Saki Fantasy Mahjong
In a world where mahjong is more akin to a system of magic than a game. Where the unrelated effects in the anime world is reality... how will our beloved characters fair? A retelling of the Saki story with a fantasy twist.
Prologue - Fateful Meeting
Chapter I - The Mahjong club
Chapter II - Erroneous Beginnings
Chapter III - Misunderstood Skirmish
Chapter IV- Plus Minus Zero
001 - A Battle's Aftermath (A Moment in the Miyanaga Siblings Past Vol. VIII)
Just some legend of the Saki world snippet here.
In ancient times, a mysterious energy flowed through the world uncontrolled and unrestricted. This energy was the key that gave birth to several impossibilities. Concepts have sentience. Fantastical creatures like the phoenix and dragon spawned on earth. Humans gained abilities that defy the laws of reality. The land itself gave birth to wondrous materials – mythril, adamantium and many more.
It was a wondrous time to behold. The conceptual entities became what we now call Gods and gave birth to others concepts expanding reality. The fantastical creatures became the guide and guardian of the world. The wondrous materials are used to construct marvels that cannot be duplicated by the most advanced modern science. Humans used their abilities to defy their hostile surroundings and carve mighty civilizations.
It was a horrifying time to live. The Gods selfishly pursued their agenda heedless of anything else. The creatures that gained stewardship of the world followed an alien code of conduct that was incomprehensible to mortals. The land is actively hostile to the weak – noxious mist, carnivorous plants, fields of eternal fire, whirlpools that never stop. Human civilization followed the law of might wherein the strongest is right. The wondrous items constructed and its source materials became the sparks for endless war.
This continued for some time until some far seeing gods saw the apocalypse if everything continues as it is. Wise creatures of legend felt the damage being done to reality and chose to act. Mortal humans dreaming of a better world formed a plan.
In concert, they sealed the chaotic energy using their existence as a sacrifice. All the impossibilities that were made possible by the mysterious energy faded without their sustenance. Concepts lost its sentience and became unbendable laws of reality. Nature lost its innate magic and becoming a passive bystander. The phantasmal creatures lost its grip on the world and were absorbed into the seal in a moment of backlash. As for humans, they lost the power to shape reality but being mundane creature, they as a race persisted. Thus, the age of miracles ended with only legends and folktales to prove its existence.
This state of affair lasted on until a wise old teacher in China named Confucius accidentally discovered the key to manipulating the seal and letting some of the mysterious energy flow back into the world. He called this set of system that allowed mortals to transcend their natural limitations after a chattering sparrow that prompted the discovery – Mahjong.
It is now the 20th century; Mahjong has been thoroughly studied and hailed as a new branch of physics. The system of mahjong spread throughout the globe with millions of practitioners worldwide. Practitioners of mahjong are highly sought after and mahjong skills are a prerequisite to many exclusive jobs.
Historically, monarchs use their skills in mahjong to justify and police their absolute rule. Even now, the highest government position such as the prime minister or president needs a high degree of mahjong skills. A countries' power economically, militarily and politically can be measured by the caliber and quantity of their mahjong players.
Thus, schools are encouraged to promote Mahjong and nurture any talents that can be found. In many countries there are many school tournaments to see the the young budding talents and showcase the future generation. This is the story of those young budding talents that will shook the foundation of the world…
Yes, I’m horribly bored. Waiting for the next episode is killing me and I cannot seem to get my head out of Saki. Go figure, out of all the things I can get addicted to its lesbian loli mahjong. Sigh…
Anyway, this is more of a short prologue and an explanation of the Saki world. I am planning to make every single special effect seen in the anime and the manga real. This meant Saki players’ ability will translate into the real world. And yes, they’ll actually have the rpg like costumes.
Koromo “no tenpai” ability will literally drown other players.
Toki’s one turn precognition will work in real life not just in mahjong. Think final destination.
Teru will probably feel like a fledging elder god. etc. etc. etc.
Please tell me if you think the idea is worth pursuing...
It's certainly a very creative idea!
So basically this is a magical girl version of Saki. That could certainly be a lot of fun, and it might be nice to read more. ;)
Awhile back I toyed around with the idea of a Madoka Magica/Saki crossover fanfic where Saki became so great at mahjong because she made a wish with Kyubey and became a magical girl (most of the super-powered mahjong players would be the same way). I was going to have her be a lightning-using magical girl who shouts "Kon!", and "Tsumo!" every time she uses a Puella Magi attack. :heh:
Anyway, your approach sounds pretty original, and quite intriguing. Good luck with it. :)
This idea strikes me eerily as a mahjong version of Yu-Gi-Oh.
Go for it, I say. I'm kinda curious as to how you might make use of this setting.
"Beware the might of my Millenium Riiichi!, little Nodocchi!" - Touka
Sorry, but Qilin's post inspired me to write that. :heh:
Lol... its quite funny... anyway... I've said that 80% of chapter I is almost finished. Everything is almost done ...
The battle system is done. Your right Qilin that its going to resemble Yu-Gi-Oh a bit... actually I've got the bright idea due to Magic the Gathering multiplayer format...
Btw, do you guys know the 20% that I'm having trouble with, maybe you can help?
Its Saki, Yuuki, Mako's battle costume or rpg design... I'm brainstorming on what they need to look like especially Mako. On Nodoka there is no problem the anime provided the costume.
Saki is almost done though ... her weapon would be a staff and associated element would be earth. Her costume on the other hand, I'm drawing on a blank.
And well since you guys replied nicely, I'll put a teaser of Chapter I here.:p
Spoiler for snip:
Author Note: This is the rendition of Nodoka and Saki's meeting. I hope you like it. :D Oh that quote above is from the hobbit. That's about 5% of chapter I where I'm sure there is no typographical error. Anyone willing to volunteer to beta or brainstorm with me?
P.S. Thx Qilin and Triple_R for the support. I'm glad you like the idea.
Hmm... Now thats nice... I support the idea. Get this thing going.
Final destination ehh, haven't watched the movies but.... oh well... keep it going.
Prologue – Fated Meeting
“Very pretty!” said Gandalf. “But I have no time to blow smoke-rings this morning. I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it's very difficult to find anyone.”
Carrying her friends ladies’ lunch special, our bookworm was beginning to get annoyed. There are so many students in the cafeteria and she was having a hard time looking for Kyou-chan. She cannot distinguish his transparent aura in this mess. Worse yet, packed in close quarters the auras of each student mingled with each other giving her a mild headache.
Pretty good re-imagining of the 1st Saki episode. :)
I especially liked the idea of Saki as a fan of Tolkien's works.
Nice start, night_sentinel!
Chapter I - The Mahjong Club
"Miyanaga-san, according to the tests you can possibly become a mahjong practitioner in the future, do you want my recommendation to apply to Kazekoshi?" the kindly school councilor asked the shy student.
I finally remembered I actually need to update here thanks to someone who unintentionally reminded me. :D
Since the main manga is slow these days I thought I'll write some more to satisfy my craving. I'll probably consistently update now too.
Anyway, what do you guys think of this fic?
If anyone is actually reading this... lol.
~ Saki Fantasy Mahjong ~
~Side Story 01 ~
There was silence in the stadium, everyone cannot believe their eyes.
"The Winner of the match and our Current Reigning Champion - Miyanaga Teru."
The moment the referee announced the winner, the whole stadium descended into a state of pandemonium. The ones who lost their winnings were crying that the fight was rigged. Others were laughing in satisfaction at the huge killing they made. The competitors were no better. Various fighters were crowing about the downfall of their former bitterest adversary, while a select few were glaring daggers at the red head for defeating said former champion.
The referee himself seem to be having a mild revelation at the outcome. Who can blame him though, it was certainly a huge upset. Many have said that the match was disproportionate from the start. On one corner, you have a girl barely out of her elementary school years and on the other you have a towering man about four times her age and size.
Well they were proven right- just not in the way they expected.
Breaking from her survey of the crowd, the newly crowned champion looked at her touted adversary in disappointment. The muscle bound man lay on the arena floor, yet to wake up.
Saki would have woken up by now.
She supposed it just goes to show that age isn't everything... But, after all that fanfare and convincing she had to do to be allowed to participate here. Just to have everyone be felled in a single punch felt a bit anticlimactic. This may not be a legal tournament but she was hoping for some standards. Her imouto gave her more challenging fights without even trying. Heck, Saki will probably be able to wipe the mop off the so called 'veteran' fighters here and just to show the unfairness of the world her little one wasn't even allowed inside.
Burying her disappointment, the red headed girl resumed scanning the crowd looking for a familiar mop of brown hair. As expected there was none around, Teru did say that there was no need to watch. Besides, the elders adamantly forbade Saki from going here. And despite evidence to the contrary, her imouto does try to be respectful and dutiful as she could.
But, Teru knew that Saki was definitely here. Even if she can't confirm it right now due to their link being muffled on her little one's end.
A warning sign in itself her mind whispered. Her little one only does that when the younger girl wanted to hide or do something she would disprove of.
A cheerful voice sing -songs in her ear. "Onee-chan, I have a surprise for you ..."
– even if Saki managed to hide perfectly today she would still suspect. Her imouto botched any attempt of surprise the previous week. Seriously, the past week was an eye-opening experience regarding her imouto's non-existent acting ability...
Squeaking every time she passed by while lugging a big basket that is taller than her around the house.
Clumsily panicking with adorable inept attempts to hide said basket behind one of the furniture.
Teru grinned in remembrance.
Its times like this that make her happy to have an eidetic memory.
Though, she suppose she really ought to give her imouto some lessons in deception... someday. Maybe.
Wait … Is that a pigtailed brown hair?
A closer examination yielded a negative result.
Sighing the red head broke from her examination of the crowd. This is going nowhere, the whole area is simply too large and there are too many blind spots for a physical survey to work. Its time for more drastic measures.
Teru pulsed her aura like a wave, skimming on every surface inside the arena. This action caused most of the people inside to experience a case of mild goosebumps but the red head was sure that they will brush it up as nothing. From her brief stint in this place, there were none that can identify what she was doing.
But, her little sister certainly could.
For a few minutes, Teru stood with her senses stretched waiting for a response.
