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[Our current task is to ask everyone what they think we should do to find Rani’s SG. Well, let’s get started.]

Shinji :: …what, don’t talk to me. Unlike you, I have better things to be doing. Anyway, what is it? Rani’s secret? She’ll just spill if you get her stirred up, right?

Gilgamesh :: To make her take a gamble and expose her true character…indeed, that is the basis of it. But why do you know of Hakuno’s difficulties?

Shinji :: I, I just happened, just so happened to be going by the student council room and over heard! It’s not like I want to be involved with you guys, okay!

[Next person!]

Gatou :: What? You want to know Rani’s secret? Once again…you become more and more like an amazonian daredevil — …hm. I owe a debt of gratitude to you for my rescue, and if possible I would like the opportunity to show off my great strengths, but you must give up. I, Monji Gatou, have not the slightest understanding of the female heart! Truly even the spreading of Buddhist teachings is a mistake of the writing brush, gahahahaha!

[Into the student council room…Next!]

Sakura :: Secrets…We AIs are obliged to answer all questions, so strictly speaking we have no secrets. However, there are those items configured to be kept silent. Confidential matters, those are secrets to an AI. If Miss Rani is similar to us, I don’t think she will speak her own secrets. But are are no perfect programs. Even if each individual logical process is flawless, when two of them conflict fluctuations, openings will be born from the backlash. I cannot say if those fluctuations are more properly called a soul or simple errors…but if you can cause some disturbance or agitation in Rani, perhaps then you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of her SG?

[That’s kind of what Shinji said too. Next!]

Leo :: How to find Rani’s SG…Presently we have no clues. The Sakura Labyrinth is a projection of the heart of the girl acting as its core. …We must hope that some kind of clue can be found in the Labyrinth.

[Not helpful. Next!]

Rin :: Rani’s secret…Rani’s secret…her last two both felt kind of “oh, is that so…”, but…That girl might really believe that she doesn’t have any more secrets. That would be dangerous. We might not be able to draw out a secret the holder herself isn’t aware of no matter how much we poke at it.

[Not helpful either. Next!]

Gawain :: Lady Rani’s secret…This is only my personal impression, but she has a powerful thirst for knowledge. The kind of girl who would learn much about, say, carnal matters. Although, her first SG could also be interpreted, if I may say so, as a wish for a prince on a white horse. Therefore… it may perhaps be something unexpectedly childish. Even if it seems to be a shallow emotion, perhaps that just means she hasn’t learned how to express it?

[Uh…okay Gawain. Next! Down in the hallway.]

Kiara :: Rani’s final secret, is it…I’m not myself acquainted with Rani, so it’s difficult for me to figure out, but…what about you, Andersen?

Andersen :: A girl’s secret? Ha, that doesn’t even bear consideration! You really think I’d want to know something like that? All of young girls’ worries can be divided into three categories. Worries about their faces, worries about their chests, and worries about the opposite sex! Is there any other subject less worthy of inquiry out there! If you’re looking for love advice, ask someone else. That’s not my business.

Kiara :: …I’m sorry. He’s always even more ill-humored than usual when speaking of innocent boys and girls. But, Andersen? It’s unlikely Rani would be holding a romantic secret, no?

Andersen :: …are you serious? A temptress like you of all people can’t discern the look of a girl wrapped in the scent of the Labyrinth. It’s what you call a maiden’s desire to nonchalantly display her good points to appeal to the object of her interests. It’s so incredibly pitiful, my cheeks are getting stiff!

Kiara :: … I’m not sure what you’re saying, but…can you actually see through Rani’s secret?

Andersen :: Naturally. Which is why I can’t offer advice. Speaking of a girl’s secrets to outsiders is the height of folly. It’s like plucking a flower while speaking of it. Assuming for a moment the existence of a writer who would do such a thing, they would shortly have to settle down and change careers. Or is that it, Kiara? Are you telling me to become a faithful copyist who commits to paper the world precisely as it is?

Kiara :: …*sigh* You really are a difficult individual, aren’t you. I’m so sorry, Hakuno. Please ask someone else.

[Last but not least, the janitor’s room.]

Jinako :: I’ve been monitoring you, so I already now. It’s about Rani’s last secret, right. Hmm, you’re even asking me…The great Jinako has little understanding of meatspace human relationships like that. Do you get it, Karna?

Karna :: …Indeed. That girl thinks about the conclusion first too much. Insight over instinct, choices determined by inevitability rather than chance. What becomes of a life like that, Jinako?

Jinako :: I sure don’t know. I told you not to hand off every little thing to me, didn’t I?

Karna :: …what it leads to is a lack of first hand experience with defeat. Those who possess great insight so often avoid circumstances where they would fail, that they become ignorant of defeat. In their field of expertise, victory becomes a foregone conclusion. Were the result of such a thing to deviate from her predictions, the symptoms of her heart might become visible. …sorry, I’ve said too much. It’s just what I’ve observed over the monitors, in the end. Please, don’t take it as a reference.

