Chapter 26:

The secret puzzle cafe

En Passant Grandmaster

Once everyone had finished their first game, they convened in a skittles room to discuss what happened. Yuusuke had lost, resulting in Iori gloating over the fact that she won her game. Both Utami and Rodeo had also lost, putting a damper on their moods. Yuzuha had managed to get her opponent to agree to a draw, while Numakawa had managed to stalemate his opponent.

"I won my match, how about you, Inoue-senpai?" Okisato asked.

"I won as well. It was a very fun experience," Mimoko smiled. "Now let's all review our games before the next round starts.

As Mimoko began her post-game analysis, Okisato noticed Maida entering the room and asked her how her game went.

"I managed to get a win. I feel that if I'm to supervise this club, I should have respectable prowess in the field. It will also help with the science experiment if I have greater knowledge on the subject I'm researching,” Maida stated.

"That's our science teacher for you. Plus, if you get a high rating, those Desperado thugs won't be able to force you into a DESPER match so easily."

"I see, so there is a larger benefit. Is that why you were insistent on taking as many club members as possible?"

"Yeah, since most of them are unrated, having them participate in a tournament will both give them experience and a rating."

"Seems you're more of a grandmaster than you let on. Speaking of which, when will you be considered a grandmaster?"

"Once I beat one."

"You've never beaten one?"

"Nope. 2400 is about the lowest you'll see a grandmaster be rated, but even then, getting the chance to play them, and beat them won't be so easy. Plus, not everyone with a high rating is given the title of grandmaster. In addition to clearing the 2400 rating threshold, there are other criteria needed to be satisfied before the WWCF awards you the title."

"I see. I wish you the best of luck."

"You too, Maida-sensei."


A man with side-slicked black hair clad in formal attire walked into the hotel. He quickly pulled out his pocket watch and clicked his tongue as he saw the time. "Tch! I shouldn’t have taken that bye point. There was plenty of time left for me to win. Seems I'll have to get lucky in the pairings."

"Still carrying that pocket watch? Do you not have a smartphone?" a voice asked.

The man turned to see Gyro approaching him. "You know well that I DO have a phone. This watch is also a hybrid antique."

"Yes, Peter. I'm well aware. Now let me brief you on what's gone down..."


As the pairings went up for the second round, Okisato once again scoured the names. "Looks like everyone's avoiding the Desperados, but it's possible we'll play them in later rounds. As for tough opponents, it looks like- Uhp, Numakawa's playing Peter. Even though he ended up taking a bye for the 1st round, he can easily sweep all the remaining games. I actually don't know if Inoue-senpai could soundly beat him. Then again, maybe I shouldn't let all the times he schooled me cloud my judgment."

Both Okisato and Mimoko ended up beating their opponents with ease, and ended up being some of the first members of their club to finish for the round.

"So what do we do now?" Mimoko asked as she exited the playing room with Okisato.

"Wait around or head up to our rooms. The 3rd round doesn’t start until tomorrow-"


Mimoko and Okisato turned to see a broken Numakawa curled up against the wall.

"Yep, he trashed him," Okisato nodded.

"Who trashed him?"

"Peter Morphy, one of the top 5 best players in the world."

"Someone like that is here? Though isn't it a little unfair for some like Numakawa-kun to have been paired against him?"

"He likely just had bad luck. The way the pairings work is that if you win a match, you're matched up with someone else that won in your next match. Same thing applies to losses and draws. However, there are times where there's an odd number of wins and draws due to bye rounds."

"By 'bye' you mean take a game off and only get half a point?"

"Yes, Peter had to take a bye for round one, leading to someone getting a free win."

"So it's possible that I might not face Shousen-chan at all?"

"Yes, but if you two play your best, you'll likely face each other. The opponents you beat so far were all rated over 2600 as well so it's likely you'll be matched against Miss Shousen sooner or later. The other good news is that if we play well, we reduce our chances of playing a Desperado in the final round."

"Speaking of which, do you know how many Desperado's are in the tournament?"

"Aside from the ones that I mentioned, I don't really know much about the others. They do tend to keep their identities secret, though there was one name that stood out, Svetlana Smirnova."

"Who's that?"

"A Russian grandmaster and Desperado league member. She also tried to kill me after I bested her league-mates."

"She nearly bested you in a game?"

"No, I meant she literally tried to kill me with a giant sledgehammer."

Mimoko went pale. "S- SLEDGEHAMMER!?"

"Yeah, it's her weapon of choice. In addition to having a strong mind and rating of 2638, she's also got enhanced physical strength, or maybe she's actually a robot. I can't tell."

"R- Robot!?"

"Well, guess it is common for computers to play chess."

"Y- Yeah, but that woman sounds dangerous."

"Well, the good news is, we likely won't face her due to her taking two bye rounds. People also tend to get paired up based on how many points they have, so the two with the highest amount of points will tend to play each other more often than not."

"That's why you’re so confident that I'd play Shousen-chan. She’s currently in the number 1 spot."

