Hikaru has always hidden his love of Go, choosing to be a soccer player and average kid. But Hikaru is anything but average. Can Sai and others put Hikaru on the path to becoming a truly great Go p...
It had been two years since that fateful day when Shindou Hikaru met Fujiwara no Sai. Sai, a ghost, who had been trapped inside a Go board for a thousand years (although he had been released once before for a short time) was desperate to play and teach, his beloved game, Go. He had been one of the two Go tutors to the Emperor in the Heian period and had several eager students within the court. However, nothing could prepare him for facing a modern teenage boy in the 21 century.
When they first met, Hikaru had the attention span of a mayfly and the energy of a wild horse. Bouncing from place to place and running amuck. He could hardly stand any activity for more than half an hour except for soccer, which put his energy to good use. For that he could run back and forth for hours chasing after a pentagonal and hexagonal ball. He had absolutely no interest in learning Go or even letting Sai play though him. It had taken much begging, on Sai's part, before Hikaru agreed to let Sai teach him secretly.
"Look, I don't want my friends to see me playing or even learning Go."
"Why? I don't understand. Go is a game of pride and playing well shows great strength and dignity." Sai tried to explain to the petulant young boy.
"That may be how it was back then, but now it will lose me my reputation, my friends, and all I will gain is bullying and a short track to pain. I refuse to be shoved head first into the shoe lockers." Hikaru replied sternly brushing his bleached blond bangs off his eyes. There was no arguing this point. Hikaru had his reputation to think of and Sai understood that since he had killed himself because his own reputation as a Go player was destroyed.
It had taken nearly two weeks for Hikaru to bring his grades up, which was easier with a ghost to help, and receive his allowance. When Hikaru finally had the money he had bought a small magnetic go board. It was all he could afford since the wooden ones cost a fortune. It was another two weeks before he admitted that Go was not such a bad game, and another month before he fell in love with the game.
However Hikaru was just as wild as ever he could hardly sit still long enough for a game. He loved speed Go and blind Go. Where he could run around and just yell the coordinates to Sai. It took nearly six months before he could convince his family to get him a computer so he could play NetGo.
Now two years later Sai felt the rules needed to change. Sai knew his time was running short and without something or someone to push Hikaru Sai was sure that Hikaru would give up and let his potential go to waste.
"Hikaru, you need to play more Go." Sai whined, floating behind Hikaru as they walked home from school. Hikaru hated Saturday school a lot of his friends got the day off. Hikaru however had to go to school because his parents were upset with the new five day school policy and did not think he was learning enough. It seemed that when his grades had started to go up that their hopes went up with them. Hopefully when summer started in two weeks he could finally have some time off. Exams right now were brutal his parents wanted him to be able to transfer to Kaio for the next year since his grades went up so he had to pass not only Haze's exam but also Kaio's entrance exam, and their first year end of term exam, as well as write an essay about why he wanted to go to Kaio and what he offers to Kaio. Personally Hikaru thought it was a waste of time, but Sai taught him to respect his parents' wishes and succeed. Also Kaio had an extremely good soccer team and Go club and he could play soccer and watch the others play Go without much hurt to his reputation
Hikaru wiped the sweat from his forehead. The summer heat was just starting to burn. It was warmer than it usually was this time of year.
"We play every night. How much more can I possibly play?" Hikaru answered back in his mind to the purple haired ghost.
"It's not me you need to play with you can't grow unless you face others."
"Why? It's not like any of them will be stronger than you." They turned the corner heading for the train station. Hikaru figured that just watching the other kids at Kaio and playing with Sai would be enough.
"You don't need my strength all the time, it's detrimental. I am like a wall at your level you can't get past me. What you need is a rival, someone your own strength, someone you can fight on the board with so you can build yourself up. Rivals push each other and get stronger in the process. Not only that but you need to face new strategies, strengths, weakness and emotions. You can't do that only playing me." Sai explained as they boarded the train.
"Look I thought we discussed this when we first met. I can't play other people because it is a secret that I'm playing at all." Hikaru thought back. He hated yelling in his thoughts because it gave himself a headache but speaking out loud to Sai was not an option, at least not if he wanted to maintain a look of sanity.
"I know, but don't you want to improve your Go?"
"Of course I do. You know I do. I love playing Go, but I'm a soccer player and soccer players don't play Go."
"Are you really a soccer player? You are going to have to decide are you a soccer player or a Go player? You can't be both." Sai snapped "You are a good Go player. You know what you need to do to be a great Go player. I know you can be a great Go player. I can see your potential." Sai pleaded.
"I'll think about it, Okay. Right now I promised Shuichi that I would help Yuki with his book signing let's just concentrate on that right now. Yuki freaks me out, he's always so quiet and angry looking. I don't see what my cousin sees in him."
"Opposites attract, and I don't see what's wrong with him being quiet. I bet he'd be a good Go player."
"Sai! Drop it."
Hikaru placed the sign up on the easel and took a quick look around. The folding chairs with the red backs were lined up in ten rows, the sign announcing Yuki Eiri reading and signing was set up. A glass of Yuki's favorite mineral water was next to the podium. Picking up his cell Hikaru made a quick call.
