Yo! I am back! Miss me? It's holiday time and frankly I'm depressed... a little sad because for the FIRST time I get C for my studio... SAD! AND my laptop get all sort of problem... the jack audio is getting weird and it's lagging lately, so it's time to replace my laptop and I intend to get a more pricy one than one I have now with bigger memory and better graphic card. The pain of installing the program again is souring my mood honestly.
Back to my fic... I fix chapter 13 for the order of matches in this pro exam, so Akira VS Ochi is the 22th game not 19th game. It's small detail but I don't want people ask if I wrote that wrong or somehing and Ochi VS Hikaru is the LAST game. Oh, and on another note I think Ochi's challenge made we forgot one VITAL thing LOL... find out yourself!
Chapter 16: Going Blind
When everything was done and said it left a bad taste in Waya's mouth that he unknowingly offend Touya, and Shindou was not happy with him. Waya knew apologizing to Touya would just get him a diplomatic forgiveness because Touya was polite and proper, and that was exactly what he got when he managed to catch Touya alone –it was hard because they hardly leave each other alone- and apologized. Touya forgave him but that didn't mean Shindou would just wave everything off. Maybe he was not close to Shindou, but Waya thought Shindou was a genuinely a nice guy when his button was not pushed and he owed Shindou for Isumi-san so instead of apologizing outright he came with peace offering instead.
It was on Tuesday and once again he was lucky to find Shindou in Ki'in of all places with two kids he recognize as the newest B league member who will join the class after pro exam was over. He recalled Isumi told him they were Shindou's students and apparently the two kids funnily enough was giving Shindou a tour around Ki'in, or rather 6th floor where Insei were having their class.
Shindou explained they insisted he should know the way around 6th floor because they wanted him to drop by once in a while when they were having class. Soon the tour was over-there was not too many places to show anyway- and their parents arrived in drop off to fetch them. Shindou was about to go home but Waya asked whether he had time to talk.
"Morishita-9Dan's Study group?"
Waya nodded enthusiastically, "My sensei have been asking for you for a while, he is curious about you." Especially because Shindou was Touya's rival. "Beside… I heard about Ochi." Then again more than half of people in the same room heard Ochi's declaration, Shinoda-sensei was especially shocked out of his wits and apologized profusely for Ochi's rudeness to Shindou and Touya.
Shindou smiled at that, "Shouldn't you be on his side? Since he is your fellow insei?"
Waya rolled his eyes, "Nah… Ochi is unfriendly and arrogant, he didn't even bother to be polite to anyone… I am on no one's side, but between you and Ochi I would rather see you win because you are a gracious winner, Ochi isn't." Waya hoped his reason was making sense enough. "You won't rub your victory on his face but he definitely would, and that would be annoying."
Shindou laughed softly and Waya knew he had said the right thing, "Not a gracious loser either, ne?" Waya nodded enthusiastically, "How he feverishly review his game in toilet is kinda admirable though I think he should relax a little."
That caught Waya off guard, "He is reviewing his game in toilet stall?!"
Apparently the Insei indeed had no idea what Ochi was doing in toilet after months spending their time in class together. "I heard tapping sound and mumbling about hands, I thought it's pretty obvious."
Waya knew in a sense Shindou had just criticized them subtly for being unobservant, but in their defense whatever Ochi did in toilet stall was damn creepy so they didn't bother finding out what the hell he was tapping and muttering about.
"So how about it?" Waya desperately turn the topic away from Ochi and toilet stall. "Or perhaps you already part of Touya Meijin's study group?"
Shindou shook his head, "I have participated in Kouyo-sensei study group a few times before but I am not really part of the group." Waya didn't miss that Shindou was addressing the Meijin with his first name then again with how close Shindou to Touya, Waya was not surprise if Shindou was already unofficially adopted. "But now both Akira and I are avoiding Ogata-san as much as we could so I'd rather not joining their study group permanently anytime soon."
Waya blinked owlishly at that, and reminded about Ogata-9Dan's bet with Kuwabara-Honinbou and how displeased both Shindou and Touya with them for it. "Ah…" He hesitated, "Uhm Shindou… you… are not getting along with Ogata-9Dan?"
"I try to be civil as much as I could." Shindou was still smiling as he said it.
Then it dawned on Waya that Shindou apparently was the type who all smile but he won't bother hiding his dislike for someone. Touya seemed to be the type who will hide his dislike in word and act, but Shindou would only go as far as smiling and nothing more and that created some dissonance between what come out of his lips and expression.
He was getting better at pick up difference between Shindou and Touya.
"And yes, I would love to visit your study group." Shindou said, and this time his smile was genuine.
