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 Post subject: The last fuseki
Post #1 Posted: Mon Jan 03, 2011 3:49 pm 
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When the ninja opened the office door the magistrate rose quickly from his chair, then paused. There was only one door to the office, and his visitor stood silhouetted in it. At a flash he could see the inevitable conclusion, and it saddened him. Nonetheless, he reflected, life must be lived with a proper beginning and a proper end.

He squared his shoulders. "What happened to the guards at the gate?" he inquired.

The assassin bowed his head a fraction of a millimeter in respect. "They fought well", he said.

"And my personal bodyguard?"

The bow was deeper this time. "I shall wear the black haori for him and remember his name in the springtime when we say prayers for the great departed."

"And the south gate?" This was a matter of form, for both knew that they could not arrive in time, even if they were still alive. Still, a magistrate was obliged to look after his people, even when death stood across the room.

Again the bow. "Fine fighters also." Both men knew that he lied, but the ninja recognized and honored the magistrate's concern. He saw no reason to send a man to his grave disappointed with his servants.

There was a pause. Neither man spoke. Sensing the end of that phase of events, the ninja closed the door. He did not bother to lock it.

"Do you need a few minutes to get the affairs of state in order?" he asked.

"Thank you," the magistrate replied, "but I will not need it. The governor appointed better men before me, and he will no doubt appoint a better one after."

The ninja approached. He moved like a snow leopard stalking prey though mountain crags, balanced, smooth, and effortless.

"However," the magistrate said, "I have a correspondence go game that is at a crucial turning point. My opponent has made an outstanding move, and I must reply with one of equal strength."

The ninja paused, and raised an eyebrow. "You expect to finish the game?"

"No," the magistrate said, "we are near the end of the fuseki. Soon thereafter, fighting strength will decide it. I wish to make one more move to complete the fuseki."

Wordlessly, the ninja resumed his approach. He was now more than halfway across the room.

"I am playing white." the magistrate said.

The ninja stopped. The appeal for a final symmetry struck a chord deep within him. "I would be honored to see the game," he said.

The magistrate turned to a mahogany side table where a fine kaya board lay with two bowls beside it, and opened the bowls. The ninja followed, crouching slightly in preparation to duck a thrown lid. The magistrate set the lids aside, and played the first move.

"It started in a rather straightforward manner," he said, "a standard joseki here..." - he snapped the stones on the board smoothly, clicking them with his forefinger - "...he played a novelty here, which I think gave me a slight advantage..."

"If you maintain sufficient ko threats," the ninja interjected.

"You read deeply," the magistate replied, and he placed one stone after another, pausing to show variations that he had rejected.

The ninja watched, following the flow of the game. Despite concentrating on the game, he maintained his awareness of his surroundings as he had been taught as a child. He had been raised to be an assassin first, everything else came second. As a young man, he had learned the game from his master as any warrior should. His master played with an open bottle of saki and a cup next to him. Sometime during the game the master would tip over the bottle, and he was expected to grab the cup and catch the sake in it. He had been beaten if he missed so much as a drop.

He watched the stones as the magistrate laid them out, on one occasion suggesting an alternate line. The magistrate nodded. "You are a man of a keen intellect", he said. He slowed, with a stone halfway to the board, as if something had suddenly occurred to him.

"The governor would employ a man like you if you were interested..." He stopped, noting the sudden glare in the assassin's eyes, and quickly added, "I ask only because he tells me to recruit men of exceptional ability, not that I am suggesting it myself..."

"No warrior would accept such an offer," the ninja said.

The magistrate nodded in assent, turned back to the board, and placed another stone. "Still," he murmured, seemingly absent-mindedly, "some have accepted." He named a ninja who had been the terror of the ten provinces a generation ago.

The ninja smiled depreciatingly. "We heard that he had come this way," he said. "I hoped that I might find him among your guards. It would have been as memorable as your game here."

"Alas, I wish that he had been among them too," the magistrate sighed. "Things might have turned out differently today. But the governor had plans for him other than being a guard here." He played another white stone, and the tension on the board drew both men to it.

"We are nearing the end of the fuseki," said the ninja. He looked at the board, but his posture was still that of a warrior in mid-battle, balanced and flexible; his breathing was in harmony with every movement. "This next must be your opponent's latest move." He glided half a step closer to the magistrate. "Show me," he commanded.

The magistrate reached into the bowl. He slowed, thinking of the prayers for the dead in the springtime, the long lines of solemn men in their black haoris. But life must be finished at its proper time, he thought, and in the proper manner. Then he raised a stone between two fingers, and leaned toward the board.

"I believed that I was ahead at this point," he said. "He is over-concentrated here..." he pointed to one corner, "... and heavy here..." he pointed to another, "...and he still needs a ladder-breaker here." He paused. "But he played this." He laid the stone in the middle of the board.