"Yes, now why don't I give you a tour of this place. There’s actually something I want to show you."

The two walked around the hotel until Okisato stopped at a bridge overlooking a waterfall. A well-dressed masked man was present, staring intently at the waterfall. "Hmm, guess I have to wait until midnight after all," Okisato muttered.

"What do you mean?"

Mimoko got her answer as the masked man smiled and leapt off the bridge to the water below. To Mimoko's shock, he didn't fall into the water and instead walked on top of it before vanishing behind the waterfall.

"Oh, guess it is open. Come on, Inoue-senpai," Okisato said as he grabbed Mimoko's arm and leapt off the bridge with her.

"Hold on wait- AAAAH!"

The two landed on the water, much to Mimoko's relief, but her nerves were still on edge.

"Don't worry, I got an umbrella," Okisato nodded as he pulled one out and opened it.

Before Mimoko could protest, Okisato dragged her towards the waterfall. When they passed through, they found themselves in a secret room that resembled a cafe.

"Welcome back, Mr. Tanabe. Is your companion a chess player?" the masked man from before asked.

"Yeah, she's going to take over the chess world tomorrow."

"You're telling me SHE'S the reason Grandmaster Shousen and Grandmaster Morphy showed up!? I don't believe it."

"You can check her match results. They should be up in the database."

"What's her name?"

"I'm Mimoko Inoue," Mimoko stated.

The man pulled up a smaller sized WWCF card and stared at it for a moment. "Inoue... So you're unrated but, you've got quite the intriguing record thus far. Your first match as a WWCF member was against Nagi Enoki who had a rating of 100. Then it says you had a bughouse match against a team of non-WWCF members, but the match was a DESPER match, same for the first match. Then you beat Mr. Tanabe in an exhibition match... Hmm, based on your current tournament results, it seems he wasn't going easy on you. It’s impressive that you’ve bested two grandmasters with ratings over 2600, but I’m sorry to say, that you can't play the games here until you get a rating."


"Yes, Himitsudono-san offers challenge puzzles and games to those that find his secret hideout, the secret puzzle cafe,” Okisato stated.

"Normally, my hours are midnight to daybreak, but I open early on tournament nights. As for my puzzles, should you solve them, you earn WWCF points that can be redeemed for exclusive prizes. Solve enough, and you'll even earn exclusive memorabilia for your achievements."


Okisato took out his WWCF card. "Yeah, see this little icon in my profile? That's a badge I got for clearing 10 puzzles here at Lagoon pathways."

"I also offer exclusive trading cards and can even sell and buy chess-related items. Well, you are free to watch Mr. Tanabe, but he will have to pay for any refreshments."

"No worries, besides, we'll both be challenging the Triple cedar SPCM next week."

“‘SPCM’?” Mimoko stared in confusion.

“It stands for secret puzzle cafe manager. That is my official title. Triple cedar’s SPCM is known as Himitsuchan. Now Mr. Tanabe, do you wish to attempt the daily puzzle?” Himitsudono asked as he flashed a tablet displaying a chess puzzle before him.

Okisato nodded, but decided to solve the puzzle in a private pod towards the back of the cafe after noticing Mimoko intimately staring at the puzzle. Before he headed to the pod, he gave Mimoko permission to order any affordable food or beverage to have in the meantime.

"Temptation can be cruel. So Miss Inoue, want anything to eat?" Himitsudono asked as Mimoko sat down at the bar counter.

"Is it ok to just discuss the puzzles, and not get rewards for solving them?" Mimoko nervously asked.

"What do you mean?"

"I think I solved the one I saw."

"At a mere glance!? Surely you jest. Well, for fun I'll pull up the hardest one from today’s daily challenge. Now, what would you- Do!?" Himitsudono's jaw hung open as Mimoko effortlessly solved the puzzle. "Th- That's a grandmaster level puzzle. Though it is possible you've seen this puzzle before somewhere in the world of chess. But still... Miss Inoue, how long will you be able to stay tomorrow night?"

"I believe we leave after the awards ceremony."

"Then delay your departure by 30- No, 10 minutes should be enough."


"Because after the awards ceremony, you will undoubtedly receive a rating, thus you will be able to solve puzzles here and earn prizes."

"In that case, I'll also hold off on ordering something. If this is a club you can only enter after fulfilling certain criteria, then I want to fulfill it before doing anything."

"No worries. You are allowed to be here so long as you are a WWCF member, though we cannot offer services until you have an official rating. Though I imagine Mr. Tanabe dragged you here specifically to peak your interest, as well as mine."

Okisato then finished up and returned to the bar counter. He had gotten 7 out of the 10 right, earning him 70 points. He was unsurprised in the slightest when Himitsudono told him of how Mimoko solved the hardest puzzle.

The two then decided to depart, though there was one lingering question on Mimoko’s mind. "Um, how do we get back up?".

"Oh, there's a hidden ramp,” Okisato nodded.

"Couldn’t we have taken that down?"

"Yeah, but jumping-"


"Uh, er, sorry I guess?"

Mario Nakano 64
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