Waya grinned, "Awesome! So tomorrow at four in third floor room 05 okay!" Somehow Waya had a feeling he was forgetting something nagging on the back of his mind.
The next day
Waya was thankful he managed to catch Shindou in front of the lift before the blond could get himself lost. He almost forgot Shindou was as blind as a bat when direction was concerned. He couldn't imagine how he explain to Touya that he got Shindou lost, it won't be pretty because they were very protective of each other.
But still room 05 was just twenty feet away to the left corridor from the lift, so how the hell Shindou almost got himself lost? No wonder he and Touya got picked up by their acquaintance's car all the time.
"By the way Shindou…" Waya eyed Shindou's clothes, this time it was a quasi combination of yukata and a sleeveless hoodie in dark blue color, white v-neck short sleeved shirt under it and a plain black pants. "Are you taking a break like Tsubaki-san from your job?"
Shindou blinked owlishly at him, "What job?"
"Your modelling job." Waya pointed out. "Of course."
The blond stopped walking and became very quiet. "It's not my job, but a favor a family friend… and I wish to never ever venture to that direction." He said bluntly with a smile that didn't reach his face. "This room right?" Shindou pointed at the room on their left.
Waya nodded stiffly and vowed to never ever bring up the modelling topic ever again.
"Good afternoon." Waya greeted his fellow students of Morishita school, "Look, who I bring with me." He said as he stepped aside, "This is Shindou Hikaru… he is the top placer in pro exam now, and his record is still clean with no loss."
Shindou Hikaru bowed deeply, "Hello, it's a pleasure to meet you… I am Shindou Hikaru. Thank you for your kind invitation to your study group…"
Morishita-sensei was used to politeness but it was still a surprise to see a boy that was just a year younger than Waya to behave so polite and formal. "Ha ha ha… what a polite kid, so unlike certain someone…" Morishita eyed Waya with a smirk and his student grunted in annoyance. "Nice to meet you too Shindou-kun, I believe this is our second time meeting each other even though we didn't get to talk with each other."
Shindou's eyes lighted up in recognition, "Oh… in International Competition two months ago?"
Morishita-sensei nodded, "Yes… I met you with Touya-kun there." He rubbed his chin, "So you're Touya-kun's best friend and rival hm…
Shindou nodded, "Yes…"
Morishita-sensei continued asking more question and Waya now understood his teacher was so curious of Shindou. He was more interested in Shindou's rivalry with Touya, a genuine and reciprocated rivalry he didn't get from Touya-Meijin. He also interested in Shindou himself, a prodigy appeared out of nowhere with no tournament history.
"I am sorry I'm late… the class took longer than usual." Someone's greeting cut the conversation off, it was Shirakawa-7Dan, one of the highest ranked pro in their study group. "Oh, you bring the boy you told us last week… Shindou-kun ne?" There was something strange in Shirakawa-pro's voice as if he was thinking hard.
Shindou bowed to him. "Hai… I am Shindou Hikaru, nice to meet you… etto... have we met before?"
Shirakawa-sensei's eyes lighted up, "Oh! I remember! You're Shindou Hikaru-kun! Your grandfather brought you along to my class few times before… around four years ago!"
Hikaru then recalled that was around the time he met Sai for the first time and his grandfather brought them to Go-class to learn modern rules better. "Oh… yes, I remember now… you have a very good memory to be able to remember me Shirakawa-sensei…"
Waya nodded in agreement, "Four years ago is a long time, especially if you only met Shindou a few times."
Shirakawa laughed at that, "Well… for a start he is the only child with blond hair in my class, and also I can't forget a child who reconstruct a game he saw on TV once like Shindou-kun did. His grandfather said he could do it just after three months of learning Go to boot."
Hikaru's cheek reddened, recalling how embarrassing to see his grandfather showing his skill off in public which was why he stopped coming to that Go class.
"Three months?!" Saeki-pro exclaimed, "How long have you learned Go, Shindou?"
"That's the amazing thing." Shirakawa-sensei added, "He just learned for roughly a year when he attend my class."
"Hey! That means you learn Go for five years now?" Waya exclaimed. "No tournament and no professional help but you're as good as Touya!"
Thankfully Morishita-sensei saved Shindou from further embarrassment with ordering Saeki-3Dan to play Shindou so they could see how good he was.
Now with watching from sidelines Waya could really pay attention to Shindou's Go, and his movement. His expression when playing Go was solemn, focused and occasionally there was a thin smile on his lips.
Morishita-sensei frowned at the latest move Shindou made, it was a risky move but a good one. However it was only good if used by experienced player because it was easy to make mistake when using that kind of move. So far it was still even but Waya knew Shindou never really in hurry to gain upper hand from his opponent most of the time.
