Disclaimer: I own nothing, make no money from anything, and am writing this purely for personal enjoyment.
Notes: More of an idea than a story - hope you enjoy it anyway :)
Kaga had been conned into manning the shougi desk for an hour at the cultural fair. Only a little while now until he was captain again, he reassured himself. He'd handled his entire first year, and it wouldn't be long until the seniors retired to study for their exams.
"Oi, Kaga! Long time no see."
Kaga looked up at the half-familiar voice. After a minute, the name came to him. Shindou Hikaru. "What are you doing here, Shindou? Thinking of coming back to school?"
"Not a chance. Akiri asked me to come. She's got duties at the moment though, so she's pretty much abandoned me. She better make it up with some really awesome food, I tell you."
Akiri? Oh, that tag-along. He thought she might have become a member of the female go team. He'd heard it was doing quite well. With Tsutsui at another school and Shindou dropped out entirely, he hadn't bothered with the go club much.
"Hey, could you tell me, Kaga, what's up with the hakama? You're always in it."
"It's a secret," he said.
"Aw, man. Tell me, come on, tell me, tell me."
Okay, no-one could resist that kind of lure. And after all, messing around with their junior's heads was one of the duties of an upperclassmen. He kept his face straight, and his voice serious. "Alright, but you can't let your Go friends know that I told you. No one's supposed to let you know."
"I won't, I promise."
"Hakama are actually more comfortable than normal clothing."
"Yep. Just like seiza is more comfortable than sitting normally."
Shindou was nodding thoughtfully, but the first year manning the table next to him was starting to lose it. Another second and Shindou would realise he was being made fun of. Kaga prepared himself. Shindou was still tiny, but he was scrappy.
Then he was saved by a female voice. "Hikaru!"
"Yay! Food, here I come. Later, Kaga."
Shindou disappeared off, and Kaga could finally laugh. His breath wheezed a bit, and he had to take deep breaths to calm down.
"That was mean, Kaga-sempai."
"Oh, he had it coming. Besides, it's not like he'll take take me seriously once he has a second to think about it. I mean, seiza, hakama, comfortable?"
The first year nodded and returned to calling out to passers by. Twenty minutes still to go, but considering the first year was doing such a good job, maybe he could handle it alone... Kaga sighed and stayed where he was. He was getting all responsible in his old age.
Hikaru had forgotten all about the conversation with Kaga until he was waiting for Touya to make his obviously wrong move. There weren't any good moves left to him. Directly in Hikaru's line of sight was a picture of Touya-meijin, all dressed up in a hakama. Now, he hadn't needed anyone to tell him seiza was more comfortable in the long run – sitting cross-legged all day left his back in agony all night – but he'd been dressed up traditionally before, and he didn't remember it being comfortable. Would Touya tell him, though? It was worth a try. It wasn't like anyone would have invited Touya into the tease-Shindou club.
"Hey Touya? What's the trick behind being comfortable in a hakama?"
"What?" he said, looking up from the board and scowling. "Did you just interrupt me to talk about clothes?"
"You've lost already anyway, and you know it. So? How do you make hakama comfortable?"
Touya gave a long suffering sigh but started clearing the stones off the board. "I guess its three things, mainly. You need decent quality cloth. The cheap stuff just drapes wrong. Either it's too soft and you spend your day tripping, or it's too hard and you have to waddle about like you're wrapped in cardboard. Then it needs to fit properly. There's a reason why people pay professionals to put the kimono and the hakama on. The placement needs to to match your height and body shape, and it takes a little practice to figure that out. The last thing is just practice in wearing it. There's all these little tricks to how to walk and sit. It becomes automatic pretty quickly, though. Play again?"
Clothing was interesting, but go was go. Shindou put the conversation aside to think about later. "Sure."
Akira dug out the number with a sigh. Shindou could be demanding about the strangest things, but formal wear was never one Akira would have anticipated. "Good afternoon. I would like to set up an appointment for a lesson in dressing for a friend and I."
"Of course, Akira-sensei. Any particular occasion?"
"No, just learning for the times our job will require it."
Akira had Shindou's schedule and his own in front of him and without much pain they settled on an appointment time. The dresser was only in his twenties himself, but he had already been apprenticing when Akira had first been fitted as a child, so felt entitled to be a bit familiar. One of these days, Akira promised himself, he'd start interacting with people who didn't know his father and actually used his last name.
"Will there be anything else, Akira-sensei?"
Akira resigned himself to sounding like an idiot. If he didn't, Shindou would whine at him in public and that would just make everything even worse. "If I asked if you knew anyone who supplied hakama and hakamashita that could be described as 'cutting edge', would you—"
"Yamamura-sensei," he replied promptly.
"There is such a thing?" asked Akira.
"Oh yes. Well, Yamamura-sensei is really an artist, of course, but he's been working using the medium of clothing for some time. Are you interested in viewing, or purchasing?"
"Purchasing. Well, my friend is."
"If you would like, I would be delighted to set up an appointment for you. I still have a record of the times that you and your friend are both free for, and I would be more than happy to meet you at Yamamura-sensei's studio for the lesson instead."