[Karna, everyone. Well, having gotten everyone’s input, it’s time to go back into the Labyrinth and talk to Rani.]

Rani :: You never learn, do you. As I said, I will not…oh? Is that perhaps a chess set you’re carrying?

Well, yes, I nod. For a moment Rani’s amethyst-like eyes sparkle like a child’s.

> Do you want the chess set?
[>] Do you like chess?

Rani :: …I suppose. If I were to determine whether I like or dislike it, I would say I like it. Did you know that the highest authority of computer chess used to be in India? I am not Indian by nationality, but the professor who made me had an attachment that country. By the way…if you have free time, would you like to play a game? I’m rather unoccupied myself.

…it’s a surprising request, coming from Rani, who would never rise to provocation no matter what we did, to ask for a game of her own volition.

Rani :: It shouldn’t need clarification, but you will not receive an SG if you win the game. This is just a demonstration. I occasionally need compete with external thought routines, in order to confirm my own accuracy. Fair and balanced games are desirable for this purpose. Neither reflexes nor strength have any effect. Beginning with identical conditions and unfolding with the smoothness of thought alone, chess is the fairest, most balanced game in this universe.

Leo :: A fair game, is it…But we don’t have that kind of time. The average play time for a game of chess is an hour. I can’t help but think this is a tactic meant to make us waste our time.

Rani :: That will not be a problem. If we play chess, I will take the players to a dedicated game room. It is a accelerated space made specifically for chess. It is for thoughts alone but the time can be shortened by 10^3…by a factor of 1000. However much time elapses in there, in reality the progression of time will be insignificant. It allows you to bury yourself in thought experiments to your heart’s content.

Rin :: — This may be our chance. Hakunon, accept the game. Maybe Rani will let something slip while you play?

I’m in agreement with Rin’s proposal. There’s nothing at risk if I lose, so I decide to accept Rani’s invitation. I’m not very knowledgable about chess, but if I give it a shot I may be able to find something out.

Rani :: A beautiful choice. Then let us begin immediately.

[Rani and Hakuno disappear, then reappear promptly afterward with Hakuno looking worn out.]

Rin :: Defeated in a single second — !?

That’s not it. I didn’t lose in just a second. In the chess room – alias, Rani’s hobby room – a fight to the death unfolded for I don’t know how long. But I’m sure it was more than one second.

Gilgamesh :: It doesn’t need to be said. You have squandered a long-awaited opportunity, and you are an utterly useless mongrel.

Crossing his arms firmly, Gilgamesh spits out his words with staggering self importance. …yeah sure, you can say that, person who just stood there and watched.

Gilgamesh :: …what are you looking at me for. I won’t do it.

…all talk…the King of Heroes really is all talk…

Gilgamesh :: — Fine then. Rani, open the gate. I will play a round with you for sport. I won’t be playing seriously, but you may make whatever frantic efforts you wish. If you cut corners I will take it as an insult.

[He has his resigned face on.]

Rani :: Such concerns are unnecessary. It would never occur to me to hold back in chess.

[Rani and Gilgamesh disappear, then reappear.]

Rin :: That took a full five seconds…could it have been a draw in overtime?

Rani :: …No, I was utterly defeated. From mid game on, could do nothing but defend.

Rin :: What the — !? No way, that goldy is actually smart!? Or no, that’s not the speed of human thought is it!?

Gilgamesh :: Do not be mistaken, miserly one. She had already lost the moment she made her predictions. On the chess board, the future is not something to be read. It is to be gazed down upon and overseen. The right move is always visible. Shall it be a card game, next? I care not. Though the minimum requirement to fight with me on equal terms would be to obtain precisely the hand you require.

Leo :: This, this is on a different level…as we might expect of Mister Gold, he must have a sense of “sight” several levels above the ordinary.

Rani :: I was completely defeated. But that was what I expected. The gap in our abilities was clear from the start. Rather, it would be strange if I had won. Therefore this does not count. The result was a matter of course for me, so it was an extremely satisfying game. Now then, is there anyone else who would like to play?

…Later on. Not just the two of us, but Leo, Rin, Sakura, and even Gawain faced Rani via transmission. The result was a string of defeats. Not even Leo was able to bring down Rani’s king.

Rani :: …Are there no more challengers?

Rin :: None! There’s no way we can find anyone other than Gil who can beat you in optimal strategies.

Leo :: …indeed. I confirmed it in one match. I cannot compete with Rani in chess.

Leo’s admission of defeat was the finishing blow. Similarly, I’ve been made to realize than I wouldn’t beat Rani no matter how many tens of thousands of times I tried. Gilgamesh excepted, it seems difficult to beat Rani in this game…

Rani :: Then you may feel free to depart. — Ahh. Nothing feels as good as a fair game.

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