But, there was no answering caress to be found. Not even a flare to signify someone noticed her probing.
All of her earlier good humor fled.
She got her confirmation.
Saki obeyed their instructions after all.
She should be happy, but its all Teru could do to keep her hand from bunching into fist and punch something.
This whole venture was pointless.
There is no point of staying here.
The red head eyed the arena's only exit with distaste. It was now filled with a bustling crowd, packed together like sardines- pushing each other in their hurry to get out. From the corner of her eyes, she spied a couple of stranglers who were covertly following her movements. No doubt from the moment she gets off the arena, they would accost her.
She really does not have the energy for this. Not today.
Decision made, Teru jumped out of the arena into the open ceiling above. With nary an effort, she crossed the six story tall wall within a single bound and safely landed on the other side.
On the arena, those who witnessed the superhuman feat of their newly crowned champion began murmuring.
"What the hell?!"
"We were planning to hustle THAT?!"
"That person can't be human!"
Teru, on the other hand, didn't pay attention to the increasing level of noise on her back. She walked faster, hoping to get home before nightfall. Looking at the sky, the sun was halfway down the horizon and the stars were already starting to appear. In a few minutes, the gates to their home was going to close and no one was allowed to go outside or inside. If she used that technique she can possibly make it if she hurry –
A brown sized blur tackled her.
Teru reflexively caught the familiar shape but not before the impact sent her sitting on the ground.
But, the evidence can't be denied. The moment Teru opened her eyes - her vision was dominated by Saki's face – grinning cheerfully from ear to ear.
"Saki..." You came …
A pleasant warmth was spreading through her chest. It was all Teru could do to stop grinning like a lunatic.
"I bought your present, Onee-chan."
And true enough, beyond her imouto's adorable face - Teru could see the well-known basket. At this angle, it was easy to see that it was filled with freshly picked ripe strawberries.
Saki cutely bobbed her head in confirmation.
Taking her hands off her imouto whom she reflexively embraced in the collision, she slid the basket off and set it aside beside her.
Saki freed from her burden made herself comfortable in her elder sister's embrace. The red head gave a fond chuckle at the gesture.
"Did you watch my match, Saki?"
"... I'm sorry, Onee-chan. I know that I'm not suppose to be here..."
Giving her imouto a gentle rubbing on the head to show her appreciation. "I'm not mad, Saki." The implications inherent to that sentiment went unsaid.
But, not unheard judging from the conspiratorial look Saki sent her way.
"So how was it?"
"Uwaahh... You were up against a really tough guy."
"Tough?" She can't remember anyone that she fought today who can fit that description.
"He has lots of tattoos and looked really really mean."
" Ah... that guy." He flew out of the ring with one kick to the chest.
"Onee-chan is so amazing. You waited for the first swing and in the moment that tough guy left his guard down, POW!"
"I'm pretty sure you can do that too. You know?"
Saki shook her head. "But, Onee-chan doing it would look cooler."
Her imouto gave the final word with all the earnestness of a besotted child and just like that Teru lost any of her willpower to argue.
Teru rested her head on the latter's shoulder to hide her face from view. She was sure that it cannot get any redder when she heard a soft whisper, "Onee-chan... I'm glad I came to watch your match."
Her heart lighter than ever with an emotion she cannot name, the newly crowned champion could only embrace her imouto a little bit tighter.
At that moment, she was sure that nothing will ever convince her to let go of this precious person.
- The Battle's Aftermath
- A Moment in the Past of the Miyanaga Family Vol. VIII
Saki Fantasy Mahjong
When the door opened and the Kiyosumi mahjong club's battleground was revealed, Saki didn't know what she expected but certainly not this.
Where are the floating debris and the tall spires of rock to make fighting difficult? The pointy spines jutting on the ground? The hostile creatures that punish those who don't pay attention to their surrounding? The quicksand-like ground that discourage anyone from staying at one place for long?
Intellectually, Saki knew that each battleground arena was prepared differently and she shouldn't be surprised if the Kiyosumi battle ground was different from the ones they have at home. But, she was expecting a few obstacles at least - not this. Because the battleground – if it is a battleground that the bookworm was looking at was just a huge room that contains nothing – absolutely nothing. There's not a single furniture in sight. All Saki could see was an endless sea of gleaming tiles covering every inch of the room.
Though, Saki has to admit the place was certainly an impressive sight - reminding the bookworm of the futuristic labs in the books she read. But a place where a mahjong fight can happen it certainly was not. Because even without the obstacles, there should at least be some reinforcement on the structure. Without any reinforcement how exactly can one even fight here? Unless, that strange energy permeating the place can shield the whole room - any serious mahjong fight that happens would transform the whole place into one big smoking crater.
A soft knocking on her head brought her to reality.
"This is Earth calling Saki. Earth to Saki. Hello is anyone there?"
Surprised, the bookworm turned around to see Kyou-chan wearing an exasperated expression on his face. From behind him, Saki could see Haramura-san maintaining a polite distance and Kataoka-san busy munching some taco.
"You were in la-la land again, Saki. I was calling you for quite a while now. "
"Sorry Kyou-chan, I was just a bit surprised when I saw the place."
Her friend, bless his heart, accepted the apology without hesitation.
"I don't blame you; I was a bit awed when I saw this too. It's certainly more impressive than on TV. This is the first time you're seeing a battleground in person right? "
"Iee... I've seen a few battlegrounds before... "
But before she can finish her sentence, the pint sized thief has finished eating her lunch and had literally zipped with amazing speed in front of her.
"You've seen other battlegrounds?! How does ours compare?"
A beat of silence followed this question as Saki contemplated how to answer without lying through her teeth. Thankfully for the bookworm the energetic girl misunderstood her hesitation.
"Ho ho … speechless with wonder? I knew it – our greatness blew you away! " Puffing her chest, Katoaka-san continued. "You must have been so surprised to see a modern battleground here, right? But, what you're seeing is the real deal! Kiyosumi's battleground is updated to the max! This place could easily do all the house rules in mahjong without a single error. In fact - "
"Yuuki, stop invading Miyanaga-san's personal space."
That was Haramura-san to the rescue.
"Aww, Nodo-chan. It's the first time someone actually managed to recognize our greatness you know."
"I understand you're happy Yuuki, but Miyanaga-san is a guest and it's not polite to waste her time like this."
"Saki-chan is fine with it. Right?"
And with that all the attention shifted to the brunette again.
"Please don't worry, I think what Kataoka-san was saying is interesting."
Grinning widely, the thief slung her arms around the brunette and said. "See, Nodo-chan. Saki-chan agrees with me."
Relenting, Haramura-san asked again, "Is it really alright?"
Feeling overwhelmed and not wanting to cause any tension to what obviously were two good friends, Saki could only give a weak nod giving a tacit permission to pursue the topic. The brunette was resigned to another enthusiastic speech from Kataoka-san, but it was the pinkette who spoke. "To be honest, I'm also curious about how our battleground compares with others."
"Isn't it obvious, ours is obviously the best!" Kataoka-san asserted.
Ignoring the thief, Haramura-san continued. "It would be nice to have some objective outside perspective regarding this matter." Then, the pinkette turned to the brunette with eager eyes making it clear who the objective outside perspective is.
Sighing a bit, Saki quickly looked through the open doorway to the so called battleground again and back to the Kiyosumi club members who were eagerly waiting for her judgment.
"It's certainly is different from the other battlegrounds I have seen." - Which is perfectly true. This is the most unique battleground that Saki has ever seen. "But … I am a bit confused about the changes..."
Like why is there nothing here?
This was apparently the right thing or perhaps in Saki's case the wrong thing to say.
"Ho! Ho! Ho! You've noticed our modifications Saki-chan?" Kataoka-san asked.
"I guess reading all those musty books were good for something." That was Kyou-chan.
Looking at the surprised faces on the swordsman and the thief, Saki was confused. From the corner of her eyes, she could see that Haramura-san has an intrigued look on her face as well. Did she accidentally call attention to herself again? But, how? She doesn't think it's amazing that she could see the difference between this room and what a proper battleground looks like. Anyone with eyes should be able to tell that. Perhaps they were playing some sort of prank?
No. The brunette doesn't think this is the case here. Even from her admittedly brief impression, Saki doesn't believe that Haramura-san would be the type to joke about these things. Kataoka-san maybe, but the bookworm distinctly heard the note of pride in Kataoka-san's voice when the mahjong club members brought her to their 'battleground'. And Kyou-chan, he was a good friend. The brunette would like to think she recognized him well enough to know when he was lying to her. So that left herself.
For the umpteenth time since she agreed to help Kyou-chan, Saki felt that she was missing something. Very Badly At That.
Remember Saki, the things that we view as nonsense from another point of view makes perfect sense.
A hint of warmth. A warm hand gently ruftling her hair.
Saki shook her head.
That's right. Think. No one does something without any reason. And there must be a reason. Always. So what would cause anyone to take out all the obstacles in a training room?
A lightbulb lit up on her head.
Ah... so that's it. I can't believe I didn't see it before.
"It's amazing. You guys are amazing to have thought of this." Saki grinned.
And looked like the bookworm guess was right. Saki could see the quiet pride in Haramura-san's face and even Kyou-chan stood up straighter from her praise. But, it was the bouncing Katoaka-san who has the greatest reaction.
"Saki-chan! I knew you could see our genius!"
Such a boastful statement coming from such a pint sized girl. Still, the brunette could see how it was merited. It's obvious that they took all the obstacles from the room as a test of some sort. Everyone who was at least experienced in even one battle would know that the place was wrong … too easy to fight on and a bit too fragile. But, to those who do not have any sort of experience and whose presence in the field might be suicidal; their inability to see what is wrong would be a telling indicator.
It's definitely a simple but elegant set-up. If Saki could test someone, she would definitely prefer this to the traditional one, which was throwing oneself off a cliff.
Giving the tiles, she was examining a fond pat. "This must have taken a lot of time to set-up."
"You should have seen us at the beginning of the year; we worked day and night without fail to move everything. I could still feel my back breaking, my hand blistering ..." After saying this, Kataoka-san then proceeded to hunch over to the ground as if burdened by the memories.
