Hikaru couldn't help but let her eyes roam as she walked along the familiar streets of Tokyo. It had been 2 weeks since she moved into Himawari Orphanage and she had been enjoying her stay there so far. Soccer was the main sport of choice there and before the first weeks were out she was asked to join in on a game. Of course, after seeing that she was pretty good at it, it led to many other invites to play. They didn't separate the games by gender either, since otherwise they wouldn't have enough people to play.
She had asked the matron, Nishizaki Takiko, pretty much right away when she would be able to go out and explore Tokyo and then informed her that she would be looking for a job. The matron had sighed, rubbed her temples with her hands for a bit, and then explained to her how Hikaru would have to have a probationary week before she was allowed out of the orphanage and that it may be even longer because of Hikaru's condition.
Then she said that it was very admirable for Hikaru to want to get a job and cautioned her that it wouldn't be easy and that she would help Hikaru any way that she could, which was a relief for Hikaru since she had no idea how to apply for a job. After all, she had had no need to apply for one in her old life since she had automatically become a Go pro. Even though she didn't know how long she would be stuck in the orphanage Hikaru had promptly began looking for a job in a Go salon.
A position presented itself just about a week and a half after she had been at the orphanage and she had latched onto it. It was perfect! The woman who had the position from before would be leaving to America soon as a foreign exchange student and would be willing to train a new recruit for her position as receptionist for a Go salon. As soon as she had read the description she had scribbled down the information and brought it straight to the matron who said that she would check it out and, if it was satisfactory, would call up for a meeting date.
That very meeting was why Hikaru was walking around the streets of Tokyo with her best clothes on, which wasn't saying much since all her clothes were hand-me-downs from Aki's daughter. They were still in good condition but because these were clothes that the daughter had worn before she needed anything formal they were all pretty simple. So, Hikaru was wearing plain, black skinny jeans with a blue tank top on, and, of course, the pair of shoes that she had fallen in love with on first sight. They were white with the English number 5 printed all over them. Enough said.
Her meeting wasn't for another 6 hours as the matron had scheduled it late so Hikaru could walk around and acquaint herself with the city. That was fine with Hikaru because she wanted to head to a Go salon for a bit, but she was having trouble choosing which one. She couldn't bring herself to go to any of the salons that she used to frequent a lot in her old world because she didn't know if she could handle seeing all the faces of the dead alive again. It was also heart breaking to know that all the people that she had gotten close to wouldn't know who she was.
Hikaru made an abrupt stop in her journey as her eyes picked out a very nostalgic park. It was the park that she and Akari would play in when they were younger and the same park that Hikaru had always played soccer at with his friends. As Hikaru walked further into the park and towards the soccer field she couldn't help but grin. She could see it now, him and his friends plowing through the field as they tried scoring goal after goal, Akari waiting just off to the side to cheer him on, walking home together after the game...
Hikaru's thoughts paused as she spotted the one person that she thought she might never be able to see again: Akari! She was standing just off to the side of the soccer field, just like how she remembered, but that couldn't be right, because why would she be doing that? Unless she had another friend in this universe that liked soccer, but that seemed a little weird. Akari had only become her friend because they had lived next to each other and it had been convenient for their mothers to have the two hang out.
"Hey, girl! Heads up!" rang out from the field, effectively breaking Hikaru loose from her thoughts. When she looked up and spotted the soccer ball heading her way instinct took over and she hit the ball with her head, bounced it off her knee, and kicked the air born ball right into the awaiting boy's hands. There was a bit of a stunned silence after her display, since none of them expected her to know how to do that, but another boy broke it soon enough.
"That was pretty good!" He said, breaking out of the crowd of boys to head over to her. "How come I've never seen you around before?" His familiar forest green eyes stared down at her questioningly and it was all Hikaru could do to answer him.
"I-I just moved to Tokyo two weeks ago," She stuttered slightly in her surprise before continuing. "I haven't really been allowed out." The boy nodded in comprehension and Hikaru was struck with a large bout of nostalgia and panic.
"That's cool." He said with a smile. "My name's Shindou Hikaru by the way."
