Today’s lunch at our grandparents’ place wasn’t very good. The fish was cooked in a soy sauce-based seasoning. I like fish and soy sauce flavors, together or separately, but today’s fish was too salty. I didn’t like it at all, but I emptied my rice bowl and the large piece of fish assigned to me anyway. I knew my grandma would insist on making something else for me if I complained, and I didn’t want to cause trouble.
After lunch, I took the usual shuttle bus to my baduk school. No one at the school asked me why I didn’t come last Friday, and from Monday and on, everything was just as usual. As I was entering the baduk school, I was surprised to see Colin, not the teacher.
“Hi! You came early today.” I greeted Colin while setting up my life and death problem book on a board next to his. I love working on my life and death book, and this is my default choice when my teacher is not around to give me different tasks.
“Hey. Yeah, the teacher had some errand in our neighborhood, so he picked me up in his car. He went out for another errand though.”
“Do you come at this time everyday?”
“Do you like coming here everyday?”
It was odd that he asked me this question. I’ve been thinking about this since last Friday. Certainly there were days that I enjoyed going to the baduk school. But sometimes I didn’t want to go at all. Does this mean I don’t like going to the baduk school every day? Or is it normal that you do things even when you don’t necessarily want to do them? This reminded me of the salty fish earlier.
“I think it’s okay. I like solving these problems.”
I lifted my life and death book to show Colin.
“You said you wanted to be a professional player, right?”
“I think so… Although, I don’t really know what it’s like.”
“Well, at least you know that you will need to be stronger than most people that went to Japan with us.”
“I know they were strong, but they were also older than us.”
“But, you also saw how much they study. They spend more time studying baduk than us.”
“That’s true. So, does this mean you don’t want to be a professional player?”
“Actually, I do want to become a professional player.”
“I think it’s cool that in baduk, it’s perfectly up to my skills. There is no luck, no politics, nor connections. I go up if I win, or I don’t if I lose.”
I realized this was true. The stronger I get in baduk, the further I can go with it. No one can stop me as long as I win.
Soon the teacher came back, and other students also arrived one by one. Today’s lecture was about creating more efficient shapes when invading the opponent’s territory. It was amazing to learn how to use the opponent’s stones by attaching to them or placing shoulder hits. After the lecture, the teacher paired me with Colin for a game. We always played even, but I won about two or three times out of ten. I got white in nigiri, and pursued a territorial style from the early beginning. I wanted to allow him to make a big moyo and invade to use the cool tactics we just learned. Colin seemed hesitant to make a moyo, probably because he also watched that lecture, but he didn’t have a better alternative. Eventually he started developing a large moyo on the upper side. I waited for a few moves, and when there were no more wide place to take, I made a knight’s-move reduction invasion on the fifth line. It was not the kind of move I played before, but it looked really effective in the lecture. The move worked out magically. Colin didn’t manage to gain much from attacking my invasion move, and with that I was safely ahead in territory. The game lasted longer than usual, more than an hour, and in the end I won by 3.5 points. I was delighted that I won against Colin, and also thrilled that my first adventure with the new move worked out so well.
At 5:30 pm, after all the other students had left, the teacher invited me and Colin to his office. He took out some doughnuts and bottled orange juice for us, and asked us to sit.
“I have good news for you, both.”
When we were settled with doughnuts in our hands, the teacher started up with a rather serious voice. We both looked at him, waiting for him to continue.
“Because you two behaved well and showed promise, you are both invited to study at Master Grimm’s dojang in coming Summer. How long you want to stay there is up to you. You can discuss this with your parents.”
“Are you sure? Will we be staying at the dorm?” Colin seemed genuinely excited.
“Only you can stay at the dorm, because they don’t have female students staying there. But, apparently Sara’s family is willing to host Hajin in their house for the duration. Hajin, are you interested?”
I didn’t know what to say. Summer vacations were about 6 weeks. I couldn’t imagine living 6 weeks without my family. But teacher said the duration was up to us. Maybe if it’s just a couple weeks, it would be okay. It was a scary idea, but I was excited too.
“I think so.”
“Sounds good. Then, I will talk to your parents about it. You will probably need to have some conversations about it too. Now, enjoy your snack, and get ready for the evening class.”
“Okay!” Our answer came at almost the same time, and we felt excitement from each other.