"Oh really… who was it that ate tacos all day while I did the pushing and back breaking? I can't seem to remember." Kyou-chan mused from behind.
Kataoka-san suddenly glared at her friend. Then without warning the pint sized thief pounced upon the leaning swordsman.
"Dogs shouldn't rebel against their master!"
"Who's the dog?!"
"Die! You mangy mutt!"
A fight devolved from there, Katoaka-san managing to put her friend in a violent suplex.
Should she try to stop them? They weren't emitting any killing intent, but the fight looked really violent.
"Miyanaga-san, do you want to go inside?"
"Ehh?! Should we really leave them?"
"It's quite alright. This happens all the time." The pinkette reassured her.
Saki was not convinced, but she followed Haramura-san anyway.
*Saki Fantasy Mahjong*
Haramura-san led her in the middle of the room. Right smack at the center, Saki could see that it was about the size of a five football fields. A bit small for a normal battleground, which would be another strike against it.
"Please wait for a moment, Miyanaga-san. I'll activate the room."
The pinkette stepped on something causing the nondescript white tile in front of them to move and reveal a hidden compartment. A circular metallic table slowly rose from it, filled with a variety of runes. Haramura-san fiddled a bit with the runes, typing somethings that Saki does not understand. Though, it's certainly doing something, Every time Haramura-san punched something on the futuristic table thing, Saki felt a gust of energy whipping around the room.
'A spell that targets an area?' The bookworm mused quietly. 'Perhaps a teleportation spell towards the real battleground?'
Saki's musing was cut short when Haramura-san finally finished whatever she was doing and stood up. "Everything is properly calibrated Miyanaga-san."
Before, Saki could ask what she meant by that. The room suddenly went pitch black.
She knows from her other senses that Haramura-san was right next to her. A few steps away at most but the darkness that covered the area were so complete that she was not able to see even an inch from where she was standing.
Just to test, Saki waved her hand in front of her eyes a few times.
As expected, she could see nothing.
'Is this another test or something? Perhaps to test how well one can find the exit in complete darkness? In that case, she should go to Haramura-san's position and then lead both of them out.'
Saki took a step through the pinkette's direction.
Haramura's aural image still shined as bright and calm as ever when she first glimpsed it making the bookworm uneasy. Why isn't she doing anything to hide it?' An illusion, then? The real Haramura-san must be hiding herself while the decoy distracted her. If that is so...
Saki stretched her aura trying to find the real Haramura-san. Yet, even with how she assiduously searched, she could not find her. 'She's really good.' The bookworm thought admiringly. Even Onee-chan will leave some traces for me to track down.
She felt another flare of energy from her right.
There is no time for admiration. The spell that was being build up was almost complete. Saki suspected that once it was finished, she would most likely fail the test.
That was not actually a bad thing, right?
… was so similar and so close...
Saki immediately shook all those thoughts away. She may have entertained them when she heard about Haramura-san a few moments ago. But, the bookworm knew that these thoughts would lead to nothing but pain for her. Besides, that would not be fair to them or Haramura-san...
Her search once again turned up nothing.
Another flare. The spell was only moments away from completion.
Perhaps it was time to give up?
Two auras were approaching their direction. One of them was a familiar well-worn aura.
She did promise...
Saki searched for the final time.
Perhaps, she's not up to the standards of this mahjong club, but she wouldn't fail without at least trying... For the sake of her word to Kyou-chan, if nothing else.
This time Saki closed her senses to everything else but what she was searching.
Still nothing. Not a single trace of Haramura-san. If the bookworm did not know any better, she would say that the fake Haramura-san was the real one.
But, every illusion has a weak point.
The clock was ticking. Just a few seconds more.
Saki poured all her concentration to the task. She scoured every particle in the area that her aura could get a hand on.
Saki heard the mental click.
The spell was complete.
Haramura-san was just that good.
She should be seeing the effect of the spell build-up in a few seconds.
'I wonder how they will notify me about my failure…'
The spell began to reach a crescendo.
The lights turned on.
Thousands upon thousands of tiny lights showed themselves.
No, looking closely Saki noticed it wasn't lights but runes. The formerly nondescript tiles were alight with them, like tiny stars wrapped in the inky darkness of the night sky. But, the constellations they formed were anything but accustomed.
A cluster of runes formed itself in the shape of a bird – the familiar Isou. Another formed an stylized Upin, a flowery orchid in the midst of its greatest bloom. Even the humble ipin was represented as a simple circle that blazed with the might of a full moon. And there were more, so much more. At least one for every mahjong rune in existence.
Truly a breathtaking view.
'This must be what it feels to be standing in outer space.' Saki mused quietly to herself. Is this the last thing those who failed the recruitment process sees? Even in one's failure, they can still see a beautiful sight on their way there, huh? Is that what this means?
A smile formed on her face.
If so, Saki's heart was at ease. Kyou-chan will surely do well with these people.
The illusionary Haramura-san walked toward her. Saki took a closer look. Really. Haramura-san was really really good. Even at this distance, she can't detect the illusion nor the real Haramura-san controlling it. The illusion stopped in front of the bookworm, perhaps unsure on how to give the bad news.
Saki waited patiently. More than anyone else, she was aware that sometimes not being able to give someone what they want was a harder position than the one who has not received one's desires. Though, in this case, Haramura-san should not be bothered. She has gotten what she sought for when she agreed to come with Kyou-chan and that was more than enough.
"It is over, isn't it?"
"Hai...Please come this way."
The illusion extended her hand.
Saki blinked unsure at that. Ah... so that's how she'll be informed officially. A simple way to show her error she supposed.
Saki extended her hand to clasp the illusionary one.
A warm solid hand.
Saki stared at the unexpectedly real, blue pair of eyes.
Saki Fantasy Mahjong
She has a gentle grip. That was the first thing Nodoka noticed about her new guest today. Miyanaga-san held her, softly and without any force at all - as if her hand was a fragile thing that would break with a single touch. Nodoka does not know whether she liked it or not.
"Is there something wrong?" Nodoka asked concentrating on her guest's face to distract herself from the warmth of the hand that gripped hers.
Nodoka swore those eyes were not as intense when she last glimpsed them.
"Wrong?" Miyanaga-san mouthed the word, tasting it.
Still, no matter how striking Miyanaga-san was, Nodoka would not back down.
"Yes. Some people have a bad experience with this sort of place. Strong flows of energy can cause many side-effects to those unused to it. So, if you have any problems, please let me know."
Miyanaga-san gave a small grin.
"Does believing you're too good to be real, counts?"
Nodoka's heart skipped a beat.
For that she has no parry.
Saki Fantasy Mahjong
What did I do now?
Saki blinked as Haramura-san turned red and looked away.
The bookworm knew that a few of her thoughts were liable to cause an awkward pause if she blurted it out aloud. Her time in middle school gave plenty of evidence to that. But, she was pretty sure that complimenting the illusion that Haramura-san wove was not unusual. People praised other people when they did amazing stuff, right? They do, in the books she read.
Saki was also pretty sure Haramura-san's illusion fell into the amazing category. It was quite sturdy as well. Even with all of the subtle prodding that Saki had been doing, she could not unravel it. Not even in her family could she remember anyone possessing such skill. But then, that left Saki with the conundrum of why Haramura-san was refusing to meet her eyes.
"Did I do something wrong?"
The sudden question caused Haramura-san to face the bookworm.
"No. Miyanaga-san did not do anything wrong," the middle school champion answered.
Saki was glad, but that still left the question of Haramura-san's bewildering actions.
"You're just..." The pinkette groped for words, "very direct. I did not expect it at all."
That was news to Saki. She had never been accused of being straightforward before, quite the opposite actually. Her cousin once groused that she should try to stop spouting riddles every time they had a conversation. She would have loudly protested then if not for her Onee-chan's inadvertent agreement. Her sister believed that Saki should keep doing it. It was apparently an endearing trait and would serve her well.
But, that was a long time ago…
A quiet, playful laugh tickled her ears…
Saki mentally shook herself.
She should be happy. This was good news. Hadn't she been trying to be more transparent to avoid misunderstandings? Perhaps, her attempts at being direct had actually paid off.
"I try." Saki said. "It's not bad, is it?" She nervously scratched her head. "I suppose I was stating the obvious. Being the champion, Haramura-san must have heard it said a lot of times. You must be tired of it."
The pinkette shook her head, denying.
"No… though, a lot of the reporters have implied it. This was actually the first time someone has complimented me that directly." Haramura-san replied. She was still beet red, though Saki couldn't tell why. But, she wasn't saying anything bad or looking angry which the bookworm counted as a positive.
…the first time someone complimented me that directly
Saki replayed Haramura-san's words.
No one has actually said anything about Haramura-san's illusions before? But, they were the very best that Saki has ever seen.
Could it be?
…Illusion wasn't Haramura-san's main talent?
…that it was possible if a very daunting possibility.
Nevertheless, something within her screamed its disbelief. No one, not even her Onee-chan, was able to fool her senses for long… Yet, the evidence was for all to see even if Saki wanted to deny it. Besides, the bookworm had to admit that was a long time ago and Onee-chan's forte wasn't even illusion magic. Moreover, she doesn't really have any idea about the current level a high school should be at. Maybe mahjong champions were required to have that level of illusion…
Saki let that thought sink in for a while.
She will worry about the possibility that there exist many people that have illusion magic at that level later. For now, that meant… She embarrassingly complimented Haramura-san on something so simple. It might even be akin to complimenting a fish because it can swim. Some of her family would take offense from such a slight. That must be why the pinkette was taken aback. Haramura-san must think she had poor manners and was just being polite. Saki needed to apologize for this faux pas right away.
Thus, facing the contemplative middle school champion, the bookworm did her best to own up to her mistake.
"I'm really sorry; I never followed much of the mahjong news. But, when I first saw you close, I was struck by how intricate your appearance looked. How amazing it was and how I couldn't come close in even a million years. You are truly one of the most beautiful creations I have ever laid my eyes on, Haramura-san…."
Haramura-san reddened like a tomato. But, that wasn't what Saki was looking for.
It was Haramura-san's aura. While it was tensed and defensive before, curled tightly in the middle school's champion frame, it was now flowing out and lightening from the intense almost red to a lovely pale pink.
