Starting from the conclusion, Suzumiya-san held quite some interest in Shogi itself, rather than the fact that the two of them were playing a game.
“Whose turn is it? Is it Mikuru-chan’s turn? Hmm…… Ah, so that’s why you were so troubled. You could use a captured piece and go for a check on the next turn, or get your dragon1 to retreat near your own pieces and go on the defence, and the option you choose is directly linked to victory or defeat. This move will have a score2 of -200, I think.”
With just one glance at the board, she presented an analysis of the situation with frighteningly pinpoint accuracy.
His mouth was wide agape.
“Haruhi, you know how to play Shogi?”
He was so shocked that he forgot to warn her from providing advice.
Now, this is only my personal viewpoint.
Out of the games similar to Chaturanga3, which was propagated in ancient India, the opening phase of Shogi tends to quite a simple. This is naturally true compared to international chess, which has a strongest piece, the queen, and also true compared to China’s Xiangqi and Thailand’s Makruk. This could be because of multiple pieces like the pawn, knight and lance which cannot move backwards, so players cannot lightly advance them.
I have an unbearable preference to that kind of tension, but unfortunately, “simple” is an entry that would be eradicated with black paint, if Suzumiya-san had her way with the dictionary.
“……I see. I’ve also had a considerably different impression.”
She had never spoken a word while we were playing in the clubroom. Thus, I arbitrarily assumed that Suzumiya-san did not possess any experience regarding the game of Shogi.
“I’ve played a little. Isn’t it natural for a civilized person?”
“I’m not sure how that is natural, but if you say so, that it might be true.”
“But I don’t like it.”
“What do you not like about it?”
“Lots of things. Look, there’s this strategy called the ‘Tempo Loss Bishop Exchange’4, right? By purposely starting the bishop exchange, you’re losing pieces and tampering with your own position, just to have it in hand. It’s like both players are saying, ‘Come attack me!’ and ‘No, you attack me!’ When I learned that such strategies were rampant in Shogi, I stopped treating it seriously.”
“That’s a novel way of saying farewell to Shogi.”
“In any case, the nature of the starting formation is messed up. The king is supposed to be the strongest, but he’s hiding in the innermost part of the formation. If I were the king, I would be standing on the frontlines so that I can deal the finishing blow to the enemy king.”
Suzumiya-san stared at the king in indignation.
I see, it’s just like her to come up with that line of thought. When she plays Shogi, she would undoubtedly make such spectacular moves. It is quite a shame that I never got the chance to witness her performance in a game of Shogi.
“Umm, then, if, Suzumiya-san could take my place……”
Shrugging, Asahina-san erased her presence and expressed her interest in becoming an objet d’art on the wall. However, Suzumiya-san tightly grabbed her by the nape of her neck.
“Hieeee…… W-What are you doing?”
“Sure. It’s a good thing to have a game of Shogi once in a while. But Mikuru-chan, you’ll have to take off your clothes if you lose. That’s the rule!”
“I-I-I-I-I’ll be playing against Suzumiya-sannnn……”
To save Asahina-san, who was already on the verge of tears, he nimbly waved his hands.
“Wait, what will you achieve by bullying a beginner? This kind of game is only fun when playing against an opponent with similar skill level.”
“Then I won’t be able to play with anyone, right?”
Suzumiya-san naturally thought of herself to be the one with highest aptitude, and that was probably the case in reality. Asahina-san and I couldn’t even compete, while he and Nagato-san definitely wouldn’t be able to win.
“So, Kyon and Mikuru-chan were happily playing a game that I cannot play? Hmm? Hmmm?”
Suzumiya-san’s mouth was pointed, like that of a wild duck whose reservoir had been snatched away. It was a completely honest display of her emotions.
“No, that’s not it, that’s not it, but……”
He looked at me for a brief moment as he answered, with a gaze that was filled with an awfully complicated feeling and message. While I was pondering on the significance of that look, he finished his sentence.
“……We could play ‘Pair Shogi’.”
He gave that suggestion in an apparently reluctant tone.
What is Pair Shogi?
It is a way of playing Shogi where two people form a team, and face off against another two-person team.
If Team A is black5 and Team B is white, then the order goes like this: First player of Team A → First player of Team B → Second player of Team A → Second player of Team B → First player of Team A, and so on, such that the four players take turns to play the game.
Furthermore, consultation is not allowed during the match. No matter how one manages to discern their teammate’s intentions from the board, or sow discord within the enemy team, beautiful teamwork is the key point to victory. This is a truly a contest befitting of our country which cherishes the harmony among people.
That was a summarized version of his explanation of Pair Shogi.
“Even if the four people have vastly different levels of skill, if we form the teams well, we can have a pretty good match of Pair Shogi. The interesting thing about this game is that you might be at the mercy of your supposed ally, rather than your opponents.”
“……I’ll be at the mercy of someone else?”