The ninja stared at the board. The move was a ladder breaker, as any novice might play. But it worked with every black stone on the board. It drew strength from over-concentrated stones, it combined in fluid sabaki with the heavy stones; it brought the full force of every black stone to its peak. It was the most brilliant move that the ninja had ever seen, and he gasped in astonishment.

The magistrate struck.

It was one warrior of great skill against another warrior of great skill; one of perfect balance against another of perfect balance; but it was one with harmonious breathing against one whose breath was slightly out of harmony. And it was over in seconds.

The magistrate strode through the door, and looked around. He spied a servant cowering in the bushes nearby. "Find my chamberlain," he told him, "and tell him to prepare for the funeral of a great warrior."
He came back in, and moved the corpse so that its head was aimed to the north. He rearranged the ninja's clothing, covering the injury to his neck, so that an observer would have thought that the ninja was merely sleeping.

Then he knelt by the body, his head bowed in grief. "The governor would have hired you, my friend, just as he hired me. We would have opened the sake bottles, and played some great games together, and never spilled a drop."


This post by Joaz Banbeck was liked by 5 people: Apoah, Konijntje, Laman, Nikolas73, Phelan
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 Post subject: Re: The last fuseki
Post #2 Posted: Mon Jan 03, 2011 4:38 pm 
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Wow, that's a really fabulous story, thanks Joaz :)

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 Post subject: Re: The last fuseki
Post #3 Posted: Mon Jan 03, 2011 5:29 pm 
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Superbly done.

You awaken my own desire to write.

While I'm at work too, you cruel, cruel ninja.

I like the minimalist writing, with the subtle references that guide us rather than drown us in details.

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 Post subject: Re: The last fuseki
Post #4 Posted: Mon Jan 03, 2011 5:38 pm 
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Don't know if you were looking for comments but here's my 2c worth anyways:

-In general: this is a good piece well structured and written with a really focused efficiency that is both functional and stylish.

-First Paragraph: Language well used, it allows us to place this in feudal Japan without needing to actually say anything explicit on the subject. The location, setting and character's are set up without wasting words. My only complaint is that the first word 'When' creates a kind of off beat which I didn't like, I think going straight in with 'The ninja...' works better.

-"The ninja approached. He moved like a snow leopard stalking prey though mountain crags, balanced, smooth, and effortless." The simile here doesn't really work. The rest of your writing is very minimalist and this feels out of place and over elaborate.

-"However," the magistrate said, "I have a correspondence go game that is at a crucial turning point. My opponent has made an outstanding move, and I must reply with one of equal strength."
...

"No," the magistrate said, "we are near the end of the fuseki. Soon thereafter, fighting strength will decide it. I wish to make one more move to complete the fuseki."


These lines is a little to expositional I feel like he is explaining for my sake rather than the other characters and the repetition of fuseki in the second part is clumsy. I think simply 'No, I wish to make one more move to complete the fuseki' is better since the following few lines provide all the explanation needed more naturally and with greater depth.

-The job offer and related dialogue is excellent. A lot is said about the two characters in very few words.

-"We are nearing the end of the fuseki," said the ninja..."This next must be your opponent's latest move."
Exposition. It is the narrator's job to tell use this sort of thing not the character's. Same goes for the bit where the magistrate describes the state of the board it feels a bit patronising given the fact how he praises the ninja's "keen intellect" and by explaining this in the narration you can give the reader a sense of the ninja's appreciation for the game.

-It was the most brilliant move... sounds a little to exited and "most xxxx" always feels less grown up than the single word equivalents. For the pace of the story something a little more measured would be better "finest move"; "a move more elegant than any he had seen before" or something of that ilk.

-"We would have opened the saki bottles, and played some great games together, and never spilled a drop." lovely ending. Poignant, and referencing back a bit like a recurring theme in a piece of music, very elegantly done.

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 Post subject: Re: The last fuseki
Post #5 Posted: Mon Jan 03, 2011 5:59 pm 
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SinK wrote:
Don't know if you were looking for comments but here's my 2c worth anyways:

-In general: this is a good piece well structured and written with a really focused efficiency that is both functional and stylish.

-First Paragraph: Language well used, it allows us to place this in feudal Japan without needing to actually say anything explicit on the subject. The location, setting and character's are set up without wasting words. My only complaint is that the first word 'When' creates a kind of off beat which I didn't like, I think going straight in with 'The ninja...' works better.

-"The ninja approached. He moved like a snow leopard stalking prey though mountain crags, balanced, smooth, and effortless." The simile here doesn't really work. The rest of your writing is very minimalist and this feels out of place and over elaborate.