Saki's lip curved slightly at the confirmation. That was surely a sign that Haramura-san had accepted her apology. The bookworm was glad that they were past that misunderstanding.
She gave a half smile in relief.
And at her smile, she noticed that Haramura-san's eyes narrowed. Suddenly, the aura steeled itself again. And when she looked directly in Haramura-san's eye, she could see the glint of challenge.
"Miyanaga-san, it may be true that my appearance is eye-catching. But, I personally find yours to be more attractive. Especially your eyes, it gives an unforgettable feeling when you gaze …"
At this, Haramura-san seemed to run out of steam and looked away. Saki saw her lips mouthing something unintelligible but it was too quiet for her to hear.
Still, that was interesting to know. Haramura-san had noticed her sensing magic and found it impressive?
She didn't know how she should take this. On one hand, to hear that her delicate probes were not really subtle was bad news. She used her senses extensively to avoid any undesirable situations and their effectiveness relied on not being detected. On the other hand, to be able to hear that the middle school champion found it impressive even if her sensing magic was found should count as good news. Though, there is the slight possibility that this could just a polite way of informing Saki about her unwelcome intrusion.
Saki silently sighed.
If nothing else, the faux pas had taught her that she has a lot to learn when interacting with people. She thought that she was good or at least doing something passable, but there were still a lot of things she need to learn. And she really needed to know more about what was happening in the world even if it's about mahjong. The whole awkward stage would have been avoided if she knew about Haramura-san and as Kyou-chan and Kataoka-san has kindly explained to her a while ago, she should have known. Haramura-san was famous
She didn't even have to dig deeper into the mahjong world. The bare bone of information should be enough for her to survive and not be stuck in such awkward situations again.
… A gentle hand tousled Saki's hair, rubbing her scalp tenderly…
And if somehow her cursory search led to news about what Onee-chan was doing. Or perhaps her…
Then, it was obviously just coincidence.
She was not really trying to look for them after all. She wasn't trying to get her hopes up on a fool's venture. After all, hadn't she accepted the situation a long time ago? This was a different kettle of fish. It would not really be Saki's fault, if she just saw an article or two while trying to look for other information… it will be a total accident.
A pleased smile graced her lips.
Saki opened her mouth to thank the pinkette; whether it was a compliment or an admonishment, the bookworm was sure that Haramura-san only meant it in the best possible way and in the end it helped her decide something.
But before she could say anything, a loud cry called their attention.
"Saki-chan! Nodo-chan! Hurry up, we're going to start now!" Kataoka-san called out waving one of her hand. "I've already pushed the start button."
Haramura-san gave Saki a glance.
She replied with a quick nod.
And with that, Haramura-san took off running.
*Saki Fantasy Mahjong *
The two of them slowed down a bit to conserve their energy once they neared the goal.
It was a small platform. Kyou-chan and Kataoka-san were already on it.
Saki silently mused that it was a good thing she took off right when Haramura-san started to run.
The pinkette was fast.
Saki almost hadn't caught up with her.
It did not help that her battle outfit seemed to be especially designed to restrict her. The white cloak was heavier than it should be. The metallic chains inside added to the burden and seemed to be wrapped up around her specifically to hinder her movements. But, she shouldn't complain, the others was surely similarly hampered and they were bearing it with no difficulty. And in Haramura-san's case, she was running a complex illusion spell on top of everything else.
"Saki, over here! Hurry!"
From the platform, Kyou-chan extended his hand.
Saki took the offered hand gratefully.
And with one mighty heave by the swordsman, the bookworm was on the platform.
"Everyone's finally here. Let's start djey!"
The platform was hoisted up in the air.
It floated serenely in the middle of the empty space.
Saki gripped the hem of Kyou-chan's shirt. She didn't know if the force that sustained the platform would suddenly stop working or not. A quick reading of the members' aura showed that Kataoka-san and Haramura-san can easily survive such a fall but Kyou-chan might not.
Yet, her grip had not been missed.
Kyou-chan felt the death grip.
After the boy realized who was holding him, he smiled and gave an amused wink.
"Don't worry, Saki. I'll protect you."
The bookworm just sighed used to such antics. If only Kyou-chan knew how many accidents she personally prevented from befalling him when they were in middle school. Still, Saki allowed her friend to position them in the middle of the platform. Whatever let him feel better about this.
"Saki-chan, look, it's starting. You're going to miss it!"
And in front of the bookworm's astonished eyes, a scene played.
One by one, all of the gleaming tiles lifted themselves up, leaving holes on the floor, the walls and the ceiling.
They began to float around the small platform, slowly closing in. Saki was itching to blast the walls to oblivion remembering many books that had similar scenes. If it proved true to the script, the walls wouldn't stop closing until they were flattened like pancakes. The only thing stopping Saki was the calm demeanour of her companions. They didn't look like they were panicking, so maybe the whole thing was expected.
Thankfully, after a few minutes, the wall of tiles stopped advancing just a few meters from them. But, that doesn't mean the tiles have stopped moving. They have began to slowly flip a full ninety degree clockwise until all the tiles were parallel to the ground. Then, they moved slowly once again.
At first, they moved like a small peaceful river going round and round in spiral mountain with the players in their small floating island at the middle. Yet as time went by, the tiles began to accelerate, though not in uniform. Some tiles were accelerating faster than others. Some tiles were moving fast, some slow. These naturally caused a lot of chaos with the tiles bumping each other and exchanging places. Soon, the peaceful river changed to a mad raging torrent as the tiles randomly changed position with no rhyme or reason, even as they continued to flow upward the spiral mountain. This went on for a few minutes until suddenly one of the tiles went to the end corner of the room, and another tile followed slotting neatly by the side. This continued with the third, the fourth and so on. Until, all the tiles were back into place.
The tiles glowed once more.
The energy buildup that bookworm kept feeling reached its climax
*Saki Fantasy Mahjong*
When the light died down, Saki watched in awe at the changed landscape. Instead of the endless sea of white tiles, a whole host of features was being developed inside the room. Though, room would be a gross misnomer to describe the battleground now. That explosion must have had a space spell laced within its matrix. The place had greatly expanded, perhaps two to five times its normal size? She could not be sure, as Saki could no longer see where the ceiling and the walls were located and her senses were still a bit blunt due to the sheer amount of energy particles in the air. Though, it must be stated that her current view more than compensated for it.
From the lofty height of the platform, Saki could see so many terrains being actively formed. Whole mountains were rising out from the ground. A deep fissure was being made in another area. A small forest was rapidly growing at the side. A lake was filling up on the other. So many features were being made. It was like a mini version of the creation from Genesis.
"So what do you think of it now, Saki-chan? It's more amazing than when you watch it on TV, right?" Kataoka-san asked.
"It's amazing." Saki answered. She may have had doubts when she first saw the place but she also hadn't imagined that the whole place could transform after all. "Do you practice here every day?"
"Yep." The pint sized thief said eagerly.
So that was how Kyou-chan became so good. And if they practiced here every day they must know the terrain like the back of their hand. This was a huge advantage and with the huge disparity of skills between Saki and the other members, she was beginning to be increasingly doubtful that she can contribute anything to the training session. She said as much.
"I don't know if I can be much challenge."
"Ehh? Why not, Saki-chan?"
"Well, for one, I'm not as familiar with the terrain and it might take a while for me to do so for such a large place. I don't want to further trouble you guys. "
Kataoka-san gave a confused expression. "Why do you need to be familiar with your surroundings? That would be cheating."
"Yup. If we gave you time to explore the battlefield, you would have an unfair advantage."
"But, if you don't allow me to do it, then won't the battle be uneven? You must be familiar with the battlefield already since you practice here every day.
When Kataoka-san heard this, she gave a huge grin. "You didn't believe me when I said we have the one of the most updated battleground, huh?"
Saki's only response was a sheepish grin.
"Heh… well I suppose I can't blame you. But it's true, Saki-chan. Even though we are a public school, buchou pulled some strings. She managed to get us, a blueprint and the right to make the latest battleground for our own use." Kataoka-san paused and looked down on the site as if taking it in. "Whoever invented this is a genius. I haven't seen the same battleground repeated in any of my matches. Nodo-chan said something about literally having a gazillion possibilities…
"Actually, Yuuki, what I said was according to statisticians since the riichi mahjong variation uses 136 tiles. There should be…" Haramura-san interrupted
"Yuuki, statistics is essential to practicing mahjong." Haramura-san said with a tone that implied a repeat of similar arguments several times in the past.
"Nuh-uh! Tacos are way more useful for powering me up."
Before, Haramura-san could finish say anything else, Kataoka-san promptly jumped off the platform to a mountain plateau.
Letting out an aggrieved sigh, Haramura-san followed.
"And there they go. Come on Saki, let's follow them." Kyou-chan also jumped.
That left Saki alone in the platform. Not knowing what to do, she copied their actions.
*Saki Fantasy Mahjong*
The moment Saki stepped on the mountain where the others have gathered, her senses went haywire. She instinctively knew that the ground she was standing on was not a mountain but a very clever mana construct. The strange energy that she has felt before had solidified; no, more like the energy was pulled together and funneled toward a shape that was now the mountain. Curiosity aroused, Saki began to feel through her other senses. And she found that it was not just the mountains, all the other terrain that composed the battlefield - the trees, the river - were all mana constructs.
But, that left the question of who was keeping it that way. The energy particle she had observed was reactive. They should not be able to congeal into discrete shapes, not without outside help. So who was it? Who was casting such a massive spell and were able to do so while evading her senses?
From a distance, she watched the bickering duo and her friend who was observing them as well. Could it be Haramura-san again? She did have an illusion spell that was able to fool her senses. Or perhaps Kataoka-san? Saki still doesn't know her power, but if she used Haramura-san as a basis, then Kataoka-san must be monstrous as well. She then turned to look at Kyou-chan. Could it be him?
Saki shook her head.
Now, she was getting a tad delusional. Why was she suspecting Kyou-chan? He was one of her oldest friends. If she needed to suspect him, she might as well investigate everything else. Besides, just because Saki knew that there were 3 people beside herself did not mean the caster had to be one of them. Someone with such a spell should be able to disguise themselves in a way that left Saki none the wiser.