I instantly perceived her dissatisfaction from the undesirable distortions on her face.
“Basically, if you can overcome the weak point and win, it would make a stronger appeal about your strength, don’t you think?”
“Hmm…… I don’t really get it, but I’ll be having a handicap like in a three-legged race, right? That’s a pretty interesting idea coming from you, Kyon. Great job!”
“Yeah, yeah, you’re welcome.”
After having expertly manipulated the direction of Suzumiya-san’s thoughts, he shrugged.
The previous Shogi match was put on hold, and four of us surrounded the board, which had been reverted to the starting position.
“……Nagato, you’re not playing, right?”
He asked for confirmation, upon which the reading doll at the edge of the wall responded by moving her head by a slight angle. It seemed that the diagnosis that she was busy reading was correct.
“Then let’s get on with forming teams! I’m the strongest here, so—”
After Suzumiya-san announced as if it were obvious, the rest of her words were abruptly cut off. She briefly scowled at all of us, then wrinkled her eyebrows.
It seemed that she had just noticed.
Noticed the biggest flaw of the game of Pair Shogi.
“Umm? Suzumiya-san is the strongest, while Kyon and I are about the same, right?”
Asahina-san counted on her fingers in a carefree voice.
From a subjective perspective, that was exactly the case. From that previous game of Shogi, he and Asahina-san would be regarded as being on par with each other in terms of skill. Also, it was known that I am unable to compete with him.
In other words, since Suzumiya-san claimed that she was the strongest, and Pair Shogi had the special characteristic of the strongest forming a pair with the weakest, she could only pair up with me.
In essence, she had no choice but to watch Asahina-san and he form a pair, before her very eyes.
To Suzumiya-san, it had become a completely inexcusable fight. Like a wild duck who found out that the reservoir returned to it was filled with poison, her already sharply pursed lips were quivering.
Also at a loss for words, he looked at me again.
I see. The message contained in his look earlier must have been like this.
I want to form a pair with Suzumiya-san, but I can’t find a reason or motive for me to say it. Please help me think of a plan— Good grief, that’s the technique he always uses.
But before I could open my mouth,
“……Hey, before strength, there’s something more important, right?”
Suzumiya-san said with a smile on her face.
“In the end, Pair Shogi is a game to determine just how well you can understand each other, right? If so, it’s natural to have a boys team and a girls team. Yes. That’s how it’ll be!”
After announcing the point of compromise, she nodded a few times while saying “Yup, yup” as if to convince herself. Her smile seemed stiffer than usual, but that was probably not just because of me being in the way.
“Mikuru-chan, get over here!”
“Ah, yes, I’ll do my best……?”
Asahina-san tilted her head and stared on in puzzlement as the sleeves of her maid uniform were pulled by Suzumiya-san. She was probably unaware of how much of a fierce duel had transpired during that short period of time.
Suzumiya-san might have folded first this time, but they were always playing a weird game of tug-of-war.
She wanted to pair up with him, but could not express that feeling honestly.
On the other hand, he believes that only he can look after Suzumiya-san, but will never admit it.
Both of them want to be each other’s partners, yet they do not voice out their desires, and instead wait for each other to break the ice first.
In the end, it often turns out in a half-hearted compromise, like today.
“Whatever. Koizumi, as unwilling as I am, it seems that I have no choice but to form a group with you.”
“I see. I look forward to the day when you can willingly state your true desires.”
“What are you smirking at? Did I say something strange?”
“Nope, not at all.”
“……Is that so.”
He looked to the side sullenly.
A smirk. That is how he always appraises my face. But can you blame me if I can’t help but smile upon seeing a high school student of my age act unconsciously or defencelessly, and end up with a mess of such emotions?
Come to think of it, during that occasion when we dined at the mansion on that solitary island, I wanted to take a video to record his drunken6, disgraceful behavior, as well as Suzumiya-san’s frank consternation.
Regarding their flirting at that time, dogs would not eat it, horses would kick it, and cats would sooner regurgitate salt7.
Since then, their relationship seems to have progressed, but in fact has not progressed at all. They are a tantalizingly charming couple who are unable to be honest with each other.
Of course, that is nothing but my subjective view, so they would have other words to describe their relationship.
The scene of stars that can be seen from this universe is quite a breath-taking one.
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- A promoted rook.
- A score an artificial intelligence would give to determine how good a particular move is.
- An ancient Indian strategy game commonly theorized to be the ancestor of chess, Shogi, Xiangqi and other such games.
- This means the White player trading bishops very early in the game, before Black’s bishop gets to move up, so that both players have one bishop in hand.
- In Shogi, black moves first and white moves second.
- In the original novel, the SOS Brigade drank wine, but that did not happen in the anime. Kyon became unconscious and had to be carried back to his room by Koizumi.
- Here I translated literally, since they mean the same thing, that it’s avoided and disliked by everybody. However, even after some research, I have no idea why cats regurgitating salt is a thing.