So here they were at the East 1st round of the first hanchan. Teru was in the north seat and Saki sat across, in south. The first dealer was the useless dora girl from Achiga, and Teru had never bothered to learn the other girl's name or school. It didn't matter. It had all come down to this, a fateful battle between sisters, and she had no choice but to play and to win. The championship, titles, fame and fortune were all meaningless compared to the one true purpose of Teru's life. She had to stop Saki, here and now, in order to save the world of mahjong. This was her raison d'etre, the very reason her mother had taken her to Tokyo and cultivated her skills. But was she ready to bear the responsibility? The destined time had come far too soon. Uncertainty clouded Teru's mind, borne from her lack of confidence in her ability to defeat the monster that she had helped create.
The Achiga girl pressed the button to roll the dice, and after a few moments for the girls to collect their tiles, the game began.
"How should I do this?" Teru wondered. "How can I destroy her?" She supposed it would be possible to avoid conflict and simply win points off the other schools - that was why she had let Achiga advance with her instead of the more dangerous Senriyama, but she knew Saki would never accept that. Her magic mirror, too, was unnecessary. Years of manipulation had taught Teru the ins and outs of Saki's character and playstyle. "Rinshan kaihou...a yaku resulting from tsumo after a kan. In other words, the initial premise for that hand is the availability of triplets. If I can just stop that from happening...chi!"
Teru could feel her sister's eyes on her as she reached for the tile she had claimed. The two had not made eye contact thus far, and she would much prefer to keep it that way. However, even more oppressive than her sister's gaze was the knowledge that this match was being broadcast live on national television. Teru had never been camera-shy, but the burden of responsibility weighed heavily on her. She had to save the millions of viewers and mahjong fans around the country from Saki's sadistic brand of "fun". It was a danger nobody was aware of, barring Teru and her mother. "Tsumo!"
Aiming to get the match over and done with as soon as possible, Teru had made a quick open tanyao for 1000 points. As expected, the Achiga girl was still hoarding the dora, and Teru regretted bringing her in. Kuro's affinity for dora tiles limited the value of Teru's hands, making it harder to gain the large lead she knew she'd need. Furthermore, it made for a very dangerous combo with Saki's kans. Reevaluating her previous opinion, Teru decided that she had to watch out for Kuro as well.
East 2nd round, Saki's turn as dealer. This round would be somewhat more difficult, Teru recognised. In order to continue her streak, she had to win with a more expensive hand. Ordinarily that wouldn't be difficult at all, but the threat Saki posed demanded that her dealership be ended as soon as possible. Larger hands, however, would take longer to build. Teru did not have the luxury of time.
She assembled her starting hand, and a fresh wave of fear crept over her. Two triplets already completed, and another pair in waiting. Teru instantly recognised the signs of a toitsu-ba. With this flow, it was inevitable that Saki would kan and win by rinshan. How could she prevent that? Calling tiles would change the order of drawing, but draws from the dead wall were inviolable. The only way out would be...chankan.
Though it was not impossible, it was an exceedingly rare feat. The conditions for achieving it were strict - firstly the kan had to be open. There was no guarantee that Saki would call open kans. Secondly, Teru would have to wait on a tile to complete a sequence. It was impossible to win with chankan on a pair or pon wait, as that required having at least one of the kan'd tiles already. However, preparing a sequence wait would be difficult while the game's draws flowed towards triplets and pairs. To especially aim for a tile that Saki would kan, on top of that, was a tall order to say the least.
The girls continued to draw and discard and, little by little, their hands took shape. Teru simply had to progress faster than Saki if her plan were to succeed. Concentrating hard, she glared at the discard ponds on the table, assessing each players' hands and calculating which tiles were left. To her horror, Saki's discards indicated a one suit hand. Combined with a toitsu-ba, this complicated Teru's ability to target Saki, as the tiles she needed would be in the latter girl's hand. Nonetheless, she pressed on.
In the 13th turn, it happened. Saki declared a closed kan, while Teru was still in iishanten. Would she win off the dead wall draw? There was no way Teru could've prevented that. Despite the arena's air conditioning, sweat dripped down her brow, and she gripped the edge of her seat tightly as her sister reached for the rinshan draw. That one moment seemed to last an eternity, but finally, inevitably, Saki took her tile...and promptly discarded it.
Awash with relief, Teru continued her game. She eyed the new dora indicator, then glanced at the girl from Achiga. Simply by her shellshocked expression, Teru knew that she already had a triplet of the new dora in her hand. It didn't matter. Kuro's hand was frozen now. Saki remained the bigger concern. Why did she declare that kan if she wasn't going to win off it? She had been discarding her draws for some time now, so she must already be in tenpai. It boggled Teru's mind, and the pressure she felt doubled in intensity.
She swallowed the lump in her throat and pushed forward, somehow reaching tenpai with an ideal chankan wait. All that was left was for Saki to call an open kan, and Teru would steal the victory. From her assessment of the other players' hands, Teru calculated that the tile she needed would overflow from Kuro's hand on the last turn, and that Saki would call on it. Adrenaline coursed through Teru's veins as the time approached. She licked her lips in excitement as tiles continued to clack against the table.
Finally, at long last, the 18th turn came. Just as she had foreseen, Kuro dealt the tile Teru had been waiting on, but she did not call ron. Winning off another girl was meaningless in this showdown between sisters. For victory to have any value, she had to win off Saki, so she held her peace and waited for the younger Miyanaga to call a final kan.
Upon seeing Kuro's discard, Saki paused in contemplation. Would she call? Would she not? This was the ideal chance to seal her victory. Chinitsu, sanankou, rinshan kaihou and haitei raoyue made for a dealer sanbaiman. If it came to fruition, Teru was certain that there was not a person alive that could possibly turn things around and steal victory back from the demon that was her sister. It was far too soon, only the second round, but already the game was on the verge of being decided. Everything was riding on this one moment, and time seemed to stand still to reflect the gravity of the situation.
And yet...Saki remained silent. She reached for her final draw, without calling kan. Teru was mortified, absolutely paralysed with confusion so strong that she did not even think to quickly call ron off Kuro while she still could. At this fatal instant, she choked on the fear her unassuming baby sister had instilled in her. At this instant, all around the nation, millions of mahjong lovers began to whisper and murmur about this inaction, speculating even of nepotism. And yet, the girls in this room, seated at this table, were blissfully unaware of the storm of controversy that had begun.
Saki drew, and after a long, tense moment, she discarded. That was it, an exhaustive draw. Kuro and the other girl declared noten, shaking Teru out of her reverie. "T-tenpai," she mumbled, shaken, as she opened her hand. She looked across the table at Saki, momentarily forgetting her vow to avoid eye contact. With a small, almost serene smile, Saki too opened her hand.
"Tenpai." Teru's throat went dry. Her heartbeat accelerated. Her veins, previously coursing with adrenaline, were now absolutely flooded with the chemical as she stared in abject horror at her sister's tiles. She had never expected this. Teru knew Saki was a monster, but this...words could not express the terror she felt as she realised what had happened.
Saki had played Teru like a harp. Sitting in her hand were three identical sequences of 123 and a single 9-man waiting to complete the pair - Teru's winning tile. From the beginning, Teru realised, she was never in a position to call an open kan. And yet, Saki's own discards had woven a web of deception that controlled the whole table. She had manipulated everyone, outwitting even Teru's incredible perceptiveness. She had seen through everyone, everything, every little tactic Teru had employed, and she had laughed it off as though Teru were nothing more than a child trying to flatten Mount Fuji with her bare fists.
"Mahjong sure is fun, isn't it, Onee-chan?"