The masked man, otherwise known as Jinshi, faced off against his next opponent—a portly old man.
Although he was misconstrued as a masked weirdo, they played Go against each other. It was an effortless win.
"I've been told he was good in his own way, but it seems I was mistaken. He's considerably good," Rahan said.
"You think so?" Maomao had served Jinshi for a period but hadn't seen him play much Go during that time. He's naturally gifted to begin with, so she considered his skills to be above those of the average person. "Wasn't the old man just weak?"
Because Jinshi had won so easily, misgivings about foul play rose up for the old man.
"Seems like it. How lucky."
Lowering his head before the Go board, Jinshi moved on to a new opponent.
"Aren't going to penalise the old man who made it this far by cheating?" she asked.
"Penalise the frequent customer who pays the participation fee every time he loses?"
Can't be helped.
"I'm joking. Either way, if he pays, he has the opportunity to challenge esteemed adoptive father. There shouldn't be an issue with that."
"…aren't you planning to charge more money after he finally wins?"
"Competing and teaching is different in nature, right? Well, I don't know if esteemed adoptive father knows the meaning of teaching, but I'll make sure En'en meets with him the day after." Rahan glanced over to the weirdo tactician.
"The day after? Not today after the tournament finishes?" she asked.
"Yeah. He might reach his limit soon. From the looks of it, he'll fall asleep as soon as it ends." Rahan started to flick his mental abacus.
She'd heard from Dad that the weirdo tactician sleeps half the day away, but was he some kid who dozes off as soon as he finishes his tasks?
She knows of an illness where one would fall asleep suddenly, but in that old man's case, it's probably something else.
"Those who I already received an advanced payment from will visit the day after. No, it'll be problematic to bring them separately, so I'll wake him up somehow after getting him to sleep once, no, that's impossible…"
"You money grubber." Maomao shifted her gaze to Jinshi with a look of surprise. His next opponent had been decided, it seemed.
"He probably won't win against that guy."
It was the former pro old man she saw from before.
What is he thinking, showing up to such a large tournament, she thought as she watched the match from a distance. A crowd was gathering around the masked individual, who stuck out like a sore thumb.
While Shogi was a different matter, she wasn’t that well-versed in Go, so she idly manned the reception and kept a lookout any ill people.
(I should clean up and leave.)
Heading over to clean the seats with spilled crumbs, Maomao heard a disappointed sigh.
It came from the spectators surrounding Jinshi. Many participants had given up on attaining victory and had become engrossed in observing the matches instead.
Maomao approached Rahan, who had blended in with the onlookers. "What's up?"
"It's not a bad playstyle, but as expected, he was matched with a difficult opponent. He's stuck."
"Is that so?" Is that how it is? Maomao nodded. "Would a reversal be difficult?"
"It's not that he can't, but so long as the opponent doesn't slip-up, it's probably impossible. His opponent isn't someone who would commit such an elementary mistake—“
Just as he said it, a hubbub rose up within the venue.
The mask that didn't match the occasion slid off. Glossy black hair fluttered in the air and the fragrance of incense wafted from his attire.
Those who tried to make a sound found that they couldn't.
Over there, was the figure of a celestial being who existed only within picture scrolls.
For a moment, his beauty could be mistaken for a woman's, but it was offset by the ruggedness of his throat and his broad shoulders. A slight hint of despondency permeated the soundless voices.
The scar across his right cheek had yet to fade—like a crack through a piece of jade.
It was Jinshi, whose beauty stood out even amongst the colourful flowers of the inner place.
It was probably enough to render everyone shocked.
(I had forgotten, but his face was troublesome enough to exert an evil influence.)
His form in placing down stones was pleasing to the eye, and people would cry out in admiration every time he did so.
Ignoring whatever his intentions were in removing the mask, the one who's actually in trouble was probably the man who was his opponent. Despite gaining the upper hand up until this point, he now looked as white as a sheet.
Has the tide of battle been overturned? No, that wasn't the case.
If he used to teach Go to nobility, he was probably acquainted with the courtiers.
Had he met Jinshi in the past? Or did he have an idea about who the fine figure of a man with a scar on his right cheek is?
(He'll win with this.)
The crowd hadn't recognised the identity of this good looking man. The story of the scar on the imperial brother's right cheek should have spread as far as the streets, but they wouldn't think that he would be playing Go in such a place.
Of course, there were others aside from his opponent who noticed. Everyone had hectic complexions; pale, flushed. They were all flapping their mouths like fish, saying not a thing.
(As long as he doesn't slip-up majorly.)
And he slipped up.
The man lowered his head, pale faced and sweating bullets. "I've lost."
He was trembling. Was it because he slipped up, or was he anxious about making a blunder before Jinshi?
Even Maomao could only put her palms together.
Why was Jinshi wearing a mask? If he was going to show his face, he could've just done so from the start. Was it to rattle his opponent?
However, this made two wins. A victory is a victory. He didn't break any rules.
She thought it a dishonest playstyle, but Maomao recalled that Jinshi was the type to do so without breaking a sweat. After all, he had made use of his face in the inner palace to deceive the palace ladies and eunuchs.
Even though one of his powers was there, he probably didn't go as far as to scorn it now.
(He seriously came to win.)
Coming this far, did he want to confront the weirdo tactician?
Could he actually believe in the rumour that Rahan spread? Maomao scowled.
"…!?" She suddenly got chills and turned around. From the stage, an old man with an unshaven face had focused his eyes this way.
"Maomao, move aside a little. Esteemed adoptive father can't concentrate on the match."
"Esteemed adoptive father can now distinguish the Prince of the Moon."
"Rather, was he unable to before?"
It was truly tough to be unable to differentiate between people's faces.
Maomao returned to her post with the cleaning equipment in one hand.
At the reception, there was a youth who had won newly. She passed him the snacks and tea. He was still young. He had an innocence that made difficult to say whether he had turned twenty or not.
I'm going to win after this. Eyes shining, the youth clenched his fist tightly, but—
She had no way of knowing that in the next match, he will face an excessively dazzling youth from the same generation, get distracted, and suffer a crushing defeat.