Disclaimers: (sing it with me now) I can't stand to lie ... I'm not that naive ... I don't own the rights ... to anything you might see... I'm not more than a bard, not more than a pain, not more than a fanfic writer without a brain, and nothing you read here ... be-loongs to me.
-to the tune of "Superman" by Five for Fighting
Warnings: Hikaru sometimes has a dirty mouth. He should be ashamed of himself. Also, this is a pathetic attempt to write a HNG story with a supernatural twist, so you'll probably hurt yourself laughing as I try to be scary. Really. HNG may have a ghost in it, but I've discovered the hard way that it was never meant to be written as a ghost story, much less one with an Asian slant. Therefore, expect a little OOCing and plenty of OOSing (Out of Setting). However, unlike most horror fests a la "The Ring," there is no gore within this piece.
Continuity: Takes place between volumes 12 and 13 of the Tankubon or Episodes 50 and 51 of the anime. Hikaru has just finished taking his Pro Finals, but he has not gotten his pro certificate yet nor has he been scheduled to play Touya Akira. He and Sai, however, have played their first game against Touya Koyo.
A big THANK YOU to those who reviewed my first HNG story. Eowyn, Amadis, Lauren-sama, Prismatic, Akaiblush, Summercloud, yume, Xelan, always together, and Ju, I dedicate this monster to you. Err ... sorry about that.
And to Jennifer, who hasn't gotten around to reading this story yet, but who will bop me on the head for posting it before she's had a chance to attack it with the red editing pen. (In my defense, you've had it for a month, and I was scared someone would use the same idea! WAAH! Don't "little Bunny Foo-foo" me!)
In the Forests of the Night
a Hikaru No Go Ghost story
Part 1: Hikaru, Hikaru, shining bright ...
"Don't be such a wimp! You're already a ghost. How could you be scared by The Sixth Sense? It's not even really creepy, for a movie."
Hikaru rolled his eyes as he walked along the street, heading for the train station. "Wait til' you see The Ring. Now THAT'S a scary movie!"
"Waaaah! Please don't, Hikaru. I don't like ghost stories." Sai folded his arms together, managing to look rather dejected in the process. " Besides, you could've played more games against Waya-kun instead. Or you could have let me play."
"How many times do I have to tell you? You can't play until I figure out how to disguise your identity better. And you 'specially can't play Waya. He's played you on the 'net remember? I don't want him to think I'm you." Hikaru said.
"Again," he added.
"I never get to play anymore," Sai said. "It's not fair..."
"Oh, quit whining already. I said I would play you when we get home."
"But Hikaruuuuu ...."
Hikaru tried to ignore the wide eyed look of sorrow that the ghost was giving him. Despite Sai's opinion on the matter, it had been a good day. Waya had originally invited Hikaru over to his house to play a few games. Since it was also the third of February, and thus Setsubon, Waya's father had rented The Sixth Sense. Hikaru ended up staying for dinner and watching the movie, though he found it to be a little boring. Especially given that he practically lived in his own, rather twisted version of the movie, complete with a persistent ghost.
His persistent ghost, however, had not enjoyed the movie at all. The Go genius had ducked behind the couch from the first moment the spirits started appearing and had refused come out until the credits scrolled down the screen. After that, Sai had spent the time pestering him non-stop about playing.
I really do have to think of something soon. It can't go on like this. he thought wryly. The recent memory of that disastrous game against Touya Koyo still lingered, fresh and raw, in his mind ...
Hikaru winced. He had yelled that he didn't want to carry Sai's shadow anymore, and that the ghost should go find another host. Sai had replied that he wasn't sure if he could -- and that he had been worrying about the time he had left in the mortal realm. "Hikaru, I think I may be ... fading," he had said.
As if. I know he's just trying to guilt me into letting him play more. He's going to be with me til' I die. Then he'll just replace me. Maybe he'll get someone like Torajiro again.
As usual, the very thought of Sai's former host made Hikaru ball his fists. Ugh. I've gotta stop thinking like this. It's not helping either of us.
Sometimes, I wonder who decided that we'd be stuck together. We just seem to fight all the time now. I can't be any good to him when I don't let him play. And I can't go forward if he plays. Not to mention he sometimes can get a little annoying when I want to do something he doesn't enjoy ... like today, with the movie.
"Ooooh, I see dead people ..." Hikaru hissed dramatically, wiggling his fingers at his frazzled friend.
"Waaah! That's not funny!"