Hikaru 's world seemed to tilt on an axis as she heard the confirmation that what she was seeing was really her male version from a past life before her. He looked exactly the way he was supposed to, forest green eyes, same haircut, the same smile, the same voice. The only real difference she could see was that his bangs weren't bleached. It was slightly creepy to be seeing him and it freaked her out more than when she found out she was a girl. By this time the male Hikaru was giving her confused looks and was now waving his arm in front of her face to get her attention.
"Hey, you okay, man? I mean, I know I'm hot but-" Before he could finish Akari, who had moved to stand behind him, smacked him in the head. "Jeez, Akari-chan. I'm just having some fun!"
"Well, something's obviously freaked her out Hikaru!" She yelled indignantly in his ear. "The least you can do is be considerate!"
"God, you're so naggy!" Shindou yelled back, clutching his injured ear.
"Here, we go again." Muttered one of the players. "They argue like an old married couple." The others in the team seemed to agree with him as they watched Akari and Shindou duke it out with words. In the end Akari won and smiled kindly down at Hikaru, who had been frozen to the spot in surprise.
"Don't worry about him." She said nicely as Shindou muttered darkly behind her. "Are you okay?" Hikaru nodded dumbly.
"Um, yeah. I was just lost in thought." She said with a small smile quirking her lips.
"Eh, really? What were you thinking about?" She asked before rethinking what she just said and blushed. "That is, I mean, if you don't mind." Hikaru chuckled a bit, that was just like the Akari that she knew.
"Ah, it's fine." Hikaru said lightheartedly. "I just thought that he looked a bit familiar and it took me by surprise, though I think I was wrong." Akari's face had gone blank as she stared at Hikaru and she thought she might have said something wrong when Akari turned around, grabbed Shindou's arm, and pulled him over to stand next to Hikaru. She blinked once, twice, and then a look of wonder spread across her face.
"Wow, you guys look like twins!" She cried happily, like it was the most exciting thing ever. "I mean, if you guys were the same gender then you would be identical."
"What are you talking about, Akari-chan." Shindou asked dubiously. "We're complete strangers, you're just imagining things." Akari let out an exasperated sigh and dug through her purse before producing a rectangular mirror. She held it in front of them and angled it so that they would both fit into the mirror to look and compare.
Now that Akari had pointed it out it seemed that the other players were seeing it as well and they were all muttering about it as they both stared at each other in the mirror. Shindou seemed amazed at this point as he noticed all the points in which they looked alike. Finally, he turned from the mirror and looked over at Hikaru who was now shifting back and forth nervously.
"Whoa..." Was all he was able to get past his lips at first. And then it all gushed out. "Whoa! This is so cool! I wonder if we're related. Haha, maybe we're twins and my parents put you up for adoption or something. Do you know if you're adopted?" Hikaru was stunned at his reaction at first before a chuckle escaped her lips. Had she been that silly when she was his age last time?
"..." And nothing passed her lips. Now Hikaru was irritated. Why wouldn't the weird restriction just let her deny the fact that they were related! It seemed really intent on not letting her say anything about herself that an amnesiac wouldn't know. So, she settled for a simple. "I wouldn't know."
"Hm, what's your name, by the way?" Shindou asked after a moment of contemplation. Hikaru shifted slightly, a bit nervous about what type of reaction their shared name would bring.
"Kiyomizu Hikaru." The foreign word still felt weird as it slipped off her tongue. It didn't seem to fit with her name after so many years of being Shindou Hikaru, but she was sure that she would get used to it. Shindou stared blankly at her a moment before laughing it off.
"No, really. What is it?" He asked again, obviously not believing her.
"As I said, it's Kiyomizu Hikaru." He stared at her disbelievingly for a second before responding.
"Seriously? Man, what are the chances." He muttered. "Not only do we share the same looks but we share the same name? That's kind of creepy. Are you sure you weren't adopted?"
"Are you sure you're not adopted?" Hikaru countered and Shindou seemed to contemplate it before paling a good degree.
