Kumo desu ga, Nani ka? Past Arc ⑩

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Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?

Past Arc ⑩


Gyurie placed the piece he held in his hand on the game board without hesitation.

「Ugh.」

In response to Gyurie’s move, the competitor seated opposite gave out a small groan. There was then a brief pause.

「I concede.」

Then, the competitor conceded without moving a piece.

「Good gracious. I had reasonable confidence in my ability, though being so completely overwhelmed is actually refreshing instead.」

Seemingly speaking those words out of true feelings rather than as a way to conceal his frustration, the competitor was smiling in delight despite having lost. Foddway, the competitor, reached his hands out over to board to return the pieces to the starting position.

「You still want to continue?」

In response to Foddway merrily trying to keep the competition going, Gyurie inquired with a slightly fed up tone. Although he had come to meet Sariel, he had been forced to keep playing the board game with the old man in front of him who had come out to meet instead.

「You have plenty of time to spare, so there’s no harm in spending a bit of it with this old man with one foot in the grave.」

Certainly, being a dragon, Gyurie had plenty of time to spare. Even if he kept Foddway company enough to satisfy him, he wouldn’t think of it as a waste of time. Dragons and humans have a fundamentally different sense of time in the first place. The entire lifetime of a human, is just a brief moment for a dragon. While humans see time as something finite, dragons see time as something infinite. Surely as the person himself had said, he could at least stick out with playing as the opponent of an old man with one foot in the grave. But then again, despite him saying that he had one foot in the grave, Gyurie saw Foddway as someone who would stubbornly linger on though.

In resignation, Gyurie decided to continue being Foddway’s opponent. The two of them were competing in a board game with ancient origins. It was similar to what is called chess or shogi on Earth. However, compared to those, it had a much wider variety of pieces and a larger board, making it more complicated. For that reason, it took a long time to play a game. Long enough that it could take five days to complete a professional match.

The battle between them, was now entering the 17th round. Naturally, such a number cannot be completed within a day. Gyurie had spent the last several days requesting a meeting with Sariel, and each time Foddway came to compete with him.

Foddway’s goal was obvious. He was making sure that Gyurie couldn’t meet with Sariel. Anyone would be able to realise that goal given how open he was about it. And Gyurie, despite knowing that, could only go along with the intentions of the old man in front of him. So for now he simply focused on doing what he could. If he couldn’t show his sincerity, then he wouldn’t be able to earn Foddway’s trust.

If he was determined to meet Sariel then he would be able to meet with her. No matter how much Foddway attempted to obstruct him, he had no way to stop a dragon like Gyurie. However, doing that would be wrong. Gyurie had to get the approval of the old man in front of him. Not as a dragon, but from the point of view of a fellow person. If he wasn’t able to persuade this old man on grounds of equal footing, then surely he did not have the right to see the same things that Sariel saw.

「Ugh.」

He was already on the way towards a dominant victory in the game though.

「Not going to take time to think?」
「Taking time to think is heresy. During their lifetime, humans rarely get the time to think. Which is exactly why humans are afraid of making mistakes.」

Now that he said it, he remembered that Foddway had not once taken the time to think over his next move.

「Still, humans do make mistakes. Mistakes will always happen eventually. We pile up such mistakes, establish rules to prevent new mistakes from occurring, reducing further mistakes even if just a bit. Human history is basically the history of our mistakes. And we have reached where we are today by learning our lessons from that history. Even so, our mistakes haven’t stopped though.」

While he kept on speaking continuously, Foddway placed a piece. Immediately Gyurie placed his own piece, and again it was Foddway’s turn. However, after a long pause, his hands stopped for a while.

「Thus I’m not piling up these defeats for no reason. Defeats and mistakes, turn into new lessons each time. To demonstrate that lesson, I’ll make this move!」

Foddway made that mighty declaration, and placed a piece. In response to that, Gyurie swiftly placed his own pieces so as to block Foddway’s move.

「……While that certainly wasn’t a mistake, it wasn’t the best possible strategy either. This was a good example of what you were saying I guess.」
「It’s not what you say, but how you say it you know.」

The 17th round had also gone badly for him, but Foddway was a man who always had a way with words. Anything from trivial idle talk, to deep implications that could disturb Gyurie, he chatted away while in the midst of playing the deep board game.