"Well, I see you, don't I? I still can't believe you're scared of ghosts. If I were you, I'd be more scared of the Ghostbusters."
Hikaru didn't bother to hide his widening grin at Sai's horrified expression. For three nights after that movie, the ghost had refused to let Hikaru turn the lights off to sleep.
"Hikaru ... I'm scared because I AM a ghost. If I can exist, then anything is possible," Sai kept looking backwards every few steps and casting a wary eye on the shadows around them. "I just don't think it's a good idea to watch ghost stories, especially on Setsubon. We're supposed to be driving the demons out today."
"Well, you didn't move when the Wayas did the bean throw after the movie. You just let the soybeans pass right through you."
"The bean throw didn't work on me cause I'm NOT a demon!" Sai said indignantly.
Hikaru snickered. "Well, I never understood how throwing beans is supposed to scare the demons anyway. They must be wimps if a few little soy nuts sends 'em packing."
"Demons and ghosts aren't something to joke about. I think the real ones are even more frightening than the ones you see in the electric box."
"Real ones?" Hikaru snorted. The quintessential jaded Tokyo youth, he merely crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow. All things considered, even when Sai had first appeared, he had adjusted fairly quickly. He certainly was not going to start fearing every dark street in Tokyo just because of his one encounter, especially since that encounter had produced one spectacularly unterrifying spirit. "It figures. The only ghost I know is scared of other ghosts. Sheesh. Look, you can't even hold a Go stone. I'm sure there are others out there, but they're probably as helpless as you are."
"I'm not helpless, Hikaru!" Sai pouted. "I just think that you should take the supernatural world more seriously ..."
"Yeah, right. The next ghost I meet might want to teach me strip poker or something. To reach the full house of God or whatever." Hikaru stretched an arm over his head, sighing as the muscles loosened. Go may have been a less strenuous than a sport such as tennis or basketball, but it still taxed the arm muscles at times. He ignored the indignant huff from his disembodied mentor. "Boy, I wish Waya lived closer to the station. We've been walking forever."
He glanced around, peering intently at the different streets. Night had fallen a little over two hours ago, but the street lamps provided enough light to see fairly clearly into the distance. Not that there was much to see. Waya lived in a rather quiet, residential area of Tokyo, where both pedestrian and vehicular traffic was relatively light. Only an occasional car whirred past. Taxis were practically nonexistent. Hikaru shivered in his jacket, feeling slightly chilled from the cold winter wind. Suddenly, he wished he had taken Waya's father's offer to drive him to the station.
Sai, it seemed, was wishing the same thing. "Ne, Hikaru, can't you walk faster? You said you were going to play me when you got home, and you're never going to get home if you just dawdle like that. You got to play three games today. I want to play. Move faster!"
"That's easy for you to say. I'm getting cold AND tired!"
"Then you should have taken Waya-san's offer to drive you home," A frown crossed the ghost's face as he suspiciously surveyed their surroundings. "Hikaru, I don't remember coming this way. We're not lost, are we? Maybe you should ask someone for directions."
"I'm NOT lost!" Hikaru swatted at Sai, not caring that his hand passed straight through the ghost's midsection. "You sound just like Waya. I better get dad to drive you home, Shindo. You need a map just to get to the insei classes. I bet you're gonna need a GPS to find your way to your pro games. You don't want them all to be forfeits now, do you?'" Hikaru mimicked, using his highest, most nasal whine. "Ugh. Waya's always saying how bad I am about knowing Go stuff, but I'll show him. I'll WIN all my pro games. We've been training so hard ..."
"Yes, yes!" Sai grinned. "We have! We should train some more tonight. Eh, Hikaru ... what's a GeePeeEus?"
"It's an electric box thingie that tells you where you are," Hikaru explained as he tugged his coat higher against the pervasive wind.
"Oooh, maybe you should get one, Hikaru. Are you're SURE you know where ..."
"I DON'T NEED A GPS! Of course I know where the train station is ...it's ... errr ... that way. But if you keep asking me if I know where I'm going, then there'll be NO game tonight."
"Hikaru is so mean!" Sai wailed. "And selfish!"
"So says the namby pamby ghost whose thoughts are only about Go, bugging me about Go, and yes, for even more variation - bugging me AND Go!" Hikaru groused. Sai's wail swelled upwards at that remark, reaching decibels known only when cats and blenders sang in a duet. Instinctively, Hikaru clapped his hands over his ears (although it did nothing to silence the mostly mental sensation of listening to metal being sheared in half).