"No, I'm sure." He said before covering his mouth with his hand like he was nauseous. "I've seen pictures." A shiver went up his spine and he shook his head to get rid of the mental picture. Hikaru let out a puff of amused air; she had gotten over such things long ago after being there when Akari had given birth. All three times.
"Well, here's the easiest way to find out. How old are you?" It took a moment for Shindou to fully shake off his disturbed thoughts, but, as soon as he did, he gave her a grin.
"I'm 15." He stated proudly. "I'm in my first year of High School." Someone mumbled out 'A frickin' miracle, took us all by surprise.' and was soon followed by muffled chuckles as Shindou quickly whipped around to glare at them.
"Well, that settles it then." Hikaru said finally after Shindou returned his attention back to her. "I'm 14 and I'm in my last year of middle school."
"Man, and I was really hoping that I had something that would totally freak my mom out." He paused then, as if in deep thought. "Actually, we still could. Ooh, this could be nice." Shindou practically cackled as he went about scheming his mother's new heart attack.
"Sorry to ruin your fun, but I have to be going. I have limited time today." She said to the protests of many. They all wanted to learn more about weird girl that they had just met, and Shindou wanted to see if she could play soccer, too. Who knew how long their list of similarities could go?
"Well," He said as he scratched the back of his head. "Will you at least visit? We're here pretty much every day during the summer, but when school starts we only gather on Sundays."
Hikaru gave him a nod, she would definitely come to watch them play and maybe even participate. It would be interesting to find out all the differences between this sports-oriented Shindou and the Shindou that she had once been.
Now that the park was out of her sight she was able to make herself think about the more pressing issue. Where was she going to go to play Go? She couldn't go to her old haunts for the reasons said earlier and she didn't want to go to the Meijin's Salon yet, so... Where could she go?
Then it hit her. She knew the perfect place to go play, and that kid might even be there as well. Hikaru had only been to the Salon once but it had stuck in her head all these years because that was where she had met one of her long term friends. Hikaru giggled. It would be funny to see him as a little kid again.
Hon Suyon grunted as he dipped low to grab his preferred drink from the mini mart that he had been going to for the last few weeks. This was his third time coming to Japan during the summer to visit his uncle and the visits had turned into a bit if a monotony. He would wake up in the morning, have breakfast, and then head with his uncle to his Go Salon where he played Go until lunch time. After lunch he would take a walk around the area and snatch a drink and a snack before heading back into the salon for another round of Go games.
These trips to Japan were designed to help him relax and get his mind off of his failure as a Kenkyuusei but all it did was leave him time to ponder over it. He had been doing fine at the beginning, he was rising in the ranks fast, and relished in each new win, but then he hit a roadblock. He had lost. The boy he had lost to was admittedly stronger and far more experienced, but it didn't matter. He was already falling.
He lost game after game and dropped level after level until he hit the bump where he was far better than the level below him so he wouldn't drop far, maybe one or two, before going back, but he would stay in the same area of skill. Sometimes he would go a few levels higher and sometimes he would go a few levels lower but he was always stuck in the same spot. The game he had enjoyed so much had lost all its fun.
Suyon slammed the door to the store behind him more forcefully then he should have, his aggravated thoughts leaking into his actions. Reaching into the plastic shopping bag, he grabbed his drink and angrily guzzled it, trying to get rid of his pent up anger before he went back to the shop. It wouldn't be good to worry his uncle.
When he finally opened the door to the Salon he wasn't greeted by the usual mass of voices, he wasn't greeted at all actually. Everyone seemed to be preoccupied, as they all converged together at one table. Suyon placed his bag at the desk and walked towards the crowd, his curiosity peaked. Just as he was about to join the rest his uncle spotted him and greeted him with a wave and an excited grin.
"Suyon, I was just about to go looking for you." His uncle said excitedly as he ushered Suyon over to the table where a Japanese girl was having an after game discussion with one of the better players at the Salon. Her smile was wide and her eyes bright as she discussed one of the moves that he had done and how he could have done better. "This girl is really good; I want you to play against her. I'm sure you'll have a better chance than everyone else."