Saeki-san's move to pressure Shindou was correct, to lure Shindou to make mistake after that risky move. Shindou as expected didn't waver and deflected Saeki-san's attack with experienced ease.
Looking at Saeki-san's expression, it seemed the game already started to tilt to Shindou's favor. Territory wise Shindou was just ahead by a little but so far Saeki-san's attempts to invade his territory was met with failure. Shindou just dodged attack by attack with ease, and he didn't make a single mistake.
They were reaching yose and Saeki-san was losing, and ten hands later Saeki-san announced his resignation. "Makemashita."
"Thank you for the game." Shindou returned the formality.
Saeki groaned, "Aah… it was still even around the start of Chuuban but after this move." He pointed at particular spot. "I can't resist to lure you to make mistake but you didn't make any… and in the end I waste a lot of hands and you cut my shapes apart by the end of Chuuban."
Shindou nodded, "In this hand… it would be better if you make a jump here, and I would respond like this instead." Shindou pointed out and then as if in trance he kept going remaking the game to point out mistakes and how Saeki-san could do better and after he was done he was like snapped out to reality in a gasp and began to apologize for his rudeness to lecture a pro.
Saeki shook his head, "No no! I learn a lot from your explanation! You're very clear and easy to understand… even better than sen-" Saeki clamped his mouth shut. "Eeeh I didn't mean…"
Their teacher unfortunately didn't hear his slip up, still absorbed in the game Shindou recreated. "Hm… interesting, you beat Saeki so most likely you could have taken pro exam earlier. You must have delayed taking the exam for quite some time like Touya-kun."
Shindou laughed sheepishly, "I am flattered…"
Waya didn't miss Shindou didn't deny Morishita-sensei's accusation that he delayed taking pro exam even though he could pass earlier. Then again for both Shindou and Touya, at this point pro exam was just formality.
"You play Shidougo often?"
Shindou nodded, "Hai… my grandfather have a lot of Go friends coming to our house to learn Go, there are also some younger children I met in children competition coming."
"And they're already insei." Waya added, "Ai-chan and Takeshi-kun ne? They are going to join B-league in spring."
Shindou nodded, "Hai…"
"Whoaaa…" Tanaka-pro murmured, "You already have students? My… and they're already Insei."
"A student of Akira actually can take the Insei exam too…" Shindou most likely trying to be modest with informing them Touya had student as good as his. "But he doesn't want to take it this year…"
Morishita-sensei rubbed his chin. "Hm… what is your score with Touya-kun?"
Shindou blinked owlishly at that, "Score? We don't really keep track of it but I think about even since we very rarely win twice in a row…" Then he tilted his head to the side, "Erm… is there something on my face?"
Morishita-sensei most likely was about to ask more when Shindou's phone vibrated, usually cellphone was no-no in study group but knowing Shindou, no one would call his phone unless it was urgent. He excused himself in hurry before walking out of the room to pick the call up. Apparently it was from his grandfather.
Suddenly feeling the need for toilet Waya walked out of the room and he saw Shindou was just few steps away, "Turn them down Jii-san, I don't care they're from M2 or Akatoki agency… and starting from today we should just turn them away in our front door, don't bother to entertain them please... They're getting annoying especially last time when they saw Akira with me." Akira almost died from embarrassment at their offer, "At this rate this is seriously veering to harassment."
Shindou groaned after a few moment, most likely because the reply from the other end of the line.
"Yes, I know… fine… I should avoid going home for a while." He ended the line and scowled. Then he quickly dialed a number, waiting for a few ring before the call was picked, "Akira… yes, I will stay over at your house longer… most likely until the end of pro exam. It's still rowdy at my house with those annoying agency people… no, I have not kicked anyone out of my house in literal sense… yes, yes… violence is not an answer for everything… whatever Akira… yes, I will even tolerate Ogata-sensei."
It was getting annoying that these people from modelling agency trying to recruit him. He didn't want the fame and attention for this modelling nonsense and Ichihashi-san was depressed out of guilt because of them. Now he couldn't even stay at home and risk running to them, the first and second visit from them, he could deal with politely rejecting them. Then more of them coming and some was getting rude with calling Go as elderly's game and it was a shame someone so young to devote their life to Go.
It was none of their business what he did with his life and since then he had no wish to entertain them at all. So he avoided them like a plague and staying over at Towa-san's or Heiji-san's house, but unfortunately their house were close from Shindou's residence so he still ran to them sometimes so his only choice was Akira's house. The Touyas were more than happy to take him in, especially Akiko-baasan who deemed she didn't get to know him as much as her husband.