And really, this had a simple solution. There was a reason that you don't leave mana constructs lying around after all. Saki bent down, touched the ground and felt an invisible thin field. It covered up the whole mountain like a fine silk net preventing the escape of the energy particles, and it gave the packets of mana shape like an invisible vase.
So far so good. Now to find the origin of the field itself.
Saki stretched her senses downwards. Past the mountain. Underneath the packets of energy.
She found a glowing tile.
"I see." Saki murmured. "So that was what they were talking about."
Each tile represented a part of the landscape. The quick show wherein they floated at the beginning was a way to randomize the battlefield. Every time a battle began, the tiles were shuffled together and thus depending on the various configurations that they ended upon, one could get a differing battlefield each time.
Saki felt relief at the realization. She was beginning to panic at thought that someone can actually fool her senses that extensively. Haramura-san was one thing. Even if Saki had not personally figured out that illusion spell, it was still something personal and limited in use. But, something that can cover up a spell that affected such a huge area, why if such a spell actually existed…
Then, Onee-chan should…
Saki shouldn't dwell into the past. Didn't she promise to move on? She should concentrate on the now. This was interesting, right? An independent mana construct powered up by some sort of machine mechanism with no caster in sight. If nothing else, she can now safely test how much of her aura she could release with no one the wiser.
Saki leaked out some of her energy from her hand into the mountain. Black veins began to spread throughout the ground, as the mountain began to destabilize.
She quickly took her hand off.
The mountain stopped its shaking.
"What was that?" Kataoka-san asked.
"Must be a glitch in the program." Haramura-san dismissed.
"That doesn't feel like any sort of glitch at all, Nodo-chan." The thief insisted. "It felt like… Saki-chan! Are you alright?"
"I'm okay. " Saki quickly stood from her kneeling position. "I'm really sorry for disturbing you though, Kataoka-san, Haramura-san. It won't happen again."
"Don't be silly, Saki-chan. You didn't do anything wrong."
"That's right. We make all sorts of mistakes, but this one isn't your fault, Miyanaga-san."
"Yeah. It was perfectly fine to be scared."
"So you were scared as well?" snarked Kyou-chan.
Pumping her fist in the air, Kataoka-san denied the allegation. "Of course, I wasn't. But, that's because the Great Yuuki isn't scared of anything! Besides, I can't be scared here if I want to be a professional player, can I? I've heard it was pretty common on professional games," Kataoka-san then grinned at Haramura-san and as if sharing some secret joke said. "It's said that the games there were something straight out of the supernatural."
And right on cue, Haramura-san asserted. "It is a bit unbelievable but there isn't anything supernatural in mahjong. The professionals just know ways to exploit the system better, thus they were able to get consistent results that seemingly look fantastical and against statistics. Our mind just interprets the random flow of data and tries to find a pattern when there is none to be found. In fact, just this week Mihorigi-pro actually managed to make a completely new theory that explained this sort of phenomenon…"
"That interview, huh. But didn't Mihorigi-pro also say that she didn't really know anything at the end?"
"Umm… I think Mihorigi-pro was just being modest."
Saki listened to the back and forth between the two. She could barely understand what they were saying, but it looked like they were telling her... that these things happen all the time and she shouldn't worry? Only they seemed to be debating on the how.
The pint sized thief must have sensed her confusion. When their eyes met, Saki silently tried to implore Kataoka-san about her dilemma. The tacos loving girl perked up, it looked like she got the message.
"Nodo-chan, let's play already. We're boring Saki-chan to death and she won't join our club anymore."
Wait, what? The bookworm was startled and hurried to protest her innocence. That wasn't what she wanted to say.
"Besides, we're getting off track. Aren't we here to demonstrate how a mahjong game is played to Saki-chan?
"I'm sorry Miyanaga-san. We've been neglecting you a bit, haven't we?"
"No. Really, you guys shouldn't worry about me at all." And considering she almost accidentally broke their machinery, she should actually be saying sorry to them.
"That is not true; you are our guest and prospective member. If we can't treat you with our very best, who should we treat with it?"
"Well, if you put it that way…"
Saki inwardly sighed. If Haramura-san was anything like her Onee-chan, it might be best to just agree with her and it wasn't like she has any serious objection. Saki was beginning to be interested on how they do battle here.
"I'm glad you agree. Do you need the tutorial, Miyanaga-san? All you have to do is say Computer, requesting Tutor–"
"Pzzt… Saki-chan doesn't need the measly tutorial mode. She's got us!" Kataoka-san interrupted. "Saki-chan, first you've got to collect mana like this. Nodo-chan, Kyou-chan! You too! " Yuuki closed her eyes.
"Hai, hai Yuuki-sensei." Kyou-chan teased.
"That's right. I'm the wonderful Yuuki sensei!"
Saki watched as the three mahjong club members collected mana. She observed that the square blank runes appeared below each of the feet of the gatherer for every complete mana collection. It meant that everyone would know how many mana anyone had for a given time, if not the exact type. It was a bit weird to actually see the mana being collected; wouldn't it make things a tad too easy?
Finally, everyone had collected their thirteenth tile. It was her turn.
"Remember not to go beyond the 13 units. You'll get a penalty if you do that." Kataoka-san cheerfully coached.
Feeling the energy in the air, Saki gathered the required mana. Unlike when she tried it outside, the energy came to her without any effort. It's like the bookworm just had to reach for them and they drop into the palm of her hands. Compared to the arduous task of gathering mana outside which was akin to sifting black sand to find the lone white one, Saki was definitely not complaining. Though, the bookworm had a sneaking suspicion that the task would be more of what type of spell you will be able to build using the limited 13 tile.
In no time, Saki had gathered the requisite 13 units of mana.
"After that, we will take turns on drawing one mana at a time. If you can't make a spell using the mana you have gathered, you have to discard one and try again. The first one to complete their spell will receive the appropriate points depending on the complexity of the spell they have cast." Haramura-san patiently explained. "Was there anything you were confused about
Saki gave a shake of her head.
She was beginning to understand the game. They were using the ceremonial variant of mahjong. She wasn't as good here as the actual battle, but she was familiar with the game.
"Ok. If you're sure. Let's begin."
"Everyone. Let's start."
And with that, all of them jumped off the mountain top.
Saki Fantasy Mahjong
Saki was hiding up the branches of a tree. From her perch, she watched Kyou-chan who she discretely followed stop at the forest clearing.
The turn order for this game was decided by the order they arrived at the platform which meant Kataoka-san was first, Kyou-chan was second and Haramura-san was the third. That meant Saki was last. She never did like to be last. At the end game, there was too much attention given to that position. But, as she watched how Kyou-chan managed to draw a mana, she found that this position would be favorable for her right now.
"So what should one do next?"
She watched more of the boy's action as he discarded a mahjong rune. The rune disappeared from Kyou-chan's personal sigil along with a good portion of the forest. A portion of the trees turned into energy particles and followed the rune to flow upward the sky. Then, they congealed into an unmistakable figure of 6 stout lines, a 6 pin. Thankfully, the tree that Saki was hiding on was not part of it. On the other hand her quarry after observing his discard on the sky began to run to another location.
This time, Saki did not follow.
It was almost her turn now.
She watched the sky and a third rune appeared.
Saki drew the energy particles from the forest into her hand. The energy acted like high-speed fireflies and homed to her position. They entered her battle suit and caused a warm tingle that run through her body.
Once the energy was inside, Saki recognized the feel of the mana. It was a good component for her spell. By her estimate, she should be able to complete her spell in just a few more turns. She should be able to get a pretty complicated and powerful one as well. But, first to confirm something she noticed while watching Kyou-chan. Saki threw away an unneeded rune, a 1 sou. Like what she observed, the rune glowed and along with a significant portion of the forest turned to energy particles which went to the sky.
It congealed into a distinctive shape until the bookworm could see the outline of the 1 sou newly embedded there. It was unmistakable, after all the silhouette of that bird was quite distinctive.
If that was the case, then following the turn order. The 3 wan should be Kataoka-san's discard, the 5 sou Haramura-san's and the 6 pin Kyou-chan's. It was too early to tell, but if she was reading the mechanics of this game right, she could use that to determine what type of spell her opponents will be building. Beside that, the direction where the dissipated mana came from will probably be a valuable indicator where a given player should be at the moment. That meant she should get out of this location now and get moving or else someone will find her soon. Though that begged the question of where?
A new 5 wan was embedded to the sky.
Kataoka-san had finished her turn, and with it, Saki recognized an energy spike. It traveled through the battlefield causing a wave of energy. It looked like someone was nearly finished in building their spell.
Saki looked at the direction from where the energy particles dissipated.
*Saki Fantasy Mahjong*
Yuuki grinned as she savored her impending victory.
She drew another useless mana and discarded it. However, she did not change her location nor did she feel down about her unlucky gathering. She had declared riichi a while ago, creating a shockwave of energy that her opponents would undoubtedly feel, and thus, she was not able to move from this spot. But she didn't let that bother her, for Yuuki had a good feeling that her next turn was going to yield her the win. Besides, the round was still young, it was just the seventh turn so no one had any idea what her hand should contain or where Yuuki was located.
It was the perfect situation. No one was going to stop her now.
A bush from the side rustled.
"Who's there?" Yuuki held both her daggers out, her stance ready for any intruder. But, no one came forth to attack her.
"It's probably just the wind."
The thief lowered her stance but she didn't sheath her daggers. Something about her surroundings was making her uneasy. Nervous, she looked up for a second. Only one more turn and she will be winning this round.
Just Saki-chan's turn.
There should be nothing to be nervous about. It wasn't like Saki-chan was anywhere near her. See, she looked up to the pond above; Saki just managed to discard a tile…
A 2 pin.
That was one of her waits.
She watched the trail of energy. It was coming from behind her.
And right behind her, immaculate in her cloak was Saki.
But, Yuuki was not frozen for long.
One of her daggers glowed and, with a quick slash, hit the immobile figure on the cloak.
Such was the sheer force contained in the dagger that Saki was blown away.
"RON! 18,000 points!"
With that the first round ended.