"SAI! Look. Feet. Not. Moving," he pointed to the footwear in question. "Your screeching ISN'T helping the walking situation. And if I don't walk, then I can't go home. And if I can't go home ..."
"Hikaru can't play Go with meeee!" Sai's voice rose even higher, much to Hikaru's distress.
"Yes! SO CUT IT OUT!"
"Promise? You'll play me if I'm quiet?"
"Yes, fine, whatever. You're soooo immature," Hikaru emphasized this point by sticking his tongue out. "It's like having a puppy. When I play important games, you whine. When I'm not playing important games, you whine. I can't even watch a movie with my friend without you whining and ruining it. Is Go all that you're good for?"
Sai immediately hid his face behind his sleeves, and although his wailing had stopped, Hikaru didn't feel any better. Small sniffles occasionally burst into the air, followed by pitiful little sighs.
"I know you're trying to make me feel sorry for you. It won't work."
Sai merely sniffled louder.
Damn. He did behave himself today, if you don't count squealing through the entire movie. Arrrrgh, I guess I'm being a jerk. Hikaru sighed. He studied his surroundings again, trying to figure out just where the station was in relation to their current position. "Hey! I think I found a shortcut. I bet I can get us to the train station five TIMES as fast if I go through there. Then we can play TWO games of Go, all right?"
Sai peeked over the edge of his sleeve. "Really? Two games?!"
"I guess ..." Hikaru grumbled, though he could not quite hide a small grin as the ghost immediately bounced up like a jack-in-the-box upon hearing the final catch releasing note. Sai flung his arms around Hikaru's shoulders and started making small cheering noises.
When the Sai was truly happy, Hikaru could almost feel his presence physically, as if the ghost had a corporal body. Perhaps that was why he gave into Sai's demands so much; it made the ghost seem more real, somehow. Whenever Sai was sad, he seemed to fade a bit, and become more ... fuzzy ... around the edges.
Hikaru scratched the back of his neck uncomfortably as Sai finally stopped his dance of joy. Yeah, it's good to see him happy, he grinned. The thought of Sai fading -- Hikaru shook his head fiercely. No. Not that again. I'm just being ridiculous. He's going be around to annoy me forever, he decided. Yeah ... forever.
"C'mon," He headed toward his proposed "short cut." A few seconds later, however, he felt an odd tug in the link between him and Sai. He turned to find the ghost staring apprehensively at him. Sai had not moved.
"Hikaru, exactly where are we headed?"
"Just shut up and follow me, all right?"
"Are you sure, Hikaru? The last time we took one of your shortcuts ...."
"Look, that was just one time. And the chickens all got rounded up in the end." Hikaru gritted his teeth. "You're sounding just like Waya again. For the last time, I know exactly where we are. I'm NOT lost!"
"You know, Waya-kun was just teasing you. He meant no harm. Letting other's remarks control your actions isn't really good, Hikaru, especially if you let that leak into how you play Go," Sai said, stabbing his fan through the air for emphasis. "We need to work on that. Say, I bet if we turn around, we could still find our way back to --"
"Sai! We're going through there, and that's that." Hikaru crossed his arms together defiantly. "I'm the one with the body, so I get to say where we go!"
Sai still didn't move, however. "But that's ... that's a cemetery. We can't go through there! It's night time. And it's Setsubon." The ghost shook his head. His sleeves swayed pendulum-like, emphasizing his protest even more.
"That's just a bunch of old superstitions. Don't tell me you're scared of cemeteries too. I can't believe you! It's just an ordinary place with some dead people in it, and it's not like you're going to get even ... more deader. If we walk around it, it'll add at least another fifteen to twenty minutes. This path here probably goes straight through to the other side. The train station should be right next to it."
"Hikaru, I don't want to go through there. It looks old - maybe even from my time or before."
"So what? Most of this city is built on and around graves." Hikaru started striding purposefully towards the open cemetery gates.
"Hi-ka-ruuuuuu," Sai whined, waving his hands up and down and shifting from foot to foot.
Hikaru kept walking.
"Hikaruuuu!" The sounds of protest behind him grew more frantic.
Hikaru kept walking.
Finally, as Hikaru crossed the threshold of the graveyard, Sai rejoined him. The ghost said nothing, but his creased eyebrows and downturned lips on spoke volumes. Sai was clearly not happy about being in the cemetery. As he studied his surroundings more closely, Hikaru had to admit he was quickly becoming disenchanted with the idea as well.