"I hope you haven't throw anyone out of your house, literally I mean." Akira's tone was serious, any other boy their age would have joked about it but not Akira.
Hikaru rolled his eyes, "No, I have not kicked anyone out of my house in literal sense."
Akira sighed in relief and Hikaru resisted his urge to groan, "Violence is not an answer for everything you know?"
He was tempted to say something witty in respond but he was too tired for a shouting match with Akira and Ki'in was not a place for it. "I know… violence is not an answer for everything." He parroted, "Whatever Akira…"
"Ogata-san will be coming for study session, please tolerate his presence… to be honest I don't like to be in his vicinity either. It's getting awkward with him since that bet."
Hikaru snorted, "I will even tolerate Ogata-sensei in this situation." At least with Ogata he could throw manner out of the window and exchange sarcastic remark with the 9-Dan. Touya-Meijin himself won't stop them because after he heard about the bet, Akira's father supposed Ogata deserve Hikaru's disrespect. Touya Kouyo was always concerned of the state of young Go players-it was why he forbid Akira from competing with their peers after all- so he was unhappy when he found out the Insei was intimidated by him and Akira because of Ogata's careless words.
In fact they were eerily comfortable with their current arrangement, age and rank be damned as Ogata didn't seem to care whether Hikaru respected him for his age. However lately Ogata had this plotting look on his face, that unsettling smirk was especially annoying.
"I will take taxi to your house, so don't worry I will get lost. Ja…" He still had a lot from his wage for modelling job, and he supposed it was just fitting he used it to get away from them. He turned around and was face to face with Waya-san. The older boy was frozen in uncomfortable pose, as most likely he overheard most of the conversation.
Then Waya-san fell on his knees, "Sorry! Shindou! I don't mean to eavesdrop! I am just going to toilet and I got distracted! So I…"
Hikaru was not angry because the conversation was not really that private, and it was him who didn't go far enough to get some privacy. It was nothing the older boy needed to prostrate himself over. "Uhm, its fine Waya-san… shouldn't you go to toilet?" Hikaru reminded the older boy who jumped in realization and ran to opposite direction in panic in weird pose that suggest he was in urgent need to relieve himself.
"My… what an amusing person." Hikaru couldn't help but commented and his sentiment was echoed by his mentor.
"He is funny…" Sai agreed, "I wish he could get along with Akira-kun."
Hikaru shrugged at that, "It's hard to get along with Akira…" Without getting to know him really well first, which was hard since Akira was never open with his feeling to strangers. "Waya-san is not the type who could change his opinion on someone easily, and Akira is hardly trying to change people's opinion of him when Go is not concerned."
Sai smiled at that, "He is a little like you, but Hikaru…" Sai smiled mischievously behind his fan, "Unlike Akira-kun who is pretty honest in spite of his introvert personality, you're a very good liar to the point you can put the most cunning courtiers in Heian era to shame."
Hikaru rolled his eyes, "Knock it off Ani-ue…"
Ki'in Exam Day 25th Game
This year exam had thirty players participating and this meant it was already passed three fourth of its duration, and those who clearly candidate to pass was already obvious. Especially Touya Akira and Shindou Hikaru who had no loss, and soon enough they would have passed by default. It was to no one's surprise but in midst of gloomy players who still had to play in spite of their thinning chance, and some whose chance was already nonexistent.
It was especially tough for those whose chance relied in top places to gain more loss, like Isumi who was in his fourth loss and Waya and Honda who was in sixth. Because looking at the record the most likely outcome was Shindou or Touya would get one loss from each other and that was it. Regardless of what Ochi said, no one believed he could win against Shindou.
It didn't help he got his third loss from Honda by the next week he played Honda. Then again between Honda and Ochi, their chance was always fifty-fifty. It was a half-moku loss but still a loss, and Honda congratulated himself for his luck. Ochi was not amused.
Waya was gloating and congratulating Honda for sending Ochi to toilet, while Isumi chided him for his behavior.
"Insei group sure is in good mood even though around us is pretty gloomy." Hikaru commented.
Akira flipped the next page of his book, "At this point some people already resigned to end this exam with their best record even if they could pass this year."
"Hm…" Hikaru hummed at that, "By the way since I finished pretty quickly today I watched Ochi's game with Honda-san… it's a fierce battle between equals…"
"And in the end Honda-san won by half a moku…" Akira finished, "They knew each other's style very well so they played each other very confidently."
Hikaru narrowed his eyes, 'In short their familiarity make them arrogant, and end up scrambled in battle of dominance no one won.'
That never happened to Hikaru and Akira, familiarity never made them let their guard down when facing each other on goban if anything it spurred them on to bring something new to their Go. After all to win every moku against each other they had to be creative, even going as far as creating new joseki against each other.