Suyon looked skeptically at the green eyed girl sitting before him. She looked to be his age, about the same height as well since he had yet to get his growth spurt, and seemed to be more of the laid back sports type then a Go player. All in all, she didn't look like she would be very strong. As soon as this thought crossed his mind the girl turned and her bright green eyes locked on his before she gave him a whole-hearted smile. Suyon couldn't help the small blush that rose up at her smile being directed solely at him.
"Hello, my name is Kiyomizu Hikaru." The girl said in almost perfect Korean, with barely an accent. "Would you like to play a game with me?"
Before he could really even think about it he was nodding in agreement as he walked over to the table and took the chair that the other player had just vacated. She beamed at him before signaling for them to do nigiri and happily took black as she handed over the white stones to Suyon. Hikaru was excited to play the 14 year old Suyon, or at least she thought he was 14, and wondered how his playing style would differ from his twelve year old style and if he was still in the slump that she had originally found him in.
She couldn't help but heave in internal sigh as she noticed that Suyon was underestimating her. She had a feeling that lots of people would be doing that until she officially became a pro, and maybe even after that. There hadn't been many female professional Go players in his world and those that were weren't sited as the best. It seemed that most believed Go to be a man's sport, just how he had believed it as well when he had put Akari down for trying to learn the game herself.
Hikaru could honestly say that she now knew how Akari felt each and every time that she had told her that she wouldn't be a good player because she was a girl. Her younger self had been so sexist. Hikaru was sure that she would have to prove herself over and over again before people really began to believe in her skill. She had to do much that same thing in her previous life but Hikaru felt that this time it might be a little harder since she was a girl.
Just then Suyon began to pick up the pace, no longer was he underestimating her skill, and he was going full out, trying to regain as much territory as he could after losing so much at the beginning of the game. Hikaru couldn't help the excited grin that leaped onto her face as the game got that much more fun. It was an easy enough win, of course, but any level of resistance made the game all that much better.
She could definitely see the difference between the game that she had played against him the first time they met and the game they were playing now. The first game that she had had with him in her first life had a determined edge to it. He had wanted to show her that Korean Go players weren't pushovers and that he was good as well. But now it seemed more like he had given up. His game was resigned, as though no matter what he did he would lose. Hikaru was pretty sure that she wasn't the only person he played like that against.
Soon enough, the game ended with her leading by a large margin and Suyon slumped back into his chair as his eyes slid to the tiles on the floor. He said nothing as those around them congratulated them on the good game. And it really was a good game, Suyon had played wonderfully and he wouldn't have lost by so much if he hadn't underestimated her at the beginning. In fact, Hikaru bet that he would play even better once he got over his sullen attitude.
Despite all of the congratulations around them, there was a tight silence between the two players that cut them off from everyone else. As they began to put away the stones, Hikaru could tell that Suyon wanted to leave. His hands clenched and unclenched as he stiffly put away the stones, his eyes flitting to any other place but at Hikaru or his uncle. Hikaru placed the bowl holding the stones down with a sharp crack, just under the line of acceptable, making Suyon's head snap up in the middle of him clearing the stones, and locked eyes with him in a piercing stare.
"Why are you running away?" It was soft, but enough that the people around them quieted down until everything was still. "You are wasting your talent, Suyon, by admitting defeat before the game even begins. Is this how all Korean Go players are like? Because, if so, I fear for the future of Go in your country." A united gasp filled the room as the weight of Hikaru's words was processed. She had essentially insulted every single one of them, a single Japanese citizen in a room full of Koreans.
"Like hell I didn't! I came at you with everything that I had!" He jerked up to his feet and leaned over the table, his palms slamming angrily on the surface. "I would never admit defeat, not even if I was hopelessly outmatched." His words hung in the air, the crowd silent again, as Hikaru stared into his eyes.
"Really? Then what was that match just now, the one that you walked into so half-heartedly?" Her tone was provocative, but brooked no argument at the same time. "You have your pride for the game, but where is the spark that fuels it? The same spark that started you playing Go, without it your game is hollow, built only on pride and innate skill, nothing else." His face flushed angrily at her cryptic words, and he grit his teeth.