-"However," the magistrate said, "I have a correspondence go game that is at a crucial turning point. My opponent has made an outstanding move, and I must reply with one of equal strength."
...

"No," the magistrate said, "we are near the end of the fuseki. Soon thereafter, fighting strength will decide it. I wish to make one more move to complete the fuseki."


These lines is a little to expositional I feel like he is explaining for my sake rather than the other characters and the repetition of fuseki in the second part is clumsy. I think simply 'No, I wish to make one more move to complete the fuseki' is better since the following few lines provide all the explanation needed more naturally and with greater depth.

-The job offer and related dialogue is excellent. A lot is said about the two characters in very few words.

-"We are nearing the end of the fuseki," said the ninja..."This next must be your opponent's latest move."
Exposition. It is the narrator's job to tell use this sort of thing not the character's. Same goes for the bit where the magistrate describes the state of the board it feels a bit patronising given the fact how he praises the ninja's "keen intellect" and by explaining this in the narration you can give the reader a sense of the ninja's appreciation for the game.

-It was the most brilliant move... sounds a little to exited and "most xxxx" always feels less grown up than the single word equivalents. For the pace of the story something a little more measured would be better "finest move"; "a move more elegant than any he had seen before" or something of that ilk.

-"We would have opened the saki bottles, and played some great games together, and never spilled a drop." lovely ending. Poignant, and referencing back a bit like a recurring theme in a piece of music, very elegantly done.


Comments on comments:

First paragraph: I like the use of the word "when". It gives the feeling that the action is already occuring and we are being dropped in the middle of the story.

I also like the simile. I thought it was evocative, but not jarring.

I agree with the comments about the fuseki, it did seem like too much exposition.

I agree with the comments right before the brilliant move. It feels like something the ninja wouldn't actually say, and the magistrate's comment seems to clash with his respect for the ninja's skills

I thought the "most brilliant" thing was fine and seemed deserved in this case

I agree with all of SinK's compliments, definitely a fine piece of work.

P.S. Maybe we should all have some kind of go short story contest at some point :D

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 Post subject: Re: The last fuseki
Post #6 Posted: Mon Jan 03, 2011 7:23 pm 
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The drink is spelled sake and not saki.

I think you meant kaya board and not kata board.

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 Post subject: Re: The last fuseki
Post #7 Posted: Mon Jan 03, 2011 8:03 pm 
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I think that it was not the magistrate who appointed better men before himself.

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 Post subject: Re: The last fuseki
Post #8 Posted: Mon Jan 03, 2011 8:31 pm 
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Thanks for the comments and spelling corrections. I incorporated some of them. It turns out that sakE is drunk from a cup, not a glass, so that changed too. And it turns out that it takes a German to find the parsing problems in an English sentence. :)
And, yes, snow leopards are from China and surrounding areas, but not Japan. But I'm going to leave him in.

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 Post subject: Re: The last fuseki
Post #9 Posted: Mon Jan 03, 2011 11:05 pm 
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I'm not qualified for this, but I thought I'd share a few thoughts:

Quote:
"It started in a rather straightforward manner," he said, "a standard joseki here..." - he snapped the stones on the board smoothly, clicking them with his forefinger - "...he played a novelty here, which I think gave me a slight advantage..."

"If you maintain sufficient ko threats," the ninja interjected.

"You read deeply," the magistate replied, and he placed one stone after another, pausing to show variations that he had rejected.


There are a few lines like these, which make me feel are too modernized in regards to the terms used when describing the game. To me, it sounds much better if the wording was a bit vague?(is that the word here?). Maybe you can call it using the most simplistic form of what the word means. Due to the go terms used, I guess in a way(to me), it sounds like something that was translated into English rather than something created using it.

Quite a few other examples, words like: Ladder-breaker, over-concentrated,etc

Quote:
"It started in a rather straightforward manner," he said, "a standard pattern(?) here..." - he snapped the stones on the board smoothly, clicking them with his forefinger - "...he played a novelty here, which I think gave me a slight advantage..."

"If you maintain sufficient threats..." the ninja interjected.

"Very deep..." the magistate replied, and he placed one stone after another, pausing to show choices he had rejected.


Hopefully this makes sense. I do not know your target audience, but I feel even go players sometimes shudder at these types of words used in a different setting. Might be, that my changes would detract from the writing quality though!

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Post #10 Posted: Tue Jan 04, 2011 12:43 am 
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Very nice Joaz, that was a fantastic surprise to find on the forum this morning! :study:


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 Post subject: Re: The last fuseki
Post #11 Posted: Tue Jan 25, 2011 11:20 am 
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Same with me. Congratulations, I really like that story. Please continue to post more.

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 Post subject: Re: The last fuseki
Post #12 Posted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 11:58 am 
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Nice.

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