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 Post subject: A Young Master - a Fantasy Go short story
Post #1 Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2019 5:22 am 
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Today I attempted to combine my two biggest hobbies at the moment: Go and (reading) Fantasy.

And so here is a short story about a man in a world where Go is no ordinary game, but has special magical properties!
Maybe I'll write more stories within this universe later. But I hope you enjoy this :)

There will be a prologue, five parts, and an epilogue to this short story. I'll post one part per day.


Prologue
‘As soon as you put one stone on the board, it starts.’ Jiro said, mostly talking to himself. He closed his eyes and breathed in, and out. When he opened his eyes, every trace of hesitation was gone. Confidently, he snatched a black stone from the bowl before him. The bowl was dark wood with an interesting grain pattern. Not that it mattered much, but for Jiro every detail was important. That was one of the reasons he was the very best at what he did.

From the second he put the black stone on the board, he could feel its energy surrounding him. For today’s purposes he used a 13x13 board. It was large enough to hold the entire camp in it, yet not too large so that the board became too complex. Yet only a few dozen people in the world could handle a 13x13 board, and use it to its full potential. Jiro had yet to meet his match. Aged 15, he was already an Igo Master.
He put down a second black stone. After long deliberation, he placed a third black stone, and a fourth. At first glance, these four stones had a strange configuration. But only someone of Jiro’s strength could see through these patterns. Jiro was crafting the best possible defense for the encampment. If he placed too few stones, they would be weak and over-exposed. If he placed too many stones, their defense would not be flexible and they might be boxed in too easily. For tonight, they had to stay light. If anyone was well aware of that, it was their Igo Master, Jiro.


Jiro was one of the only Masters who never put down additional stones. So for this defensive position, his white bowl remained untouched. When he placed his final, fifth black stone, his work was done. The tension in his shoulders dropped immediately and he sought the comfort of his bed. It had been a long and intense day. Tomorrow wouldn’t be any better…

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 Post subject: Re: A Young Master - a Fantasy Go short story
Post #2 Posted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 9:30 am 
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Part I - The Invincible
By noon the next day, their regiment had reached the main military body. An army of no less than 40 000 filled almost half the valley. On the slopes, overlooking the valley, stood Jiro. He ordered his carrier to set-up his Goban.
‘Which one, Master Jiro?’ she asked.
What an excellent question, Jiro thought. Never before had a Master faced a challenge such as this. A complex battle with tens of thousands of soldiers fighting. A mere 19x19 board could be used in theory, but he would have to simplify the entire battlefield and a lot of subtlety would be lost on his board. Yet what choice did he have? No one, to his knowledge, had ever attempted anything larger than a 19x19 board. The human mind couldn’t handle that level of complexity. It was a gamble either way.
‘Bring out the 21x21 board.’

He seated himself overlooking the valley. The approaching army was already in view. He wondered if they had brought a Master, too. He had to assume they did, because it would be a fatal mistake not to. He made a final check of his equipment; his board, stones and bowls. All was in order. He was ready for his masterpiece. This was his chance to write history, to make himself a legend. Jiro, the Igo Master who defeated the invading army at age 15. Jiro, the Invincible. He started to focus on the battleground below. He would need all his concentration for the board before him, now. Over the course of the next few hours, history would be written.

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 Post subject: Re: A Young Master - a Fantasy Go short story
Post #3 Posted: Tue Jan 15, 2019 5:19 am 
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Part II - The Battle
The stones on the board quickly piled on. White stones, mostly for offensive measures. Black stones, for strength, mobility, defence. Jiro juggled to keep his own troops strong while simultaneously attacking the enemy at their weak points. Early in the battle, Jiro felt a strong opposition, confirming his belief that the enemy force had brought a Master to the battle, too. The soldiers below were now mere stones in the hands of two Igo Masters.

After three hours, Jiro was sweating. He was trying not to break concentration, but he knew he was fighting hard to juggle the 21x21 board well. It was only a bit larger than the typical 19x19 board, but the complexity increased almost twofold because of those few extra lines. Jiro dropped a stone. Fortunately not on the board, or the entire battle would’ve been lost. Still, because he didn’t manage to play the stone at the right time, dozens of soldiers perished in an attack. They had been left undefended, they never had a chance.
I can’t think of that now, Jiro thought. I have to focus.