"By the way Akira… next week…" Hikaru trailed off with a smile.
Akira's lips curved up, "I thought you're more concerned of your game the week after?"
Hikaru laughed softly at that, "I am concerned of every game I am going to play but…"
In the other side of the room Waya and the rest of his fellow insei stared at the game schedule wide eyedly. Because of Ochi's bold challenge they almost forgot that while Ochi's game with Shindou on last day was something everyone was hyped up for just to see the pompous Ochi got his ass kicked on Goban, the game which was third last of this exam was even more important.
26th week, no5 – no 09 (Shindou Hikaru VS Touya Akira)
"Our game… will always be the most important." Hikaru finished, "How could I think of my game with anyone else?"
Akira smirked, "This is our first official game, and I will win it."
"You're welcome to try, Akira." Hikaru returned with a smile.
While Ogata-pro was a great Go player the same couldn't be said to his teaching method. He would crush his student first then listed down their mistakes after the game was over. The pro didn't come every day in fact this was the third time since last week, which was understandable as a 9-Dan had no time to spare so much tutoring session for one student.
Ochi had wanted to invite other pro when Ogata-pro couldn't come but the 9-Dan rejected the idea, because learning from multiple pro won't help Ochi to defeat Shindou and instead he ordered Ochi to learn Shuusaku's games instead. While the Go Sage was the greatest player of all time, Ochi didn't see the merit of replaying games with no komi and archaic moves.
Ogata-pro's answer to that inquiry? Just do what you were told, you were the student, were you not?
The 26th Week
It was completely unfair when they were almost more excited of Touya VS Shindou game than for their own game, the two rivals especially Shindou came in thirty minutes early as usual with sunny smile as if he was not going to play against Touya Akira. The Meijin's son himself was as quiet as ever but nothing unusual. They were still chatting amicably as usual as if this game was no big deal at all.
Somehow it kinda piss Waya off because how could they made everyone shaking on their boots in anticipation while they were so relax. If Waya didn't know better he would have thought Shindou and Touya were laughing inside at them for it. However knowing Shindou, he was just that good of friend that to them both went side by side that it didn't bother them at all.
It was when they marched to their designated goban ahead of everyone else the temperature dropped several degrees as they looked each other across the goban. The tension in the air was thick and it almost stopped them from entering. Maybe it was a good idea after all for them to not start getting this intense before entering the game room.
"Your guidance please." Echoed through the room as they finished choosing stone colors.
Hikaru won black this time while Akira got white, and they exchanged goke.
The Meijin's son tensed a little when he saw Hikaru was closing his eyes and his lips parted a little to inhale and exhale a long breath. It was a habit of his rival when he was preparing something big and he had never seen Hikaru did it even before the first hand. It made him excited of what his rival was planning to show in this game. It was what made their rivalry the best thing in their Go, they always show nothing less than their best and beyond.
Four corners were claimed and Akira waited for the next move. His rival was always unpredictable but claiming one spot below tengen, which was reminiscence of Shusaku's famous ear reddening hand as his third move was never happened before. Well, they played unpredictable game because sometimes Hikaru wanted to try something new and crazy, which half of the time made him lose badly and the other half he won impressively.
So Hikaru wanted them to play exciting unpredictable game instead of playing skilled and conventional game? 'As you wish, Hikaru!'
Pachi! The respond was immediate which was what he expected from HIkaru.
Twenty hands later Hikaru suppress his urge to shake his head, because while he was the one who gave open invitation for a daring game, Akira was the one who started a fight in the upper left corner. As usual Akira was always the one getting impatient for battle and while it was always endearing how worked up Akira was over every single game they played. But sometimes Hikaru wished they could peacefully establish each other territory before invading.
There, it was a correct respond that in the same time dodging Akira's attack and halting the battle.
But of course this was Touya Akira who dragged him kicking and screaming –not really- to the pro world so off course he was not going to play to your tune. He wanted a fight now so you better give him one.
It's been a while since they were getting breathless over a game but it couldn't be helped since this was their first official game. Hikaru surveyed the board with critical eye, exhaling heavily. They were about even but Akira was slightly ahead by two moku, and their battle was getting pretty complex in one corner. Should he give that corner up to gain more influence in another side?
Akira narrowed his eyes, he was ahead by miniscule gap but knowing Hikaru it meant nothing at this point. Hikaru's strength lies in end game and so far other than his third hand Hikaru had not tried anything peculiar and unconventional yet. Then again Akira knew very well when it comes to reading ahead Hikaru was always one step ahead, which was what gained HIkaru most of his win against Akira but sometimes became his own downfall too. Reading too far ahead or setting up a too complex trap with bait that beyond his opponent's notice. A weakness that didn't look like one, but it was.