"What the hell are you talking about! You're making no sense at all!" His breathing was slightly labored now due to his anger and his fingers fisted on the table.
"Fine, I'll make it simple." Her tone was quiet again and just soothing enough to settle Suyon's ruffled feathers. "Fun, enjoyment, excitement. These are all things that are now missing from you're game. Without these, you can never become stronger, can never advance. It's not too late, you know. You can still find it again."
Her words had obviously struck a chord in Suyon and his eyes widened as he looked down at Hikaru. He wanted to yell at her, to tell her she was wrong and that he could advance if he wanted to, that he could easily advance if he tried, but then he remembered. He remembered all of those agonizing nights that he had spent studying Go until it was late, until he could no longer keep his head from hitting his desk, of how he kept losing, and how all of his losses seemed to add another layer of hate and frustration.
Then, when he thought that he might drown in all the bad things that Go brought up, he remembered why he started playing in the first place. He remembered the feel of the Go stones the very first time he had held them, how they felt so smooth and cold in his hands, but once they were placed down on the board they became burning points in the spectrum of the game, and they weren't just smooth anymore. They could become sharp and pierce through the other player's territory, or blunt and stop the flow of the other's stones, because, in Go, nothing was as it seems.
Next thing he knew a waft of the scent of Yixing tea, the red tea that his uncle favored, brought him to an early memory of him sitting on his uncle's lap and watching as he played a game and explained it to him, step by step, before letting him place a stone of his own. The one that popped up after that was the day that he had finally beaten his uncle on even grounds. He had been 8 and his uncle had taken him out to celebrate afterwards.
Now that he actually thought about it, the good far outweighed the bad, and he couldn't seem to remember why he had even thought of quitting the game. Almost distractedly, he slid back down into his seat, his eyes slowing wandering to the half cleaned Go board in front of him. However, what he really wanted to know was how this girl, this random Japanese Go player, had known what he was going through, and why he was going through it, when even he didn't.
He looked up and caught her gaze, her face lighting up as she directed a brilliant smile at him. The green of her eyes shone slightly in the lighting and all he could was stare as she began to clean up his part of the board. Bit by bit, the white stones were cleared from the board, and he almost had to stop himself from crying out as the last of the stones, those unique burning points, were taken and placed back into their bowl. He couldn't stop the flinch, however, when she called out across the silent board.
"Have you found it? The thing that fuels your Go?" She asked, and again he could only marvel at how in tune she seemed to be with the game. Suyon's eyes flickered to the bowl on his side of the board, and then looked at the board itself, his own eyes igniting with the same fire and burn of the stones he placed. Hikaru smirked. "It seems you have, I'm glad. Maybe now we can play an actual game." The words were a challenge and he looked head on into her eyes, not backing down an inch.
"This time, I won't underestimate you, and you won't have such an easy time." His pride was still there, but this time it was backed by his spark, his fuel, and Hikaru knew that the next game they played would be one well worth remembering. Too bad it would have to wait.
"I'm sure it will be wonderful, but it will have to be at another time." Hikaru said almost off-handedly as she stood up. Suyon's face, which had been shaped into a look of pride and challenge, slipped into disbelieving shock. "Oh come on, don't look at me like that. If I stay and play another game I'm gonna be late for my interview, but I'll come as soon as I can, kay?" And with that she was walking away and then out the door, and all Suyon could do was stare after her in shock.
It took a few seconds, but he finally snapped out of it and flung himself from his chair. Swinging open the door Suyon flew down the steps, only pausing long enough at the bottom to look left and right to spot the direction in which Hikaru had gone. In a flash he was after her, making it just as she hit the corner. He called out to her, and she paused, turning to look at him with her light bottle-green eyes.
"I'm-I'm only going to be here for the summer, so you better come as much as you can, got it!" He told her, and couldn't help but hold his breath as she paused a moment in thought. But then she smiled, and his worries melted away as she gave him a nod and waved before continuing on her way. For some reason, the world seemed brighter and full of possibilities.