All of the surroundings dissolved into packets of energy, revealing the same white room where everything started.
*Saki Fantasy Mahjong*
Heat … A terrible heat was crushing her… she couldn't breathe…
"Saki-chan, are you all right?"
The terrible inferno was immediately replaced by the concerned face of Kataoka-san and a room filled with blank tiles. She wasn't burning up or suffocating from the lack of oxygen. In fact, Saki was feeling remarkably pain free.
"It didn't hurt?" Saki mumbled as she looked at her hands. Perfectly fine and healthy.
A hand gripped a fistful of her cloak, shaking the bookworm.
"Saki-chan. Saki-chan, are you all right?"
Saki finally focused on her surroundings.
"I wasn't hurt?"
Kataoka-san gave a confused face. "That's good. I was worried for a moment, you know? You weren't moving at all…"
"I thought I was burning…"
"Burning? Silly, Saki-chan. That's impossible. These are all just a special effects."
"Something about the mana packet doesn't truly have energy or its fake or something. You could ask Nodo-chan later. She can explain all the technical mumbo-jumbo better than I can." Then, wagging one finger, Katoaka-san emphasized. "But, the point is that it's impossible to get hurt here. No one would actually play this game if you would get grievous injuries, you know?"
"Come on, Nodo-chan and Kyou-chan are waiting." Kataoka-san tugged at the bookworm's hand. Saki let herself be pulled and the energy of the thief propel her forward as they crossed the white expanse of tiles together.
Yet, even as she ran along with Kataoka-san, Saki's mind was elsewhere. No one would allow themselves to use mahjong if it would cause grievous injuries? Saki turned the thought over her head.
…A burning building was collapsing in on itself.
Black soot… The smell of noxious burning flesh…
That had to be a lie.
Nevertheless, Saki could feel the smooth flesh holding her hand. Kataoka-san used her left hand to attack her using the dagger. She didn't have any protections spells on which was the main reason why Saki aborted her own attack. The bookworm felt that she would have a much better chance of surviving the thief's spell. Even if she came out of it a little singed, her aural shield should be able to take the brunt of the damage. And in the worst case, if the thief's attack was too much, Saki could always heal herself.
And yet, all of her preparations were for naught. There was no attack. That explosion spell was all flash and no substance.
It's impossible to be hurt here...
A place where you can't harm anyone or be hurt in turn... Saki had long thought that no such place could ever exist. And yet she could feel smooth skin, free of any kind of blemish, gripping her hand tightly.
Saki held the hand, a bit tighter.
Perhaps it is possible after all.
~ CHAPTER END
There are three commonly held truths about mahjong:
+ Mahjong is a system that allows the user to bend or alter reality, conferring various supernatural abilities that defy physics as we know it.
+ Mahjong is an unlimited energy.
+ Mahjong is something that is not yet fully understood.
Thus, conventional wisdom says.
Conventional wisdom is frequently wrong.
An excerpt from Higher Mahjong by Sukoya Kokaji
Saki Fantasy Mahjong
Plus Minus Zero
Nodoka stopped moving.
The trees, the mountain and the very ground she walked on vanished, turning into tiny balls of insubstantial light. These countless lights hanged in the air, drifted aimlessly, flickered and disappeared.
Nodoka observed the phenomenon, silently confirming that it was truly underway and not just a glitch in the system. After a few seconds wherein the terrain continued its transformation, she was satisfied; her mind immediately turning to other matters. After all as a mahjong practitioner she has long been inured to such things. She knew from experience that the process will continue until all has been transformed wherein the next round will begin.
What she was more interested was what it entailed.
The round has ended.
So who won?
Intense red eyes glinted at the corner of her mind
She did not have to wait for long. The middle school champion felt the characteristic niggling sensation that tried to worm itself to her brain at the end of every match. Like clockwork, she responded. Her breast heaved as she took a long breath. After a few seconds of holding her breath, she carefully expelled the air out.
Simple meditation exercises.
Completely emptying the mind of unnecessary thought was almost close to impossible. But, it was needed, or else a good percentage of synchronization would not be possible. Thinking unnecessary things blocks the transmission of data. Even worse the disparate mental processes corrupts the process. Thus, meditation exercises. In theory, focusing on basic mechanical tasks will cut down the noise generated by the brain. But, that was easier said than done.
Even doing meditation exercises a player cannot completely cut out the mental noise. This meant for the average player, the synchronization level they have with the computer was only enough for the most basic of assistance like checking the score of one's opponent.
Not Nodoka though.
She was proud to say that she has mastered the meditation exercises, making her synchronization rate and speed, the fastest in her generation. And true to her credentials, a mental tick later – not even a fraction of a second. Glowing blocks of letter and letters appeared in front of her as if an invisible pen was writing in the air.
Nodoka quietly sighed as she saw the score balance.
Just by looking, it was easy to deduce what happened. Yuuki must have hit Miyanaga-san with a dealer Haneman. It was going to be hard to get the lead now. But, she supposed it can't be helped. These things happen when one was playing mahjong. Still…
Even with all the facts as clear as day, something nagged on her mind.
With one mighty heave, Nodoka buried the pointy end of her spear to the ground.
"Code: 0126 Activate," she intoned clearly, releasing a protocol spell embedded in her weapon. The ground she was standing on glowed. Webbed circuits appeared. In her mind, a clear robotic voice answered, "Granted."
She let go of her impaled spear and said. "Requesting the battle data of the last turn around between Player designated Miyanaga Saki and Player designated Katoaka Yuki."
The sphere glowed white and at its blunt edge, a hologram was projected. Immediately, she recognized Yuuki, standing rooted in one place. A vortex of power around her. Tell-tale signs that the thief has called riichi. The taco loving girl was standing in a clearing in a forest, her arms folded beneath her chest as if challenging anyone to beat her before she completed her spell.
Nodoka clucked her teeth at Yuuki's idiosyncrasy.
Normally, standing in open space was a good strategy. The opposing party could see you, but it would allow the person to see if there was any opponent headed your way as well. This strategy though has no such advantage. When one started a spell with a riichi component, one must not move from the place they declared it from. If one does so, the spell will become unstable and implode upon the caster.
Thus, without mobility to dodge or an ability to react, Using riichi in an open space was like putting a giant target on oneself.
Nodoka looked at Yuuki's self-satisfied grin.
She does know what answer she will get if she asked why though. She asked it a few days ago.
"But, if I was not quick enough I'm going to lose the East Wind!"
As if the East wind round is a tangible thing to lose, the middle school immediately thought in response to her remembrance.
Nodoka waved her hand. Changing the image being shown by the sphere to the next player of interest.
The girl wearing a white cloak was leisurely walking in a forested area.
No running, nor any attempt to use the trees as cover. It's as if Miyanagas-san was out to take a stroll. Up ahead, the pinkette saw an orange light projecting behind the row of trees.
That was unmistakably Yuuki's location.
Going head to head with someone who has declared riichi? Didn't she know that was dangerous? The middle school's champion brow knotted more when the white clad girl stopped a few paces from Yuuki, but safety under the cover of the trees.
The bookworm looked at the thief for a few seconds and proceeded to discard Yuuki's needed rune.
The image froze as Nodoka lost her concentration and desynchronized from the computer.
At that distance, Miyanaga-san should surely have seen what runes Yuuki held. It's the reason why close contact in a mahjong game was not pursued by players. The runes that formed your current spell were proudly displayed in your suit. It can be used to check what spell your opponent was forming but it also allows your opponents to see what spell you were forming as well.
And here, the proper action should be clear. Yuuki has let her guard down and allowed Miyanaga-san close. The bookworm should have spied on Yuuki and quietly left. Using the information, she would have avoided the riichi indefinitely until someone won or she formed her spell. There was no logical reason for her to throw that 2 pin away. It's even needed for her spell formation.
Nodoka made a gesture causing the hologram to zoom at the bookworm's face.
Inside the burning inferno, the brunette wore a unmistakable expression. Eyes widened. Mouth slack. The middle school champion may not be a people person but she can recognize the emotion painted here. It's pure unadulterated shock.
Miyanaga-san was not expecting that.
Nodoka's confusion deepened.
Could she really have no idea at all?
'Hey, I'm inviting my middle school friend as our guest today. She's a newbie though. I don't know if she can even…"
Nodoka shook her head.
She was over thinking this.
Suga-san said that his friend was a "newbie". A beginner doesn't know when to fold and was unusually aggressive even when the battle was already lost. It was possible that Miyanaga-san didn't even know how to interpret the runes inscribed on a suit. The runes usually have a few stylistic changes depending on the chosen theme by the user. It can cause confusion even in professionals. Though, Yuuki's runes were closer to the standard, for a beginner it might not make a difference.
In this, she was asking too much of the bookworm. It's already a miracle that Miyanaga-san was able to make it this far. No other candidates have made it after all. Most can't even activate their battle suit and on the rare chance that they did, they don't even know how to draw a rune. Even the free weekend tutoring mahjong session did not produce results.
Still, as she waved her hand to dismiss the hologram. Her eyes strayed to the bookworms face. Nodoka has long stopped listening to her instincts preferring cool logic but she can't help but ask herself.
Was it truly honest confusion?
In another part of the arena, Saki absentmindedly looked at the transforming landscape.
Dancing lights floated in the air. Like fireflies that were born only to die, they danced in the empty space and flickered in an instant. Such a beautiful sight. Poetic even. It was almost enough to make her forget about the feel of the offending smooth palm of her hand.
Subtly, she ran her fingers through it. No blisters. No cuts. No bruises. Nothing.
"Saki-chan? Are you done yet?" Kataoka-san sat alongside her.
The bookworm blinked and remembered what she was supposed to be doing. They have stopped for a while when the surrounding began to dissolve themselves. The pint sized thief deeming it best to stay put, mentioning they should check something out.
"Was there any problem?" The thief asked cheerfully.
There isn't any problem. That is the problem. Saki wanted to say.
Has her belief always been this wrong?
But, she didn't.
"I'm just a bit confused." she admitted.
To the bookworm's surprise, the girl agreed, "I know right!"
Saki immediately gave Kataoka-san her full attention.