So deep in their thought, neither Hikaru nor Akira noticed they had audiences.
Ochi swallowed, 'What a complex battle and they already reaching half chuuban.'
Isumi narrowed his eyes, 'It's a high level game and develop very quickly but…'
'Well I expect nothing less but… how long these two is going to stare at the board?' Waya wondered. 'And they're out of breath as if they had run a marathon!'
"Oh, it's lunch time." Shindou exclaimed, clapping his hand as if he had just come to an enlightening revelation.
It took all their control to not slip on tatami mat and fell painfully on their butt because of shock.
Shindou then said in chiding tone, "Let's have lunch now Akira."
The Meijin's son shook his head, "I don't want to eat lunch." He said stubbornly. "I don't think I can stomach anything now."
"Nonsense…" Shindou huffed, "It would be bad if I win because you play with empty stomach."
At this point it was obvious both Shindou and Touya were completely unaware they had audience, "Since when any of us win because of such a petty reason?"
"I think you're going to start that tradition, baka…" Shindou snickered.
"Ba-" Touya stuttered as he rose from his seat, "How am I am an idiot just because I don't want to eat now?! You're the black hole!"
"I am growing." Shindou returned smugly, "At the rate we're going you're going to be left behind because you don't eat properly." He said as he began to walk away. "I am so telling Akiko-baasan about this~" He sang chirpily.
Touya followed Shindou out of the room, bristling. "Don't you dare!"
"We're going for ramen then!" Shindou sang.
"No way! If I have to eat, I want something light!" Touya protested as he and Shindou disappeared from their sight.
It was a surreal sight to see the two prodigy argued over their lunch of all things, and they were completely relax after such an intense game and it was not even over yet. They didn't fancy themselves as a group of stalkers but fueled by intense curiosity they followed the two to the nearest Italian café, where they found the two prodigy were still arguing over their lunch.
Shindou was picking meatballs from his spaghetti and throwing them to Touya's bowl of salad, and the other prodigy was very close to shrieking when the blond commented that he was as skinny as a twig lately and his ribs was showing. Shindou did stop chiding Touya about his eating habit to greet them and offered to join their table while Touya was still fuming as he rolled the meatballs on his salad idly.
In spite of the awkward atmosphere because they had unknowingly intrude on their territory, Shindou's genial personality made the lunch time comfortable enough even though Touya chose to be as silent as a rock. Waya of all people was acting civil and didn't show any hostility towards Touya, in fact he even helped Touya to call the waiter for refilling their tea much to Touya's surprise.
However Ochi of all people was the one who broke the comfortable atmosphere.
"I am surprised you can eat with your rival, Touya… in the middle of a game no less." Ochi said between chewing his lasagna.
Any other people would be flustered by Ochi's sudden open invitation for argument, but not Shindou it seemed. Then he beamed a brilliant smile that in Waya's opinion was totally wasted on Ochi, "Why not? Akira first and foremost is my friend… it would be silly to not eat together just because we're in the middle of a game." Then with sterner voice he added, "Beside if something as simple as eating lunch together could disturb our Go we're not living up to all the hype talked about us…" He said as he finished his meal.
Shindou said it in lighthearted tone, as if he didn't mean anything offensive with his words but the real meaning rang true to their ears all the same.
He was telling Ochi that he and Touya were above that and Ochi was below them if he could feel bothered with having lunch with his opponent.
Shindou never strike Waya as someone arrogant, in fact from the way he shrank from compliment sometimes Waya could tell he didn't really like attention and praises. However Waya didn't have to be Touya to know that Shindou was very confident of their skill and proud of his Go. He was also very possessive of his rivalry and friendship with Touya, and Shindou was not the type who would silently fume like Touya but would returned the favor accordingly like now.
Shindou had the gall to continue smiling at Ochi who broke to cold sweat under his gaze, and Touya who was the only one who could help him was concentrating on staring at meatball on his fork as if it would eat itself if he stared at it long enough. Waya almost felt sorry for Ochi if not because Ochi was the one who bring Shindou's wrath upon himself.
"Excuse me…" A girly and high pitched voice stuttered, breaking the tense atmosphere. "Uhm… Shindou HIkaru-kun, right?" A waitress stammered as she held up a familiar magazine all teenage girl were in love with including Nase.
Shindou looked like he wanted to bolt out of his seat and Waya was sure something in French was already on the tip of his tongue when the girl bowed low and almost shoved the Zunon magazine to Shindou's face. "Please sign this!"