Clearly, it was fate. Oh well, at least he'd get both doses of Shindou over at the same time. "Yes, thank you, that would be very kind."
Within a few weeks, they were taken by his dresser to the artist. The studio was nothing like the light, airy place Akira had been imagining. It was true that the windows had no curtains or screens, but as if to make up for their lack, every other possible nook and cranny was piled up with fabric. Akira followed the dresser through the maze and came to where Yamamura-sensei was setting up.
"They're patterned," said Akira in faint horror.
"Oh, not just patterned, painted," said the designer, gesturing behind him.
Akira turned. It took him some time to even recognise what he was seeing. They were the familiar shape of a hakama, but instead of nice calm greys and browns, they were riots of colours. Luminous green, orange, even pink. Shindou was like a kid in a candy store, hopping from one sample to the next.
Akira knew he was going to regret asking, but he really wanted to know.
"Excuse me, sensei, but why men's wear? Why not paint silk screens? Or female kimonos?"
"Women have plenty of artists who cater to them," he said dismissively. "How a warrior dressed used to be a statement. It used to show off his resources, his ancestors, and his taste. When Naoe Kanetsugu entered the field, people knew who he was. We seem to have forgotten that. We're clinging on to traditions that were born in poverty and fear. We are no longer meek and starved, making do with bleached out scraps. We need to become more who we really are. And why should anyone be forced to choose between 'modern' and 'Japanese'? We should never fall into the trap of thinking we show progress when all we do is imitation westerners. We need..."
Akira's ingrained politeness trapped him there as the explanation lengthened and then looped. He had asked, after all. He nodded and made agreeing noises at all the right points, and hoped he wasn't agreeing to anything too ridiculous.
"I want to try this on!"
Saved by Shindou. Except, naturally, that he won't even be here if Shindou hadn't decided to take leave of his senses. He glared at the boy, but Shindou paid no attention to him. Shindou never paid any attention to glares and disapproving frowns. Akira was irritated by that and not at all jealous. Not in any way.
The dresser had Shindou fitted up in short order. Shindou writhed like a puppy getting its belly scratched as he tested out his range of movement.
"This is amazing! This is way more comfortable than that stupid suit."
Akira was about to remind Shindou that was because his suit had been some cheap off-the-shelf type that hadn't fit particularly well. The same considerations – good quality, well-fitted and worn properly – would work on a suit too. The dresser had brought something for Akira to try on, however, and by the time he came up for air, Shindou had already bounced away. Probably for the best. Akira had no desire to repeat this whole experience at a suit store as well.
Afterwards, Akira was never quite sure how he had been talked into buying a commissioned outfit. Shindou had wanted one, and somewhere in between arguing with him about the specifics, he'd ended up with one as well. Shindou wanted them both delivered together, mainly, Akira suspected, because he had already forgotten how to put it all on. Akira immediately vetoed having them delivered to Shindou's house. He was awkward enough with Shindou's parents as it was, there was no way he was going to be discussing clothing with him. His parents were almost never home, so his house should have been safe enough, and it almost was. They were only days away from another trip to China when the package arrived. He smuggled it up to his room. He'd 'forget' to tell Shindou about it until Tuesday, and everything would be fine.
"Akira!" called his mother. "Shindou-kun is here."
Dread pooled in his stomach. Sure enough, when he walked in, their heads were together chatting away.
"Oh, I can't wait to see both of you dressed up. Why don't you go put them on while I call your Father?"
"Yes, Mother," said Akira in resignation. He could never quite bring himself to hurt his mother's feelings, even if that meant dressing in ridiculous clothing. Helping Shindou into his first was a rather pointless exercise in delay, as Shindou turned right around and attempted to return the favour. Akira fended him off long enough to make himself presentable before Shindou dragged him back into the living room. There, true to her word, his mother had summoned his father.
Their eyes went first to Shindou. Anyone's would have, seeing how bright he was. The base was royal blue, overlaid with swirls of yellow in various shades of various intensity. Over his breast of the hakamashita was a stylised '5' in scarlet. It looked completely wrong on first glance, but once he got past the juxtaposition, Akira had to admit Shindou looked good. Shindou's outfit contained all of his attitude, but unlike when he wore his usual clothing, one didn't get that uneasy suggestion that he had wondered into a go match by mistake.
In comparison, Akira's was far more subdued. His base was grey, overlaid with a diagonal placed representation of a go sequence. They had amused Yamamura-sensei by spending longer arguing over which game to portray than anything else combined, but it was Akira's outfit, so he had insisted on the 'Sixteen Soldiers' opening, and not anything by Shuusaku.
His mother's enthusiasm didn't surprise Akira. She would never dislike anything she thought they'd put any time or effort into. His father's amused approval took him more by surprise.
"You've both been asked to the Autumn Leaf festival, haven't you? They'd be delighted if you wore those outfits there," said his father. "It will be a good chance to try them out."
"Hey! Cool! When's that again?"
"Next Friday, Shindou. It's in your schedule."
