“So who am I going up against today?” I asked when we reached the huge building. I was already starting to feel used to the place.
Ixi checked a clipboard she’d picked up at the front entrance. “Casper.”
“Is Casper a friendly ghost?”
She looked up, a confused look on her face. “What?”
“Nothing, never mind. It was a joke.”
“Was it a pun? I never was able to understand those.”
“No, no… I’ll explain it to you later.”
We went into the room, and the person there really did look like a ghost. His hair was streaked with white, his face was pale, and he looked like he hadn’t slept in days. His left hand was handcuffed to the chess table, which was bolted to the ground.
I looked over at Ixi. “What’s with this scene here?”
“I’ve heard of this guy. Apparently, the queen of Reginea is offering his freedom if he wins his matches.”
I winced. “So if I win… he’s back in prison?”
“I guess so. Something like that, anyway.”
“That’s awful. How am I supposed to…?”
“Well… maybe he’s really a bad person. A thief or something.”
“Or a murderer.”
She prodded my side. “Don’t you remember what I told you? We don’t kill people here. It’s not just a law… no one has ever intentionally caused the death of someone else. It’s too dreadful, even for the worst of us.”
I frowned. It just felt too weird. But if I tried to judge, she’d be upset, since people on Earth kill each other all the time, which is a much worse situation.
She led me to my seat, sat me down, and rushed to her chair. Casper didn’t look at me. He just looked down at the board, biting his fingernails. I did him a favor and looked down at the board as well.
The man who flipped the coin was different this time, and he didn’t make as big of an entrance. He just walked through the door, called everyone to silence, and flipped. Heads. I went first.
The match was over not long after it began. Every time Casper tried to move a piece, his hand wobbled so much that I could barely tell what piece he was holding. I beat him without even trying.
Casper started crying, and I immediately felt guilty for winning. He would have to be imprisoned again because of that game. But maybe he would have lost to someone else anyway, and letting him win did no one any favors. Guards led him away.
Ixi ran up to me. “Leo, what’s wrong? You look terrible.”
“… Do your people allow visitors for prisoners?”
“Yeah, we do. Why?”
“I want to talk to him.”
She frowned. “Is this going to be some sort of trend with you, Leo?”
“Maybe. Just take me to see him. I think I might have something to tell him.”