Luckily Shindou was saved by a stern looking manager who dragged the girl away as apologizing profusely for his staff who had interrupted their meal. They didn't have to pay for their meal, the manager said before dragging the waitress to the staff room.
"I want to burn that magazine in bonfire." Shindou said wistfully as the two disappeared to their staff room. The Insei almost choked on their food when they heard him. It was also scary how his words didn't match his dreamy look, especially since he was imagining something morbid.
"Hikaru, stop saying morbid things out loud in public." Touya chided him.
Waya decided even though sometimes he wished he was a genius, it was a good thing he was not one if he became as weird as Shindou and Touya.
And the game continues…
The game they played was always complicated, but this one was one of the most complex one they ever had. They were about even again now and unless one of them thought of something creative the game would move to yose at this state and Akira was not going to let that happen. Yose was Hikaru's home ground, moving to that phase in even ground would be disadvantageous for him.
It was a risky move but he would force black to reveal their eye structure and threw away a sizeable cluster in return.
Hikaru frowned, it was unusual for Akira to make such a daring move. However that was a correct move in a sense because now the flow shifted away from his reading, it would take around ten more hands until he could adjust and get correct reading again. However because of that move just now Hikaru was ahead a little.
It was about time Hikaru supposed as he placed his bait, a normal looking move that looked unthreatening. Lately Akira was getting better at disabling and spotting his trap although the more complex ones were still missed because his reading skill was not at that level yet. It was always a sore point for Akira, but something he couldn't fix with anything but time.
Akira glanced at the clock, both of them had used more than half of their time but Hikaru still had fifty minutes while he only had thirty left. It was because he needed more time to read the board than Hikaru did. If there was one thing Akira was sure he won't be able to catch up on Hikaru anytime soon, it was his reading ahead skill. Then again Hikaru's skill of reading the board ahead was developed because of his unhealthy diet as a Go player in his early learning state, according Akira's father.
Unhealthy or not, Hikaru became the player he was today because of that unusual upbringing.
Hikaru tensed, 'In this game… Akira did a lot of bold moves to gain advantage, no good for my black but this is fun! Now… what should I do?' He glanced to another corner, 'The trap I set is ignored for now… hm… let's try this then.'
Akira paused, 'There is two traps now, I can sense them but I can't tell how deep they are… we're almost at the end of chuuban. If I didn't get sizeable lead to defend my territory in yose would be hard.'
His attack had been deflected and one of his trap had been disable, there was still another layer of trap he set up but it seemed Akira would ignore them.
Thirty hands later…
A couple of stones clacked against the goban as it spilled from Hikaru's palm, a gesture that signaled his resignation. "Makemashita." Hikaru declared as he bowed.
Akira stared at the goban, the game was approaching yose but not quite there yet.
There were quite a lot of players who had finished their game earlier gathered around their board, but Akira ignored them in favor of staring at their finished game. NO, he had not seen the end of this game yet but Hikaru had resigned. It took him a long while to see the end Hikaru had read forward, he stood up abruptly ignoring the murmur of players around him.
"Aa… Give me a sec." Akira murmured as he walked out of the room, leaving blinking Hikaru and their finished game.
Hikaru was shaking his head exasperatedly as he let Akira to leave, as he suppose Akira needed time to compose himself. "My… my…"
"You have lost." Ochi who stood on his left declared with a smirk. "By six moku."
True, all of them expected a close game but Shindou resigned before Yose when Touya was leading by six moku. Waya looked shocked, so did Isumi-san especially since it seemed the game had not ended yet and Shindou still had a chance to turn this around. Much to their shock instead of looked sad or any negative reaction, Shindou Hikaru burst to peal of laughter. "Ha ha ha ha… oh my…" He coughed, clearing his throat to stifle his laughter but he couldn't stop laughing. "Cough! Ha ha… sorry but… ha ha ha…"
Shindou was still laughing as if Ochi had said something hilarious and they were missing an inside joke.
"There is NOTHING funny!" Ochi hissed, luckily Shindou and Touya was the last to finish their game so they didn't disturb anyone. "You LOST!"
Shindou stood up abruptly and Ochi cowed in instant under towering height Shindou had over him. "Yes, I lost… that means I have to win next time." He declared with a smile, craning his neck at the door. "Well then, I should clean the stones first for now…" Then again at this point both he and Touya by default already passed the exam, maybe that was why he was not so concerned. But still... it was so unlike Shindou to throw a game away.
"Wait!" Waya stopped him. "We will clean them up for you! I want to study it first!"
Shindou blinked at him, "You don't have to, and beside I can send you a kifu by email if you want them."
"That would be great!" Waya acknowledged, "But just leave the stones! Please!"