"Yuki are you nearly ready everything is all set up here." Hikaru asked.
"Hai. Have the store start announcing and seating everyone." Was the calm and cold reply on the other end. Hikaru went up to the customer service desk to alert the employees that it was time. He handed the woman behind the desk a sheet of paper explaining that it was the announcement and should be read on loud speaker every ten minutes for the next half hour.
Hikaru had been though this routine ever since his cousin Shuichi decided that he did not like the volunteer fans who would work Yuki's events. He had tried to do the work himself but that just lead to disaster as Shuichi would bounce from one job to the next without completing any. It then fell into pandemonium when the fans recognized Shuichi from his band Bad Luck and had herded over to him causing a ruckus that destroyed several chairs and books, and lead to Yuki not signing any books. It had then been decided, as in Hikaru's mother, that Hikaru would work these events whenever they were in town or a nearby city. It didn't hurt that he received extra allowance money for the work, plus he got to travel a bit on weekends to set these meeting up. It was on these trips out of town that he finally felt safe enough to go to Go clubs and let Sai play.
Hikaru went a few times a week to the internet café to let Sai play but he has yet to play anyone other than Sai. Although Sai had been bugging him for months to play other opponents, Hikaru really never felt the need to play anyone other than the ghost. However lately he had been wearing down. Maybe Sai was right and he needed to play others. Sai was always excited when met with a new opponent, and maybe playing other people, real live people would give that excitement to him.
An hour after Yuki finished his reading the line of obsessed fans needing to have their books signed was out the door. Hundreds of people had shown up, Hikaru could not understand how Yuki could stand this. All this fame, the hordes of people asking the same questions over and over again. Sure Hikaru liked attention but this was bordering on ridiculous. Only bordering since Hikaru has seen the absolutely ridiculous fans that chased his cousin around town.
Hikaru moved though the crowd of people and headed towards the back of the store. The back of the store was the only empty place since all the fans wanted to be as close to Yuki as possible and the vast amount of people kept the regular customers away. Romance novel fanatics also tended to stay out of the strategy game section of the store. Hikaru looked around his new haven. Shelves full of books on chess, shogi, go and crossword puzzles sectioned off the area giving the feeling of seclusion. Over on the far ends towards the windows were three small tables with black leather club chairs. There were tables like these situated throughout the store to encourage reading and working. These tables however had a go board on one and shogi boards on the others. A small plaque on the table quickly informed Hikaru that in order to receive the stones 400¥ needed to be paid at the customer service desk. Hikaru sighed. There was not really much to do, he could sit and read but that would get boring fast and there were still several hours to go in book signing as well as a second reading. The store loved milking these book signings for all their worth since the revenue, from one day with a famous author such as Yuki, was equivalent to nearly one week's worth of the net.
"Ne, Sai do you want to play some go?" Hikaru asked the ghost.
"Hai." The purple haired ghost replied excitedly launching himself onto the boy ion a draping hug. "Are not you worried about others seeing you?"
"Not really, it's pretty secluded back here and the crazy romance fans should keep away any other customers." Hikaru answered as he headed back towards the customer service desk to pay for the stones.
Hikaru placed his black stone at (16,17) upper right hand corner. Sai quickly responded with (17,4) which from Hikaru's perspective was the upper left corner of the grid. Hikaru continued the game placing both his and Sai's stones.
(4,3) went to Hikaru.
(3,5) Pachi. Hikaru moved to solidify the lower left corner for black defense. Sai responded with an attack to the upper right (16,15). And the game began. It was a fierce battle Sai not letting Hikaru take any lead. It was always shidogo because Hikaru was nowhere near Sai's level however it was an exemplary effort on Hikaru's part.
Hikaru was so into the game he did not hear anyone come up behind him.
"That is a very good game you're replaying from memory. Whose is it?" Hikaru practically leapt out of his seat spilling go stones all over the floor.
"You scared the shit out of me." Hikaru gasped bringing his hand to his chest.
"Gomen nasai." The green haired boy replied. 'I did not mean to startle you. It just looked like such a great game I wanted to know who played it."
"It's a game a friend and I played. I was replaying it because I was board." Hikaru told the boy.
"Would you like to play a game with me?" The green haired boy asked him. Hikaru could hear Sai screaming in his ear. 'Play him, play him' over and over urging Hikaru into the game.
"Sure" Hikaru told the boy. "I'm Hikaru by the way" Hikaru said while holding out his hand across the board. He figured that he was far enough from home, about an hour's train ride, that the chances of this boy seeing him again were pretty much nonexistent.
Touya offered to give Hikaru a handicap which of course led to Hikaru being insulted. However he settled down and after nigiri started to play. Both boys were so into the game that neither one noticed the time. The game was going back and forth, with either boy ahead by a few moku. Sai was standing behind Hikaru watching the game he knew this was what Hikaru needed and by the looks of the game Hikaru might have found his rival already. Sai had never seen that look of determination before. Hikaru has always either knew he was going to lose to Sai, or knew he was going to win against the old men at the salon, but for the first time Hikaru could fight without knowing the outcome of the game.