"Excellent. That works out perfectly. I'll just come past and dress here, and then you can show me where to go. Anyway, I need to leave now. I'm actually supposed to be somewhere else already."
In the flurry of getting Shindou back into normal clothing and to the train station, Akira didn't have a chance to think of his father's suggestion until he was alone. And it was just a suggestion. He could have he announced he wanted to become a porn star or that he wanted to join a monastery, and his father wouldn't have made any demands. He'd just have blinked and asked him about his research. Strangely, this made Akira feel more obliged to please him where he could and this would please him. It was really very little effort on his part. In fact, it would take more effort to overcome Shindou's wiles and wear normal clothing. He had already spent the money on it, and it would be wrong to just waste it. If his father didn't seem at all concerned with any disrespect to tradition then he didn't care much about what anyone else thought. Lastly, it would let him avoid wearing pink for at least one day without having that conversation with his mother.
The journalist attended the little festival in good humour. It was a light-weight assignment that was rather beneath his seniority, but he hadn't minded volunteering. He knew it was fashionable to be bored with these old-school events, but he quite enjoyed them. This one seemed to have a rather forceful person behind it as it was a little more involved than most. He wandered over to the go exhibition. He might even be able to get a nice little feature article he could resell to Go Weekly out of this. When he arrived, it took him only a moment to realise this would have made a brilliant article, if only he'd had a photographer with him. But no one sent photographers to local autumn festivals. While they expected people to dress up, they expected it in the boring, predictable ways of pretty girls in yukata, or elderly men under a dragon. They didn't expect two young go professionals in aggressively modern traditional wear. Oh, he was not letting this pass him by. He was going to get them to agree to an interview and, the very next time they were playing in those outfits, a session with a photographer. He didn't doubt he'd be successful at convincing them. He could be very persuasive.
Yamamura picked up the letter with curiosity. It didn't look like a charity appeal, but he couldn't imagine anyone he knew would be old fashioned enough to send a physical letter. He flipped it over, and the return name rung a bell. One of the boys he'd recently dressed. He'd been warned that one of the two was 'old family', and it hadn't been hard to figure out which, but he hadn't been expecting any sort of further formality. Was he himself expected to do something in return?
As he pulled out the letter, a newspaper cutting came with it. He turned it right side up, and then sat down abruptly. The title of the article was awful – A new joseki in clothing – but the pictures made up for it. The centre was the two boys on either side of a go board, the bouncy one facing slightly more towards the camera with a startlingly severe expression. The inset was the two of them standing side by side in front of a stone wall. Both pictures showed off his artworks admirably. He quickly scanned the article, glossing over the incomprehensible jargon. He exhaled softly in satisfaction when he found his name and his business card details in a footnote. He was an artist first and foremost, but artists needed to eat.
He tried to mentally calculate how much business he could expect from this, but realised he didn't have enough information to even guess. He found the number for a friend in the journalism industry. "It's Yamamura. Could you do me a quick favour?"
"Depends," came the answer. "What's the favour?"
"Could you find out the readership of ...er... 'Go Weekly?'"
"You could find that out yourself, you know. All this stuff is online nowadays."
Yamamura wouldn't even know where to start. "Please?"
"Okay, okay, give me a minute. What's the interest? Thinking of taking up the game?"
"No, two boys who play bought some of my work, and were pictured in it. I want to know how excited to be."
"Really? This I've got to see." The phone clattered, and Yamamura could hear the journalist stand up. "Fuwa-sempai, you do the go column,right? Do you have a copy of Go Weekly?"
"Yeah, somewhere in all this," echoed the response faintly through the receiver. "Why do you want it?"
"Remember I had that artist friend who decided to do clothing? Apparently, there's an article on his work."
"Oh, that was him? They're really cool outfits. Kind of tempted to get one myself."
"Really?" came a third voice. "Can I see?"
A susurration of pages, and then the new voice spoke again. "You know, I think I could use this for the fashion section. Would your friend be willing to do an interview?"
Yamamura restrained himself from screaming his agreement down the phone. Fortunately he had regained his dignity before his friend got back to arrange the matter with him. Things were looking up. Things were definitely looking up. He still had his notes on the two boy's preferences on file. Perhaps he should take the chance to create something that would suit them better than they themselves realised and send them along free of charge. It was only common sense to have his walking advertisements displaying his best work, after all.
Kaga stopped walking and stared at the television in befuddlement. It was Shindou, larger-than-life, Shindou, and this wasn't a go program. Oh no, this was a fashion show of all things. Shindou was shown modelling (modelling!) the weirdest looking hakama and hakamashita Kaga had ever seen, while the commentator claimed this was the inspiration behind a whole new fashion in modern chic. Coming soon to a clothing store near you, apparently, just in cheaper fabric and more boring patterns. Kaga had an uneasy memory of the sarcastic answer he'd given Shindou some time back, but he dismissed it. That couldn't possibly be the cause of all this, after all. No one with the force of mind to be this kind of influence could be that simple minded. He carried on, shaking his head. With Shindou, you never did know what was going to happen next. They had looked pretty neat, though. Something to think about when he had a little more money.