「Language is called humanity’s greatest invention you know. Human history is basically how we’ve endlessly argued back and forth.」
「Hey, isn’t that strange.」

In this way that it was hard to tell whether he was being serious or joking, he was able to confuse others quite often.

「There’s nothing strange about it at all. Due to the existence of the absolute beings called dragons, we humans have come to not rely upon brute force. While brute force matters in the end, until things reach that stage a battle of wits is what matters. By endlessly arguing about various reasons, it can be possible to deceive your opponent. Since that’s all we’ve ever been doing that’s why I’ve gotten such a sharp tongue you see.」
「Don’t blame your sharp tongue on history. Also, I’d rather you don’t casually blame us dragons either.」

Contrasting Gyurie’s fed up expression, Foddway smiled happily.

「Darn it. I’m amazed at that mouth of yours.」
「I don’t intend to lose in this at least.」

Easily turning aside those sarcastic words, Foddway placed a piece with a proud expression instead. Gyurie soon placed his own piece, and that proud expression retracted.

「I don’t feel like I can lose in this game, but I don’t feel like I can beat you with words either.」
「Of course. The rate at which humans and dragons think at must be different after all. Most likely, no matter how many times I challenge you, it’ll be impossible for me to beat you. It sure is strange though. Although both involve using one’s head, while I don’t have any chance of winning in this game, I don’t feel like I’ll lose in a verbal argument. While dragons are superior in straightforward calculations, maybe humans can win in sneakiness?」

While Foddway glared at the game board, he still seemed somewhat happy.

「There is no doubting how great dragons are. However, just because dragons are so great, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s nothing that they are inferior at when compared to other creatures. Dragons don’t have a sneakiness like humans. Because they are strong enough without it. Even without bothering to use cowardly tactics like humans would, and simply by fighting fair and square they can still come off victorious against most opponents. Because of that, they don’t need sneakiness. However, that’s exactly why dragons are careless. They can be tripped up by the cowardly humans who they look down on as inferior. Indeed, just like a certain dragon right before me, who due to my cajolery came of his own free will to struggle against a human on equal footing eh.」

Foddway chatted away looking particularly happy. Despite having won on the board, Gyurie felt a sense of defeat due to Foddway’s words. As if he was completely dancing to the tune of the old man in front of him, who was worthless and frail from a dragon’s point of view. And that was entirely correct, when considered objectively. Although he was a dragon, he was easily being manipulated by the inferior creature known as a human.

「Humans are cowards. And are more foolish than dragons can imagine. Despite the history of mistakes that we have piled up, we still make mistakes despite learning from our history. We make mistakes, yet more mistakes, and still more mistakes. Not only that, but every time we make a mistake at being nasty we become more devious, so the next time we make a mistake the damage becomes even larger. Even though we should be learning our lessons in order to reduce the damage. It sure is strange.」

Despite being twisted around in the palm of Foddway’s hand, even so Gyurie still thought that he should face him from a human point of view, because it was a type of test. A trial of passage, in order to meet Sariel.

「While being a dragon, you’ve studied the human point of view. It will probably be hard to say that you truly understand humans even so. As I said just now, the creatures known as humans are far more foolish than dragons imagine. Sariel-sama has been facing that foolishness all this time.」

Foddway moved a piece. When Gyurie saw that Foddway didn’t seem about to take his hand from the piece, he moved his own piece.

「I concede.」

Foddway accepted his own defeat with a sunny expression.

「Gods and people. If you can have both perspectives, you might be able to bring change to Sariel-sama. It’s already too late for a simple human to do that. But saying that, a simple god doesn’t work either. What’s needed is an existence that is a god yet understands people.」

That was, the greatest advice that the defeated was able to offer the victor. And a request.

「Please, look after Sariel-sama.」

Gyurie did not respond in either affirmation or negation to the old man’s sincere request.


 

Translation notes:

“Shogi” – sometimes called Japanese chess.

Kumo desu ga, Nani ka? Past Arc ⑨
Kumo desu ga, Nani ka? Past Arc ⑫