"Nodo-chan always said that it was easy. But, emptying your mind only sounds simple. How can you stop thinking anyway? " The thief groused, while munching on a piece of taco. "Synchronizing sucks."
Saki contained her disappointment. That was not what she wanted to talk about. Though, one word did catch her attention. "Synchronize?"
"Oh yeah, your still new at this. It's…" Kataoka-san eyes squinted as she groped for words to explain. "Umm… something about the computer reading our mind to -"
The bookworm's eyes widened.
She immediately dived inside her mind.
And sure enough, there are traces in the wall of someone trying to get in.
Saki wasted no time and watched for the next telepathic attack. If she set the timing right, she can rebound the attack and use it to trace the originator.
A few seconds later, a clear thin silvery strand approached.
The bookworm blinked.
It's too weak.
Saki watched as the attack bounced off. And another. And another. Whoever was doing it wasn't really trying or not that good at the mental arts. Like a woodpecker that was desperately trying to peck metal it could find no purchase on the smooth walls. Worse, it wasn't trying to vary its attack.
Adrenaline gone. Saki sighed in relief. Her memories were safe. Still, you can't be too careful. Saki added a few more layers until she can't even hear the sound. Even if, the attack has no chance of going through, Saki doesn't want to take any risk of anyone snooping around her mind.
Except perhaps Onee-chan, but that's different and its not like her sister can actually help doing it. Not like Onee-chan will be doing it anytime soon.
All too aware of the darkness that covered her mindscape. It was so complete that she can no longer see a thing within her own mind. The sun no longer shined here. And in truth, she preferred it that way. At least, she couldn't see what has become of this place.
Feeling a tad depressed, she focused outward.
"nifty … score… playback…. So it has its uses." The thief was now standing, her arms crossed and doing a lecture. It seemed that Kataoka-san had just finished answering her question. "So what do you think of synchronization, Saki?"
"I don't think I like it very much." The bookworm answered honestly. She may not have heard most of what Kataoka-san said but the fact that the computer needs to read her mind to do so was a deal breaker.
This answer pleased the thief, "I knew that you'll see it my way."
Saki gave a weak grin. But, the thief was not done.
"I know! You'll be my first student!" Kataoka-san grinned like a canary. Then, she proceeded to crane her neck furtively in all directions giving the impression of a character from an early cartoon.
"Coast is clear." The thief whispered, while motioning Saki to come nearer to her.
The bookworm did so.
"This Saki-chan is the secret of my success. Behold!" Kataoka-san pulled a scrap of paper from her back pocked and shoved it in the bookworm's hand. "That contains all the list of yaku and their corresponding value. You can use that as a pattern to form your spells."
"I can't possibly take this," Saki tried to give it back. "What will you use?"
The thief laughed. "Don't worry, I already memorized most of the yaku there. All I have problem with is the fu thingy. But, I'm awesome enough to score limit hands that I don't need it. Besides, official tournaments don't allow cheat sheets such as this so I might as well practice."
"If you're sure?"
"Of course! The Great and Awesome Yuuki is always sure!"
Saki grinned along. The pint sized girl's energy was infectious. She didn't have even have the heart to tell her that she already memorized the table. The scoring was based on the amount of mana particles that a spell use and she already knew that by heart. Once she realized that all she has to do was glance at what was spell component was allowed in this game and what's not.
"So do your best ok! No student of mine should suck at mahjong!" Kataoka-san asserted.
The bookworm's energy dampened.
Ah… how could she forget, she was using mahjong.
"I'll try…" She quietly muttered even as the thief bounced ahead of her. That was all she promised after all. Kyou-chan and now Kataoka-san. To try to play mahjong again. Even just for this one day.
Saki was once again reminded of her unhurt state. A flare of warm hope rose to her chest. If she was somehow wrong about everything.
Then, everything would be better.
But, if she's right.
Saki took a deep resolute breath.
She has long decided her path, years ago.
Meanwhile, the last remaining player was also checking the result of the last match. "That Saki, she really is a beginner," Kyoutaro smirked.
This was good though. It meant that his plan was working. If he managed to directly hit Saki, the match would end and for once he won't be in last place. Nodoka will surely be able to see his improvement.
He could see it now.
Nodoka will shift cutely as if debating whether she wanted to praise him or not. Her chest bouncing perkily with every jerky movement. Then, suddenly, she will hug him press his head on those soft, bouncy…
Kyoutaro wiped a drool off his face.
A small pang of conscience nagged him for using his friend this way.
It did not last for long.
"YOSH! I'll buy you a sandwich later as an apology. But, love will prevail first!" He waved his sword around as the tiles lifted once more and began to shuffle overhead him. Besides, Saki needs to talk to new people anyway. She'll thank him later. He'll even make her, his best woman for the wedding….
The moment when he thought of wedding, an image formed in his mind. Nodoka as a bride. Her face covered by a veil which barely hid the bright red blush that stain her cheeks. Slowly, she walked down the aisle.
So pure, so good, so graceful…
A long siren echoed toward the arena.
The swordsman blinked. Time had passed while he was daydreaming. In front of him, the sparkling lake has been replaced by a sandy arid desert. He gazed at the sky and once again the pond was wiped completely clean.
The next round was officially on.
He took his sword and put it horizontally in front of him.
Concentrate on the energy. Draw them.
The sword glowed.
Thirteen balls of light flew from somewhere unseen and gathered around him.
"Let's see what Lady luck has for me." Kyoutaro smirked.
He slowly drew the lights into his sword. For every light that was drawn to him a personal rune was etched on his clothes.
One of character. Two of character. Three of character. Two of circles. Three of circles. Another Three of circles. Four of circles. Five of circles. One of bamboo. Two of bamboo. Three of bamboo. Four of bamboo. Six of bamboo.
And since he was the east dealer, he drew first.
The desert glowed as the swordsman drew its energy. It coalesced into the shape of a rune in front of him.
Four of circles.
Kyoutaro grinned, noting the same consecutive melds in all the suits. A sanshoku doujun was within his reach. This was now his chance for a comeback.
He pointed his sword in the sky. One more it glowed as a green beam shoot out. The beam solidified in the pond, revealing a six of bamboo.
"True love will win!" The swordsman vowed.
X.x.X.A few turns later.
Kyoutaro was gobsmacked as a huge ball of energy crashed into him.
A loud explosion. The swordsman was promptly flung backward crashing into several trees.
Kyoutaro groaned as he laid to the ground. There were sounds of clinking metal as soft footfall came closer.
"Sorry about that Kyou-chan, are you okay?" It was Saki. Her lithe form blocked the overhead lights as she peered on the swordsman at the ground, her face lined with worry.
"I'm fine, Saki." Kyoutaro waved his friend's worry. Getting up quickly from his prone position.
"Are you sure?" The white mage doesn't seem to be convinced.
"Yes. Yes. Quit being a worry rat." The swordsman groused. "You're damaging my masculinity." Sometimes Saki was too nice for her own good. "What did you hit me anyway?"
"Just Tanyao." Saki's friend's soft voice answered. "About 1,300 points."
"That's cheap, Saki." He teased. With the way the bookworm was worrying, he thought he was hit with a yakuman or something.
"It was one of the lowest score possible," his friend concurred. Not even a tiny bit offended about his insinuations. Ugh. This is why teasing Saki was not fun. It would be nice if the bookworm gets mad once in a while.
"Don't sound so proud, you're not going to win using cheap hands." Kyoutaro warned. "Besides," his voice perked. "True love will prevail in the end."
Saki just looked at him blankly.
X.x.XUnfortunately for the swordsman, true love did not prevail in the end. The following two rounds were also won by Saki.
"You switched tactics. Were you trying to win as much hand as you could?" The pink haired goddess deducted.
Kyoutaro noted that unlike any other time when a prospective candidate was brought forth, Nodoka wasn't just going through the motions. There was a genuine interest this time and was that a blush?
What did you do? Share some tips with your buddy! Kyoutaro silently thought as he glared at his bookworm friend who at the moment smiling sheepishly.
"It's all thanks to my teachings!" The thief crowed.
"Hai, Kataoka-san was a big help. I wouldn't have figured out half of these things without her."
Of course, Saki agreed. Kyoutaro groaned, here it comes…
"Ha! Ha! Hear that! I'm a genius, Nodo-chan! You better watch out I'm ending the tyranny of your boobs today!"
"What does that have to do with anything?!"
Yeah. The swordsman privately agreed. Those lushes pillow can never do anything wrong!
"Besides, many things can happen in mahjong. Your lead can still be overtaken." Nodoka continued.
"Even if it's in the South Round, I'm eating my super special taco specially prepared by the lunch lady so you better watch out." Yuuki sing-songed.
"That's just superstition."
"No uh!" Yuuki blew a raspberry.
"If you don't lose concentration…"
And there they go again. Kyoutaro watched as the two of them go back and forth about that age old argument. He turned to his fried already losing interest in the conversation. He knew how it will end. The two of them will try to out stubborn each other. "It looked like they forgot about us, huh?" He turned to look at Saki who looking remarkably distressed.
Oh yeah. Saki hated it when she sees anyone fighting. She had a remarkable ability to just disappear once she caught a whiff of any aggressiveness. Not this time. "Saki, you're not planning to do a disappearing act like always, are you?" Kyoutaro pre-empted.
"I won't Kyou-chan." The bookworm assured him.
"Uh huh…" The swordsman hummed, not convinced in the slightest.
"I won't, really. I did promise," This time there was a hint of peevishness there. It wasn't fully developed but it's there. "Until, you guys have enough players to play a full game, I won't leave."
Kyoutaro pounced. "Now that you mention it, there is this tournament coming up and we don't have-"
"Just for today, Kyou-chan."
The swordsman blinked. "I thought you were having fun?"
"Yes…" Saki said reluctantly, her face troubled.
"Then, there should be no reason not to join the club isn't there?" Operation: Get Saki more friends was on the go. Not to mention, it would make it easier to get closer to Nodoka if Saki was around to be his wingmate.
The bookworm's eyes quickly darted to the arguing duo. Kyoutaro was sure that if he wasn't focusing on Saki, he wouldn't have noticed. Is that why she won't join, the swordsman wondered. After a moment or two, Saki answered. "I'll think about it." There was a note of finality and Kyoutaro knew that he won't be getting anything more than that.