Within the graveyard, the air seemed heavier, somehow, with the scent of autumn leaves gone to dust. The sky had become overcast. Not a single star glimmered, nor did the moon show its pale face.He swallowed, but refused to turn back. I won't give him the satisfaction.
"Hikaru ..." the sudden mental nudge made Hikaru trip over his own feet. Trying to catch himself, the boy's arms pinwheeled around, knocking over the offerings of tea on a small shrine nearby. Hikaru landed with a dust jarring thump, followed milliseconds later by the sounds of shattering ceramic.
"Oh crap! Now look what you made me do!" He scowled at Sai, who had completely hidden himself behind his sleeves.
"Gomen ne! Gomen ne!" he pleaded.
Maneuvering jerkily to his feet, Hikaru carefully picked up the broken pieces, trying unsuccessfully to fit them back together. The small, almost catlike statue that served as the guardian kami of the shrine seemed to glare reproachfully at him. Hikaru rubbed the back of his neck, trying to avoid the empty stone eyes.
Talk about creepy, he thought. It looks like it's about to bite me or something. "Oh man, it's totally ruined," he said aloud. "I guess I'll have find someone and explain."
"Ne, Hikaru," Sai crept close again, until the ghost was nearly treading on the back of Hikaru's sneakers. He batted at the Go genius, but Sai refused to back away. "Let's just go. We can come back in the morning and apologize then."
"But I don't want to come all the way back here tomorrow. And we can't just leave it like that." Hikaru gestured to the ruined shrine. "You're the one going on about ghosts and bad luck. I bet we can find the groundskeeper somewhere around here."
"I've got a bad feeling about this, Hikaru. Something's not right. We should leave."
"Stop being a thousand year old baby. And quit sneaking up on me. I thought you were going to be quiet."
Hikaru increased his pace, ignoring Sai's crossed arms and annoyed expression. The outside world of Tokyo slowly became more and more muffled the deeper he ventured into the graveyard. He suddenly found himself missing the familiar white noise of the traffic and people on the street. He also wished he hadn't told the ghost to be quiet; Sai merely trailed him, his eyes downcast and his shoulders slumped.
Hikaru didn't see any sign of the main temple, nor anything resembling a temple between the graves. He scratched his head, puzzled; usually the temple of a cemetery was its largest and most easily recognizable feature. At the very least, there should have been some maintenance shed where he could leave a note. An uncomfortable niggling started in the pit of his stomach.
The state of the path had begun to mirror the general decay of the area, furthering Hikaru's unease. Graveyards were usually very well tended, but here, the stones were becoming increasingly uneven; they seemed to tip up and catch the edges of his shoes, making him stumble with each alternating step. Occasionally, an ancient looking grave marker would loom suddenly out of the darkness. Their occupants' names were always indecipherable, however, as if time had finally managed to reach out and steal the very last vestige of their humanity, stone by crumbling stone. As he passed, the graves seemed to huddle back down into their dark anonymity. It suddenly occurred to him that he was quite possibly the only one still alive in the silent expanse dedicated to the dead.
Got to stop thinking creepy thoughts, Hikaru told himself firmly, though his stomach felt as if he had been swallowing ice. Maybe Sai's right ... Maybe I should go back ...
A sudden crackling sound underneath his right foot made him freeze. Ugh-oh, what did I break NOW?! He gingerly lifted his sneaker, but to his relief, he found only the dried blossom of a chrysanthemum. It must have been blown off a nearby grave. In the darkness, the stark white petals almost glowed faintly, like a crushed star outspread.
Hikaru's stomach tightened, and he felt a shiver run through him. Somehow, seeing the fragile fragments of someone's grief disturbed him more than any headstone or scary movie. He -- still young and yet untouched by real sadness or loss -- had no right intrude so arrogantly into this place of lost memories, accompanied by one who was nothing but a lost memory himself. Hikaru backed away from the broken flower, and his rapid breaths left a delicate white trail in the icy air.
It's not that I'm not scared, he declared to himself, cause I'm NOT, but I'm definitely feeling like I shouldn't be here ...
"Maybe we should go, Sai," he said out loud, mostly to hear his own voice and to elicit a reply from his companion. He desperately wanted to break this shrouded silence around him. "Sai? Sai!" He whirled around and felt the true beginnings of fear curl cold and hard his mind. "Sai!! SAI!!"
The ghost was gone.
to be continued . . .
Confused about something? Check the notes at the end of the story. It probably won't help, but it does give me an excuse to babble on more . . .