Yuki was getting angry, they should have left an hour ago, he needed to drop Hikaru at the train station before dark or Hikaru's mother and Shuichi would start nagging him, and god were they loud. Stupid Hikaru had get involved in a lengthy game of Go. Yuki could understand the time and patients it takes for a good game, he himself was a better than average player. He also knew that sitting across from his lover's cousin was Touya Akira the Meijin's son. Rumor had it that Touya Akira-san would be taking the pro exam in the fall, four months from now. Looking at the board it was obvious that the kid had talent.
Pulling out his cell phone Yuki stepped away from the game. There was still some time left before end game.
"Yuki-kun, how did the book signing go? Did Hikaru get there alright? Was he helpful, not just goofing off?" Hikaru's mother asked.
"Shindou-san, the signing went well. May Hikaru stay the night? He is in the middle of a game of Go and it will be after dark before he is threw."
"Hikaru playing Go? I did not know he knew how to play. Yes he may spend the night. Put him on a train first thing in the morning. He needs to study for his exams. Have him call me when he is done playing."
"Arigatou." Yuki closed the phone he hoped he didn't regret this. He hated snot nosed little brats, and all kids. Bad enough he had to deal with Shuichi all the time. Although he didn't mind that so much as he let on. It's hard to pass up on a good quiet game of Go. Yuki went back in the finish watching the game.
It was another 30 minutes before the game moved into end game, Hikaru was ahead by 3 moku. However by the end of the game Touya won by eight moku. Sadly they did not have time to discuss the game as the store was closing and the store manager was standing over them tapping his watch.
"It was a good game." Hikaru told the green haired boy. It was a game he would never forget. Hikaru wanted to play a hundred games against that boy. He wanted to win. He had never felt so much excitement and determination in a game.
"Yes it was a great game. Are you an Insei?" Touya asked him.
"No. My end game is not strong enough. It kina sucks. Plus it requires you to be all serious about Go. Are you an Insei?" Hikaru said with a smile. He really hoped this kid was not an insei he wanted to play him again, but Hikaru didn't want to be pulled into being an Insei or a pro.
Touya was getting angry. How could this boy not be serious and play so well. He dedicated his life to Go ever since he was two. And this boy was not even serious about playing. "How can you not be serious about Go with the way you play." Touya nearly screamed at him. "I have been playing and studying Go since I was two years old. How dare you. And You should consider getting serious or I'll pull too far ahead of you you'll never catch me." Akira knew he was taunting but he was angry and wanted this boy to join him in the pros. He found a rival.
"Catch you. Catch you! I'll surpass you Touya Akira." Hikaru shouted.
"You have to catch me first and your end game is shotty." Touya responded back calmly before bidding the others goodbye.
"Hikaru-kun you will be staying with me tonight since you like your cousin can't keep time. Your mother wants you to call her." Yuki said as he threw Hikaru his mobile phone.
"Yes, Yuki-san. I'm sorry that the game took so long and I did not help with the clean up. Did your reading go well?" Hikaru asked. After a quick call Hikaru turned quiet which was unusual for him unless he was play Go. However, Hikaru knew better than to piss off Yuki because well, Yuki can be a right surly bastard. His Grandfather was the only one who really got along with Yuki. Both of them had the same sarcastic bite. Hikaru had learned the hard way to be respectful to Yuki ever since last year when he and Shuichi were being too loud in the car Yuki pulled over and without fully stopping the car pushed Shuichi and him out and drove away. Without Shuichi here to help Hikaru felt it better to keep his mouth shut. This was made increasingly difficult by his need to curse Touya six ways to Sunday at the same time raving about how amazing that game was.
By the time they arrived at Yuki's apartment an hour away, Hikaru had stopped yelling in his head and had fallen into a deep contemplation. Just as Yuki was opening the door Hikaru turned to him and asked,
"Do you think I could really become a professional Go player?" Yuki stopped and looked at Hikaru. After nearly a minute of quite staring he put his keys back into his pocket and moved to the apartment across the hall, and knocked on the door. A blond man in a white suit answered.
"Eiri, what are you doing here?" The blond man asked Yuki while gesturing them to come inside.
"Play him." Yuki said, though the phrase seemed to be meant for both of them.
"Why?" The blond man asked.
"Yuki, you never answered my question." Hikaru asked his voice taking on a childish whine much like his cousins.
"Ogata, this is Shuichi's cousin, he wants to know if he could be a professional Go player." Yuki said as he pushed Hikaru towards a Go board situated in the living room. Yuki then gave a kick to the back of Hikaru's knees forcing him to the ground in front of the board.
"You two play. I'll be back in two hours."
"You can't just leave me with a complete stranger; my mother is going to kill you." Hikaru shouted at Yuki who turned around and walked calmly out the door. "Fine creepy fish man, let's play." Hikaru said when he noticed the three fish tanks placed around the room.