"Ok, the next game is about to start anyway. This time I won't lose!" He psyched himself as he noticed the corner tile moving, a clear signal that the next game was about to begin.
This also has the effect of disturbing the argument between his goddess and the thief.
"Oh ho! Trying to play in the big league!" Yuuki pounced on him. He almost buckled under the weight. "I'm not handing the crown to you infidels!" The pint sized girl announced.
"This game is still everyone's game." Nodoka quietly asserted.
That's right." Kyoutaro stood up straight while Yuuki somersaulted in the center.
"Just try it, I'll crush all of you down!" The thief said gamely.
X.x.XIt was now the last round and Yuuki was in a pinch. Despite her assertions, Nodoka still managed to steadily erode her lead with quick hands. Worse, her new pupil has managed to surpass her. She bottled her frustration and bit into a taco. She really really hated the south round. Why does it have to exist? It would be better if all the rounds were of the East wind.
As she ran into another forest and drew another unneeded bamboo, she despondently looked at the sky. Her chance was about gone now. In her haste to get a quick hand, she called a lot. Everyone with eyes should know that she was collecting pin tiles. No one would discard them…
A 3 pin appeared.
Not unless, they were a newbie.
"Sorry, Saki-chan. But, I'm winning this,"
With one giant throw, the thief threw a dagger toward to the sky.
"RON! Honitsu 2,000 points!" At these words, the dagger glowed and accelerated, right straight into the 3 pin rune in the makeshift ceiling. Then, like a contagion the dagger transferred its glow into the tile. A bright meteor fated to hit the ground by the laws of gravity.
Yuuki noticed its direction.
Why was the 3 pin falling this way? It should fall where Saki was!
But, Yuuki's eye did not deceive her. The glowing chunk of rock was falling toward her. Her survival mechanism kicked in.
She ran like the wind she was fond of.
A few seconds later.
A loud bang rang toward the area. Even with her distance, the thief could feel the aftershock. She turned around. There was a nice dust cloud where the forest was a few seconds ago. Courtesy of impact.
She heaved a relieved sigh.
She didn't even notice.
"Saki-chan are you there?" She called out to the dust cloud where the grove of trees used to be.
"Hai," a soft spoken voice replied, silencing her nagging doubts. When the fine layer of dust cleared out, the bookworm could be seen sitting comfortably under a square shaped crater. Yuuki's dagger impaled, right in front of her. Seeing her newly minted student has no inclination to move, the thief somersaulted into the crater. "Do you need help getting up?"
"Umm… thank you." The white mage agreed, taking her hand. At the moment, the computer telepathically announced the score to her brain.
Kataoka : 31,800
Suga : 5,500
"I'm still behind Nodo-chan." Yuuki groaned. Though, her last attack did put her in second. Just a few hundred points ahead of Saki. She gazed at the bookworm who has standing silently beside her. Feeling sorry for her student.
"Cheer up, Saki! It's a simple rookie mistake! Besides, the student can't surpass the master easily." The thief laughed cheerily. "Here have a taco!"
Unnoticed by the participants of the current game, someone has entered the mahjong club and was fast approaching them.
Hisa Takei has just finished student council duties (or more like shoved them to her Vice-President). And she was now ready to act on her other more preferable duty – the mahjong club leader. It helped that she has a good crop this year. Her underclassmen were so cutely diligent. She was sure that they would still be doing club activities even if it was just the three of them.
And sure enough, when she passed the door that lead to the arena, there was a red warning light above it. Signifying that the game was on progress. Hisa smirked. It's nice to be validated.
Stopping on the room across the arena, Hisa opened the door to the operation room. Wires, monitors, and lots of processors are stacked neatly in place. This was the room that monitored the various going on in the arena.
Oh? What's this?
At the large screen in the back of the room, there were 4 gauges that was being monitored.
4 people? But, Mako asked for a leave since her family's mahjong parlor was understaffed. Did they have a guest? Itching to scratch her curiosity, Hisa typed a few commands in one of the keyboards, allowing her to communicate with those inside.
The screen split into 4 partitions, one for each player. As always, Nodoka was the first to notice, "Buchou?"
"Hello, I just want to check up on you." Hisa said cheerfully.
"Student Council President?" This time it was the unknown girl who spoke. She was wearing a white cloak that covered her whole body and holding a staff. The hood was up, but Hisa could make out short cropped hair and red eyes. "What are you doing here?"
"Student Congress President." She corrected. "And I'm the leader of this club."
The girl blinked like a lost lamb, unsure how to respond. "I see."
Hisa wanted to recruit her already
"Don't mind me, please continue your game." She grinned and closed the communication line. Now then, what to do? She gazed at the monitor when she saw a small flashing red bulb on the side. Something wrong with the machine?
"Ask and you shall receive." Hisa smiled ruefully. Well, she better fix it now before it becomes a major problem. She pushed a few buttons on the keyboard in front of her. "Let's see."
Stress level: 99%
Hisa scratched her head. What arcane simulation were they running to put that much stress in the machine? She was sure that they're just using the standard version . She pushed a few more buttons to check.
"Riichi variant. Standard setting. E-S rounds. Dora activated. Ura dora activated, Limit hands, -" The student congress president knotted her brow as she read the list. There wasn't anything here that could stress the system. She also didn't find anything wrong on the last maintenance so it can't be the physical components fault. The last battle yesterday also went without a hitch.
"So what was causing all this stress?" Hisa watched the red line hold steady.
Her heart skipped a beat.
That shouldn't be possible. There are times when the simulation consumes more energy and there were times that it didn't; like there were lulls in battles and frantic aggressive exchanges. The gauge should be uncontrollably fluctuating to reflect that.
But, it was happening. The gauge has refused to budge at the 99% for a couple of minutes now. She has to accept that.
The redhead pushed thoughts of impossibilities away from her mind. This was mahjong, she reminded herself. Impossibilities were its currency. Think. What was the variable that was different in yesterday's match and the current one?
In excitement or fear, she didn't know because there was only one.
With a few stroke of her finger, she got her answer.
The screen that was supposed to display her profile. Her speed, resiliency, mana gathering, affinities. All the data that the computer was supposed to collect. Everything was displaying an error value.
It wasn't a damming confirmation but it was a close one.
With trembling hands, Hisa pressed the button for the records of the game data.
Saki walked down the pavement. She has excused herself from the game after she saw the student president. She did promise to play only so that they will have enough players.
Now, its time to go home. And not a minute too soon, the weather has turned bad and its raining quite hard. Looking at those clouds, it would only grow harder. She should -
A flare of aura.
Her eyes widened.
She could feel it. Haramura-san has left the building and heading her way. She was chasing her. The pinkette's normal calm aura – frantic, confused, anxious - making it stand out as a beacon to her senses. Sooner or later, she would catch up.
The question was what would she do about it?
I'll think about it.
Just for today.
Her words came back to her.
Saki stopped and turned around. She stood in the howling wind and the cold rain like a statue with her umbrella. Waiting.
And right on cue, Haramura-san arrived. The middle school champion was in a sorry state. Her hair a bit disheveled. Her clothes drenched. But, her eyes were resolute, challenging. "Plus minus zero, three times in a row, was that on purpose?" Haramura asked, her words echoing in the rain.
Saki closed her eyes for a moment.
This is it.
The moment she pronounced those words, Nodoka's aura reeled. It was like seeing a massive resolute tower get a crack on the foundation. Saki's heart ached at the sight.
She hurt someone.
"Why?" Haramura-san asked.
Why not? Saki wanted to ask. She didn't.
After a few moment, when the silence lengthened. She decided to answer. Haramura-san was brave enough to ask, she should at least answer honestly.
"Losing hurts." She said simply.
Her whole body ached. She couldn't move without triggering a lance of pain. Her lifeblood was steadily draining away every second. Something was skewing her insides.
She just wanted it to stop. Make the pain go away.
Why does it hurt this much?
"But, winning means your opponent will be the one who would be hurting."
She could hear the howling, more animal than human as someone burned. The stubbed hand of kindly servant as they delivered her food. The eyes that once looked at her fondly refused to even glance at her.
Her heart twinged, twisted. She was the one who caused it. She was the one to blame.
Saki watched the lightning as it drew strange shapes in the sky, Gazing anywhere but Haramura-san, the person she was hurting with her explanations. "That is why I play that way." Saki smiled self-deprecatingly. "In the end, I suppose I'm just a coward who does not want to be hurt. A person who does not hold a single conviction to be able to clash with others."
A beat of silence as the wind howled.
"I'm sorry Haramura-san, but that is just the way I am." She turned away, ready to leave.
The bookworm looked back. There was a new determination in Haramura-san's eye as she returned her stare. "Fight with me. Please, I promise I won't be hurt nor will I blame you. Just fight with me. Even if for just one more time"
Saki's gave a painful twinge at that desperate plea.
Do you want me to hurt you again?
You can't promise not to be hurt. Not when I've already caused you pain. Saki wanted to point out but she swallowed the words away like always. Watching, Haramura-san's aura flare, she knew that this offer was as serious as it can get.
And yet, she cannot allow herself to grant it. No matter how sincere the pinkette was, she cannot do mahjong for that reason. To protect her friend she could try to play mahjong again for a little while. But, this request has no such purpose. Besides, she was painfully aware that one time has a distressing tendency to be two times which will morph to three and so on. Causing Haramura-san this fleeting pain would be better for her in the long run. "I'm sorry, I can't grant that." She said as gently as she could.
"Why?" Haramura-san asked a second time, prepared to be stubborn.
This time Saki thought of her past and the pain that she doesn't want to ever feel again. Of mahjong, the system that caused it. A system that made sure that nothing can be gained without taking it from someone else. And found that she can say this sincerely.
"It's because I hate Mahjong."
And for that the pinkette has no counter. Her eyes widened. Her aura flared out and simmered below the surface, a flame that can be snuffed by a strong breeze.
Please let that be enough. Let that pain I gave be enough for the happiness I gained this day. I don't want to hurt anyone again.
Saki turned her back one final time certain that no one would call her back.
~ CHAPTER END
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