Cheon Sungheon knew who Jo Euishin was way before they met.
Stalemate, a term in chess that means either side has no legal moves left.
Jo Euishin was a chess player who hated the stalemate very much.
It was the only word that Jo Euishin, who always had a chillingly calm expression despite his young age, showed belligerence to.
One day, Stalemateless suffered a tragedy and became unable to recover, and the chess prodigy was eventually forgotten by people, except for Cheon Sungheon.
‘If I had continued playing chess, I could have had a match with Stalemateless before he retired.’
Any field where a genius prodigy appears receives significant media attention and becomes popular for a while.
The government made efforts to find another chess genius and make a story of two rival prodigies.
There were parents who either truly believe in their child’s abilities, or just force their child to enter a field for attention.
On the other hand, there are many children who purely admire the prodigy and consider it an honor to be able to challenge him, and Cheon Sungheon was one of them.
When Cheon Sungheon was still in an orphanage, he once borrowed a chess book from the library to learn the rules, and he learned chess notation just by watching chess broadcasts.
Soon, he was able to participate in a competition.
There was never a time when he and Jo Euishin faced off at a competition, but both gained experience and improved little by little throughout their own journeys.
— The recent tournament was such a waste.
— Maybe when Sungheon becomes a middle school student, he’d finally be able to meet the chess prodigy in the finals.
But that day never came.
Just before Cheon Sungheon entered middle school, the secret of his birth was revealed and he met his biological father for the first time in his life.
Cheon Sungheon never imagined that he was a son of a chaebol family, but his name and the results of several DNA tests prove it.
On his last day at the orphanage, he had a dream.
He’s not someone who often has dreams, but he always had the same one.
But his dream that night was different.
— Your sins are so heavy.
Someone blindfolded appeared in Cheon Sungheon’s dream.
The usual dream was the blindfolded person looking at Cheon Sungheon with a pitying face, but this time, he whispered something to Cheon Sungheon.
— What does that mean
— Have I committed a sin
No matter how many questions Cheon Sungheon asked, the blindfolded man didn’t speak further.
He had no idea who the man is, nor what his words meant.
But the day after he had that dream, his life really felt like he was being punished for a crime.
The family that he had was already complete even without Cheon Sungheon.
At the same time, they limited Cheon Sungheon’s freedom by giving him a secretary who handles his education, and that’s when he stopped playing chess.
— You’re an uneducated kid so you have so many things to learn.
Put chess out of your mind.
Cheon Sungheon carefully expressed his will to continue playing chess, but his stepmother shut down the idea in a sharp voice, and his biological father was only silent.
That’s when he realized that he wasn’t welcome in the family.
In fact, it is said that they knew of Cheon Sungheon’s existence since he was born.
The only son of the family got into an accident during horseback riding and he became paralyzed from the waist down.
That’s when Cheon Sungheon was called in.
‘I really won’t be able to play chess anymore.’
He still had records of his chess games, but he can’t compete under the name Cheon Sungheon anymore.
A few years later, chess prodigy Jo Euishin announced his retirement after an unfortunate accident.
That’s how Stalemateless, Jo Euishin, slowly became forgotten.
But just as Cheon Sungheon accepted the fact that he had to give up his dream and start acting as a son of a chaebol family, cruel fate made him meet Jo Euishin.
The first time he saw him was at a college freshmen’ welcoming party.
Cheon Sungheon recognized Jo Euishin at first glance.
His appearance has changed a lot.
The now-college-senior Jo Euishin was taller than the middle-schooler Stalemateless that he knew, and his trademark thick-rimmed protective glasses were now gone and his face could be better seen.
‘He’s not wearing glasses.
Maybe his eyesight got better.
No, maybe he’s wearing contact lenses’
Stalemateless was known for being rather sensitive, and he always wore eye-protection glasses saying that he hated the flashes when he was being photographed, but Jo Euishin now was showing his bare face.
It’s almost impossible to recognize him as the chess prodigy with his appearance now, but Cheon Sungheon, Stalemateless’ fan, recognized him right away.
He wanted to get close to Jo Euishin even though he knows that he can’t play chess anymore, but it wasn’t an easy feat.
‘…I missed the timing to talk to him.’
Jo Euishin almost always seemed busy with his part-time jobs and his studies, and Cheon Sungheon was always surrounded by other people.
Jo Euishin was an officer at some department and he was friendly and kind to everyone.
He was known to be caring to his juniors and he used to buy them canned coffee whenever he saw them.
Although Cheon Sungheon was an illegitimate child of a chaebol family, a lot of people wanted to get close to him in order to build connections so there were often many people around him.
Cheon Sungheon had no choice but to keep a proper distance because he didn’t want to bother Jo Euishin.
After a drinking party to commemorate a senior’s discharge, that’s when Cheon Sungheon finally spoke with Jo Euishin.
— I heard Jo Euishin sunbaenim call my assistant that day.
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Thanks to Jo Euishin, Cheon Sungheon was able to escape from the crisis and that’s how the two were able to interact naturally.
Cheon Sungheon thanked him several times and that’s when he started following him and calling him his “hyung”.
Jo Euishin and Cheon Sungheon didn’t have a lot of things in common except for a tragic family background, but Cheon Sungheon liked talking with Jo Euishin.
— Euishin hyung, you’re playing a mobile game right What game is it
— Yeah… PMH.
Cheon Sungheon wasn’t well-versed in mobile games, but he knew about PMH.