Another hour later, the battle was still raging. It had progressed constantly, but slowly. The opposing Master was cautious and Jiro could only match cautiousness with cautiousness. Despite his age, he shied away from recklessness and never overextended himself. He had never met his match. Until today.

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 Post subject: Re: A Young Master - a Fantasy Go short story
Post #4 Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 3:29 am 
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Part III - The Fighting Stops
The battle came to a halt in the early evening. Both sides had suffered many losses, but as of yet there had been no clear winner. Both sides had now built up a strong enough defence that neither side could attack with any profit. The troops were tired. That is something an Igo Master had to understand as well. His stones would never tire, but his men did. And so the fighting stopped. The wounded were exchanged and the dead were cleared from the battlefield.

Jiro looked at his board. It was almost full. White and black stones, forming beautiful and powerful patterns, perfectly telling the tale that had unfolded down the valley below. He cleared his board and collapsed on his Goban.

When he woke, it was night. His carrier apparently had put him inside his tent, for which he was grateful. It kind of bothered him that no general had come to see him yet, to report on any details he might’ve missed from up here. But that’s how it usually went. An Igo Master was prized, for sure, but the generals usually despised him. Jiro didn’t blame them. After all, it wasn’t their fault they were hopelessly outclassed.

At dawn, a messenger came to Jiro’s tent with a surprising request. The enemy’s Igo Master had challenged Jiro to a direct match. The message between the lines was obvious: this match would be life and death. The power their stones would generate, would no doubt kill the loser after the game. It was an attempt to cut out the middle men - the soldiers - and conclude the battle in one simple match of Go.

Needless to say, Jiro accepted the challenge.

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 Post subject: Re: A Young Master - a Fantasy Go short story
Post #5 Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2019 1:49 pm 
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I like the notion of the go board being imitated in life. That can be a powerful metaphor.


I hope that you will pardon some meddlesome comments about style.
I found that the subjective statements of the author ( 'confidently', 'interesting' ) distracted me while I was reading. Show me Jiro behaving confidently, don't tell me that he is. Show me an interesting bowl, don't just tell me that it is interesting. If every detail is important to Jiro, show me a detail or two.

Ian Butler wrote:
...‘As soon as you put one stone on the board, it starts.’ Jiro said, mostly talking to himself. He closed his eyes and breathed in, and out. When he opened his eyes, every trace of hesitation was gone. Confidently, he snatched a black stone from the bowl before him. The bowl was dark wood with an interesting grain pattern. Not that it mattered much, but for Jiro every detail was important. That was one of the reasons he was the very best at what he did...


Joaz wrote:
...‘As soon as you put one stone on the board, it starts.’ Jiro said, mostly talking to himself. In one motion, he settled himself on his heels. He closed his eyes and breathed in, and out. Then he opened his eyes, and without pause snatched a black stone from the bowl before him.
The bowl was mulberry with a dark sinuous grain that Jiro had chosen because it reminded him of the intertwining of life and death. For Jiro every detail was important. It was one of the reasons that he was the very best at what he did...




Ian Butler wrote:
It kind of bothered him that no general had come to see him...


Joaz wrote:
It bothered him that no general had come to see him...

or

He frowned, noting that no general had come to see him...


I like the addition of the resentful generals. It adds another layer of conflict, and thereby makes Jiro more interesting.

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 Post subject: Re: A Young Master - a Fantasy Go short story
Post #6 Posted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 7:44 am 
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Thank you for your comments, Joaz :)
I appreciate your criticism and I agree. My lack of style mostly stems from English not being my native language and thus not being able to express myself too well in it, especially in story-telling abilities.
However, the 'show don't tell' part is universal and very true. 95% of the time you are certainly correct. Personally I like the 'tell' style too, every once in a while (combined with an all-knowing perspective, talking about some kind of living legend or some sort), it can give you an interesting story.
In this case, perhaps your style would be best, but then again I just wrote this on a Sunday noon for fun.

