Yuki-san. She was silently sitting on a pipe chair while disinterestedly flipping through the pages of a bulky tome.
“……And she seems to be more enthusiastic in reading this book, compared to the one she was reading yesterday.”
I can’t tell the difference myself, but if he says so, then it must be true.
The look that he had while watching over Nagato-san was filled with a different nuance of kind, gentle feelings, compared to the one he had concentrated on Asahina-san earlier.
The attitude he has towards the three of us will never change. It’s just like a lamp in a thought experiment that changes its color systematically based on the electrical signal transmitted to it.
It is excessively easy to understand, and therefore, difficult to understand.
If a person displayed icons which indicated when they were fascinated, annoyed, or protective, their deeper thoughts would not be inquired into by others.
By recognizing these emotions and bringing them to the surface, he is probably using them as a breakwater against external forces. Seriously, what a frightening person.
But even so.
If there has been no change to his attitude of extreme self-effacement, then what exactly is the origin of that sense of abnormality?
I peeked at the Shogi board from the side of the two players.
“Indeed, I see.”
Sure enough, the abnormality was being manifested on the Shogi board.
“Don’t say unnecessary things with a face like you know it all, Koizumi. We’re having a great match.”
“Fuee, this is a great match?”
In contrast to the sharp glares from him, Asahina-san’s hands were drifting softly in the air, like two butterflies dancing above a flower bed in Spring.
“I don’t really know which piece I should move and where I should move it, though……”
“To be frank, I think we’re having quite a heated match, Asahina-san. You have more aptitude for this than that effeminate fop gazing at us over there.”
“Really? I’m glad…… but I shouldn’t say that.”
Asahina-san tapped her fist on her forehead with a clunk, then quickly lowered her head. If a judge saw that behavior, they would immediately pass down a non-guilty verdict, no matter how austere they might be, and on top of that, they would doubtlessly root for this innocent angel for her whole life…… which is what he would say. I hardly need to comment that his sense of language is quite hard to follow at times.
Exactly as he had mentioned, the pieces on the board were in an abstruse condition.
It was in the endgame, where both kings were exposed, away from their enclosure of subordinate pieces. It was difficult to come up with a checkmate play for either side at first glance, and even upon further consideration, tough for either side to be threatened by brinkmate1. Both sides were even in terms of captured pieces2, down to each lowly pawn. It was a chessboard which had achieved an immense scale of balance.
So, where was the abnormality?
Everywhere, of course.
“If I only play against you, it would be even more unbalanced than a typical high school student and kindergartner sitting on opposite ends of a see-saw.”
That was what he had said.
The issue of whether it is alright to regard the high school student as a typical one leaves some room for objection, but I do agree that it is unbalanced.
I’ve suffered defeat in the entirety of those games. In Go, a chain that should have definitely survived was mercilessly captured from the inside by Hourikomi5. Even in Monopoly, a completely different type of game, all cities were bought over by him, causing me to go bankrupt.
From his perspective, I’m probably being scorned as a person with as much ability as a kindergartner, but unfortunately, there is nothing I can do about that.
Let us look at the subjectively typical high school student on the see-saw, for instance.
If that student is actually a professional soldier clad in an armor of tenacious intellectual muscle, such that their figurative weight is in the hundreds, would the objective truth change?
Let us talk about something that happened a few months ago.
During the time near Tanabata, when the bamboo leaves were dancing, he went out of his way to request for a game of chess.
He didn’t know the rules, and had never played a game before – that was what he pledged, upon which I accepted his challenge.
Humans have been playing second fiddle to computers in the intellectual game of chess since the distant end of the last century. In other words, chess can be classified as a systematic game to that extent.
By properly following the precedent of a human of considerable prowess, one should have an unthinkable advantage over a new player. That was my prospect of the game.
The result is as you would expect.
I suffered an instant, bitter defeat that I had hitherto never experienced before.
He should have known about starting off by moving pawns, but what he came up with was a completely new strategy not documented in any chess strategy book on this world.
I remember Nagato-san peering at the chessboard with passion.
That humanoid interface from the Data Integration Thought Entity showed a distinct interest in a game that has only been analyzed halfway, even considering our level of civilization. That goes to show just how singular the things he perpetrates are, and I truly understand that fact.
Now, he was playing a perfectly even game with Asahina-san, a beginner at Shogi.
What do you call that, if not an abnormality?
“Fuee, Koizumi-kun, please tell me what I should do next……”
“Let’s see, the board is in such an unintelligible state that I also find it difficult to figure out the best course of action…… Well, I can affirm that it is quite the interesting situation.”
“I told you not to say unnecessary things, Koizumi.”
I could sense a sharp gaze, like a shrill alarm with a multiplex of determination, piercing through my chest.
Taking a leaf out of his book, I nonchalantly shrugged. At that point, a voice rang out.
“Great! Everyone’s gathered here again today…… Hey, what are you all doing?”
The final piece of this room, our brigade chief appeared, an overflowing smile and an abrupt, coldly suspicious look displaying on her face in succession.
It goes without saying that Asahina-san jumped up in surprise, with her shoulders quivering.
- In which a checkmate is unavoidably caused by the defending player’s move (Similar to a Zugzwang in International Chess).
- In Shogi, captured pieces are retained in hand and can be brought back to play under the capturing player’s control.
- Five in a Row played with Go pieces on a Go board.
- Another name for Chinese Checkers. Wikipedia says that it’s a variant, but I don’t think there’s actually any difference between the two.
- Hourikomi is a move where intentionally giving a stone can lead to capturing a large group of stones. I couldn’t find an English equivalent for this.