Saki Fantasy Mahjong – Chapter 3

Saki Fantasy Mahjong

Chapter III

Misunderstood Skirmish


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.

Wait.

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?

Perhaps…

…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.

Fast.


*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!”

Whoosh!

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 tensed.

Everything exploded.


*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.”

“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

“Arrg…Math!”

“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.”

“Yuuki!”

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…

No.

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.

Its time.

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.

“I see.”

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.

East huh?


*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.

Yuuki whirled.

And right behind her, immaculate in her cloak was Saki.

Impossible’

But, Yuuki was not frozen for long.

Chance

“Sorry, Saki-chan.”

One of her daggers glowed and, with a quick slash, hit the immobile figure on the cloak.

BOOM!

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.”

“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.

Another illusion.

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.

Author Notes:

HA! I made it. I actually managed to not to take a ridiculous amount of time before updating. Take that Murphy’s law!

As always I would like to thank Soranium. The person who ensured my OCD will not kill the chapter and managed to correct my sleepy ramblings. He is also the main reason why the chapter is semi on-time, minus a few days. But, hey who’s counting? Anyway, thanks once again Sora, this chapter will not be here without you.

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