He knew it as the legendary Nation’s Failed Game that’s been featured several times in the news.
— Is it fun Should I play it too
—… It’s not un-fun.
Jo Euishin carefully introduced PMH to Cheon Sungheon, and the latter played it right away.
Cheon Sungheon, who’s not really a gamer, was just as stunned as Jo Euishin was when he first played the Nameless Supporting Role’s Tutorial Level.
Soon, when all the characters were wiped out and the screen turned red, two options emerged over the characters’ desperate expressions.
Continue after the tutorial.]
Cheon Sungheon sighed and turned off the screen.
‘It seems like it’s really a failed game.’
Cheon Sungheon played the game occasionally, but not as much as Jo Euishin.
He failed on becoming closer to Jo Euishin through PMH, but they became closer as they spent their college life together.
Cheon Sungheon used to talk about chess a lot after they got close.
At first, Jo Euishin seemed reluctant to talk about it, but as time went by, even though Jo Euishin still couldn’t face a chessboard, they were able to talk about chess.
Sometimes, it was even Jo Euishin who brought up the topic first.
Seeing the gradual change, a dream sparked inside Cheon Sungheon again.
‘If Euishin hyung starts playing chess again someday, and maybe after I inherit some affiliates, I’ll be able to sponsor Euishin hyung under the company name.
Maybe I’d even be able to play chess with him…’
The day he suddenly became a part of a chaebol family, his dream of becoming a player as good as Stalemateless was crushed.
But perhaps it would be satisfying to watch the chess player he respected the most play the game again.
‘I hope Euishin hyung can play again, even as a hobby.’
If he could see Stalemateless play chess again, Cheon Sungheon thought it would be okay even if Jo Euishin doesn’t take the path of a professional chess player again.
‘It’s not a stalemate yet.’
There are still a number of moves to be made.
Cheon Sungheon thought so and steeled himself as he tried to talk to Jo Euishin.
He brought up the word “stalemate”
— Looking at the records you have, it seems like you don’t have a single game that ended in a stalemate.
You had big games that you lost, but you could’ve led it to a stalemate.
…I guess you don’t like it, don’t you hyung
— Yeah, I hate it.
—That’s very “stalemate-less” of you.
Jo Euishin reacted to the word right away.
The reaction was bigger than Cheon Sungheon expected.
— I’m always wary of a stalemate whenever I enter the end game.
If there’s a guy who wants to lead me to one…
Jo Euishin’s voice was filled with confidence.
— I destroy him.
Jo Euishin smiled as he said those words, and Cheon Sungheon thought that the image was somehow suspicious.
His face was reminiscent of the look that Stalemateless makes after winning chess games in the past.
It was a suspicious face, but strangely enough, it could make people feel relief and put trust in him.
‘I’ll be alright as long as I’m with Euishin hyung.’
Perhaps because he was orphaned and then suddenly taken into a chaebol family, Cheon Sungheon always felt like he was alone even though he had many people around him.
One day, Cheon Sungheon invited Jo Euishin to his regular tea party.
— Euishin hyung, do you like tea
— It’s alright.
Cheon Sungheon gave an invitation wrapped in silver foil.
Cheon Sungheon’s grandfather orders social gatherings under Cheon Sungheon’s name to broaden his connections.
It was always a tea party.
He thought of two reasons for inviting Jo Euishin.
First, his family wanted to see Jo Euishin, the college sunbae who’s close to him, in person.
Second, Cheon Sungheon, as someone who likes tea, wants to share the experience with his sunbae.
He repeated those reasons in his head over and over again, but he couldn’t speak at all when Jo Euishin asked.
When Cheon Sungheon was rendered speechless, Jo Euishin immediately followed up on his words.
— Alright, I’ll go.
With just one invite and one look at Cheon Sungheon’s face, Jo Euishin accepted without question.
He came to the tea party and his well-mannered actions drew attention even among the children of other chaebol families.
Jo Euishin didn’t really fit in the event in terms of his family background, but he was excellent enough to be recognized as a talented senior at a prestigious university, so no one treated him badly.
Rather, people took a liking to him.
Cheon Sungheon felt relieved that he didn’t cause harm to Jo Euishin.
But it was too late when he realized the damage.
— Euishin hyung, isn’t it time for your private tutoring session
— Oh… I’m taking a break today.
One day, all of a sudden, Jo Euishin was fired from his private tutoring part-time job.
And that’s not all.
— …Moving out You’re suddenly leaving your studio
— Yeah, I haven’t found a new apartment yet, so I think I’ll stay at a gosiwon for a while.
The “for a while” turned into a very long time.
And when Jo Euishin was about to be employed somewhere through his connections, something terrible happened that caused him to be rejected last minute.
When he found out that it was his half-brother who made it happen, he realized that he was the cause of Jo Euishin’s misfortune.
Cheon Sungheon’s half-brother, who was paralyzed from the waist down, had an inferiority complex and anger against Cheon Sungheon, but he didn’t have the courage nor the ability to harm him because he was being protected by their grandfather.
But Jo Euishin was different.
Destroying Jo Euishin’s life would scratch Cheon Sungheon’s heart, and he did that exact thing without regret.
Cheon Sungheon’s grandfather has no reason to protect Jo Euishin.
Rather, their grandfather thought that it was a reasonable thing for his grandson to do as taking out his anger on someone else would relieve his paralyzed grandson’s mind.
And that’s when Cheon Sungheon decided to take revenge.