I'll take your comments with me if I should write some more in this 'universe' ;-)

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 Post subject: Re: A Young Master - a Fantasy Go short story
Post #7 Posted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 7:49 am 
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Part IV - The Match
Between the two opposing armies, a Goban had been set up. Both sides had two officials there, each standing at a corner of the tent where the match would take place. Jiro entered the tent with his carrier. She put his bowls down next to the Goban, bowed and left the tent. Jiro kneeled down in front of the Goban and only then looked up, slowly. He saw the Goban, a beautiful, perfect board. Such delicate grain it could’ve been made by the Gods themselves. He looked up further and found the eyes of his opponent. Jiro only barely managed to contain a gasp. Facing him wasn’t an ancient wise Igo Master, but a young child, he couldn’t have been older than 10. This had to be some kind of joke. There was no way he had battled with a 10 year old child yesterday. What was the meaning of this? Jiro almost stood up to walk out of the tent, when the child facing him put his hand in his bowl and pulled out a handful of white stones. He put his fist on the Goban, concealing the stones he had grabbed.

Jiro was outraged. Fine, he would show these people that Igo wasn’t a laughing matter. Maybe they didn’t realize a direct match like this could kill, these savages. They wouldn’t laugh when Jiro slaughtered this kid on the Goban and force him to either resign in shame or die. He grabbed a single black stone and put it on the board. The kid opened his first and counted the white stones. 2, 4, 5. Jiro would be playing as black.

Jiro opened with a non-conventional opening. He hoped to beat down this kid in the opening by playing odd moves, forcing a bad reaction. The problem was, it wasn’t working. His opponent was skilled and hadn’t made a single mistake. When the middle game started, Jiro was behind.

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Post #8 Posted: Fri Jan 18, 2019 8:16 am 
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Part V - The Divine Tesuji
During the middle game, Jiro started a giant fight, spreading to the middle of the board. There had been no other option for him, he had fallen behind too much to play any other way. Obviously, he had made a huge mistake in misjudging this… young genius. Yes, Jiro hated to admit it, but this wonderchild was a Master, one with skills equal to his own, or perhaps even greater. He felt power radiating from the white stones, power that he was only barely able to match.

The fight would decide the outcome of this game. And even though many lives were at stake, as was the future of his land, Jiro only had eyes for the board. He started seeing the beauty in his opponents moves. It brought him to tears. Never before had he seen such skill. It was Divine.

The game continued until the late afternoon, when suddenly, Jiro’s opponent grabbed a white stone from his bowl, raised it, and brought it down on the board, hard. He felt it! Jiro was sure even back at the camp, every single soldier would feel the wave of energy this stone created. Within seconds, Jiro understood why. It was a Hand of God. This stone paralysed Jiro’s plans totally. The fight had been decided. It was a Tesuji from Heaven.

The stones on the board started to crack. No… It couldn’t be… Jiro had lost. His vision blurred and then everything went black...

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Post #9 Posted: Sat Jan 19, 2019 2:40 am 
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Epilogue
Very much to his own surprise, Jiro awoke. As he opened his eyes, a few things became clear to him. First, the invaders had won, he had failed his land in defending it. Second, he was very cold. Probably from laying in the middle of a foggy valley for the Gods know how long, without much protective clothing. Third, his life as he knew it was over.

Jiro looked around. No one was in sight. The place was deserted. How long had he been out? There was no telling. He got up. The Goban they had used was left behind, the wood cracked. Black and white stones lay around, some in good condition, many shattered into hundreds of pieces. Jiro bend down and picked up a single black stone, or rather, half a stone. A broken stone.

Whoever this opponent was, Jiro would find him. He would beat him.
One day.

He held the broken stone in his fist and walked away from the deserted battleground, determined to never forget what had happened here...

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 Post subject: Re: A Young Master - a Fantasy Go short story
Post #10 Posted: Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:47 am 
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Thank you for this! I really enjoyed the twist near the end and the mystery at the ending.

How surprised his troops would've been that he lost to a ten-yearo-old :lol:.

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 Post subject: Re: A Young Master - a Fantasy Go short story
Post #11 Posted: Mon Mar 04, 2019 6:08 am 
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Elom wrote:
Thank you for this! I really enjoyed the twist near the end and the mystery at the ending.

How surprised his troops would've been that he lost to a ten-yearo-old :lol:.


Thank you kindly for reading and replying :)
His troops should be happy he didn't lose against a computer program, at least :lol:

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