Disclaimer : I don’t own Saki. Nor am I making any money in writing this story. Now, that is out of the way let’s get on with this.
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.