"If you insist…" Shindou shrugged before he walked away and in the same time a depressed looking Touya who didn't seem like someone who had won against his rival walked in. "Akira, mark your win first! Natsuya-san will be here in ten minutes you know."
"Hai." Touya Akira murmured as he made a bee line towards the record sheet.
Shindou shook his head, "Mou… seriously, every single time our game ended like this…" He grumbled under his breath before he dragged Touya who still looked morose out of the room, as if he had not lost a game. Then again Touya didn't seem like someone who had won either.
Once the two prodigies were out of sight Waya and the rest of Insei sat in circle around the finished game in silence, but all they could see was a complex high level game and nothing else.
That night, Ochi's residence
"Shindou, lost against Touya by six moku." Ochi informed his teacher as he replayed Shindou's game against Touya. He didn't know the exact order of placement but he could show Ogata the finished shapes. "It's an impressive game but in the end Touya prevailed."
Ogata narrowed his eyes and much to Ochi's confusion he didn't say a thing but continued staring at the board. "Six moku you said?" He snorted, "If you're a high dan player I will call you blind… but since you're an insei let me enlighten you…" He said as he grabbed both white and black goke to his side and began to place the stones. "What both Akira-kun and Shindou saw…"
Touya residence… in the same time
"Akira, this is getting old…" Hikaru whined as Akira once again stared at their finished game. "You won, can't you accept that gracefully?" He said as he flopped down to his futon, flipping the book he was reading half-way. It was an old story book titled 'The Deceased Magician of The West' and intently reading the chapter about spreading their sheet on the field of freshly watered lavender.
Akira pouted, something he wouldn't do in front of anyone but Hikaru. "Only to you… I can win but feel like I have lost."
Hikaru rolled his eyes, "So… you're going to sulk all night?"
"I am not! I am just reflecting… wha?! Ha ha…" Akira laughed when HIkaru began to tickle his sides, "Hikaru! Stop that!"
Hikaru was grinning as he pin his friend down and tickled the dark haired boy mercilessly, "I am not going to stop…"
"ha ha ha! Gah! This is unfair! You're stronger than me!" Akira protested because in this position there was no way he could fight back as physically Hikaru was stronger.
"So, who is going to sulk the whole night because of half a moku~" Hikaru sang mischievously as his fingers wandered south to Akira's bare foot.
"That's out of line!" Akira squeaked as he grabbed the nearest thing within his arm reach, which was a pillow and threw it to Hikaru's head.
"Pillow fight!" Hikaru cheered as he threw it back to Akira. "Ha ha!"
Fortunately for Hikaru and Akira, the Touya matriarch stopped her husband from going to Akira's room to chide them for pillow fight. In her opinion it was good for boys like them to get loud and rowdy once in a while, beside they were proper and quiet enough most of the time. Boys would be boys and they were already thirteen, they didn't have much time left to be boys.
The Meijin supposed his wife was right, beside the laughter of boys in their usually quiet house was pretty refreshing.
Back to Ochi's residence
Ochi stared unblinkingly at the 'real' finished game Ogata-pro had constructed, trembling in shock as it dawned on him what had happened that afternoon and why Touya was so distraught over a game he had won. "This game…"
Ogata-pro crossed his arms with a smirk, "Shindou… as a go player in spite of his young age has a mind-set of a high dan player, I don't know him as well as Akira-kun does… but obviously his upbringing as a player is unusual to cause him to develop such a peculiar Go and mindset."
"Mindset of a… high dan player?" Ochi echoed numbly.
Ogata nodded, "While both Akira-kun and Shindou are equally talented… Akira-kun is not unusual, his skill." He tapped his temple, "Mindset… match that of a talented young player, Shindou in the other hand… is more unbalanced. He is more unpredictable than Akira-kun. As you can see in this game… why do you think it develop such a complex shape you couldn't tell the head and the tail? It was all Shindou… his Go revolve mainly in his skill of reading the game ahead that match and even beyond high dan players…"
"Skill wise… he and Akira-kun are evenly matched but perhaps reading ahead is something that even Akira-kun won't catch up anytime soon." Ogata mused with a smirk. "I hope now you really get what you're up against… Ochi-kun, now it was no wonder why Shindou laugh at you right?"
Because he was blind.
This game… it was not a game where Touya had outclassed Shindou by a staggering six moku, deep ahead in Yose… it was a close game with only one path left, and that one path had ended with Shindou short by half a moku. A very close game between equals.
"You're up against a monster."
I bet more than half of you forgot their game is before Hikaru's game against Ochi. Then again, ME the writer also forgot.
Now... I am writing Eclipse and Disciple in the same time and get my head in spiraling mess... and since a lot of my readers here read both... which do you want me to finish first?