Disclaimer: All characters and specifics of "Hikaru no Go" are copyrighted Hotta Yumi, Obata Takeshi, Shueisha and Studio Pierrot. All rights reserved. This fanfiction is property of Shikami Yamino and is not intended for any monetary purpose nor an infringement of copyright laws. No one is to post/host/use any aspect of this fanfic without explicit permission from the author.
Notes: Does anyone actually remember this story? If you do, I think I'm going to have to beg for your forgiveness /LOL/ Suffice it to say that a lot of things have eaten up my life between now and the last time I updated. Regardless, I've always maintained that BD remains one of the fics I intend to finish (someday). Everything is all planned out so neatly in my notes, I merely lack the time and occasionally the motivation/inspiration to write it all down coherently /sheepish/ So I guess as a gesture of goodwill, for those of you who haven't already seen this at my fic journal, here is the complete version of Part 13.
Hikaru no Go: "Blind Descent"
by Shikami Yamino
Part 13 - Ghosts of the Past -- I --
Not many people would have equated a bunch of professional go players with a video game arcade and gotten any kind of harmonious co-existence. After all, pro go players were more widely associated with the silence of places such as the Yuugen no Ma than the almost deafening sounds of electronic games and young people pounding at plastic keys to the cheering of their surrounding friends. Nevertheless the local arcade was the chosen place for the gathering of a number of the new wave of go pros. And with no ties or suits or magnetic go boards in sight, not many people would have picked them to be go players anyway, so society was free to amble happily along in its mistaken ways.
Not that Waya Yoshitaka 5-dan actually gave a damn about society or its mistaken ways. He was currently concerned with more important matters. Like the elusive Naruto plushie that was being adamant in evading the claws of his UFO Catcher machine.
With the tip of his tongue sticking out of the side of his lips, the brown-haired go pro's face was a mask of intense concentration as he carefully manipulated the keys to watch the claw descend over the object of his frustration. Then as the claws gripped and began to rise, the childishly hopeful expression on his face turned to one of dour aggravation. The drawn-on laughing eyes of the plushie seemed to almost mock him while the claw returned once again, unsurprisingly empty, to its base position.
"ARGH!" Throwing up his hands, Waya turned scornfully away from the machine to rake his brown gaze over the crowded arcade for any sign of his friends.
Most of the old gang from the Insei classes had made it for the get together, which was rare considering their conflicting schedules. Only Ochi's presence would have made the gathering complete, the younger man having excused himself by reason of a prior commitment. Waya had simply rolled his eyes when he'd heard Ochi's excuse, surmising that the uptight little brat probably wouldn't know what to do with himself in an arcade anyway.
There was Honda-san, who was currently duking it out with Fuku over the tennis game. From Fuku's gleeful expression and Honda-san's intent eyes on the screen, Waya gathered that the former was currently kicking the latter's ass.
Moving on, his eyes picked out Isumi's familiar profile, straddled over the seat of one of the motorcycles. Waya smiled to himself as he admired the lean length of his lover's form, absently noting that it looked good seated almost expertly on a motorbike. It was good having him back, especially since the apartment had begun to feel too large and empty over the last few days.
Seated next to Isumi, obviously racing on the same course, were Komiya, Nase and Iijima-san. Fuku had told him that Iijima-san quit being an Insei soon after the pro exam that had passed him, Shindou and Ochi. Funnily enough, it was only after Iijima-san had quit that he had muscled up the courage to ask Nase out for a date, despite having been Insei classmates for six years. Since then, they'd been a pretty steady item even though Iijima-san had chosen to continue with his studies while Nase successfully pursued her professional go career.
A commotion to his left caught his eye and he looked over to see a laughing Fujisaki Akari attempt to draw her vigorously resisting boyfriend Mitani Yuuki onto the Dance Dance Revolution machine with her. From the sidelines, a cheeky Shindou Hikaru was loudly cheering Akari on, all the while making sure that he was safely out of her arm's reach.
Sensing his approach, Shindou turned around and gave each of his hands a glance before grinning at him. "No luck?" he called over the music of the DDR machine.
"Shut up," Waya growled at his friend good-naturedly.
Laughing, Hikaru turned back to the spectacle Mitani was making of himself as he tried valiantly to free his hand from Akari's grasp, refusing to be pulled onto the platform.
"Yuuki! Please!" Akari was pleading.
"No, no and no!" Mitani answered with mild scowl.
As soon as Akari turned on the puppy-dog eyes, Hikaru knew that Mitani was a goner. The orange-haired boy could never resist Akari's puppy-dog eyes; had never been able to ever since she'd convinced him to remain at the Haze Junior High Go Club after Hikaru left.
"Go Mitani!" Hikaru couldn't resist shouting as his friend stepped reluctantly onto the platform. In return, he got a glare which promised direly that as soon as Mitani was able to get off this machine, he'd be out looking for Hikaru's blood.
Well acquainted with Mitani's glares, Hikaru merely laughed the threat off, grinning as his friend went through the torturous process of song selection. He was just getting ready to make another comment at Mitani's expense when Akari's bright voice broke in.
"Waya-kun will play with me after this, right?" Akari smiled winningly at the brown-haired pro before directing a pout Hikaru's way. "Hikaru threatened to run off if I even suggested it to him."
Hikaru held up his hands, still chuckling, in the surrender position. "Hey, you've got Mitani! What do you need me for?" Then he turned a mischievous expression onto his brown-haired companion. "Waya might indulge you though."
To the contrary, Waya was almost sweating at the suggestion. Needless to say, there was no conceivable way that he would ever willingly let himself be roped into playing a game like DDR. He looked around nervously for an exit before latching onto Shindou and hastily steering the bleached-blonde in the direction of a vacant King of Fighters machine. "Uhh, sorry Fujisaki, Shindou and me were just heading off to play a game."
Resisting the pushing, Hikaru smirked knowingly over his shoulder at the older pro. "We were?"
Chocolate brown eyes glared back at him with a sense of urgency. "Yes, we were."
Hikaru snickered before acquiescing and tossing the other two a wave. "We'll see you two later."
As soon as the two were out of sight of the DDR machine, Waya raised a hand to cuff his friend lightly in the back of the head. "Some friend you are! I'm gonna kick your ass!"
"Ha!" Hikaru crowed, sitting down and shoving his ¥100 coin into the machine. "I'd like to see you try!"
Waya's eyes narrowed. "This means war, Shindou!"
Several minutes and ¥100 coins later, amidst muttered curses and near-violent button bashing, Waya was ready to give up and accept the fact that today just wasn't his day.
Hikaru, on the other hand, was having a ball as his on screen character engulfed Waya's in another fiery gout of flames. When the screen flashed white and the large "K.O." sign appeared, he threw up his arms in victory. "Yeah! Take that!" He punched Waya's shoulder lightly and reflexively ducked the return blow. "Did you see that last combo? That was great right? I so kicked your ass!"
Caught up in the moment, Hikaru laughed at Waya, who was rolling his eyes, before swivelling on his chair to look excitedly over his right shoulder. "What'd you think? Pretty cool - " He cut himself off abruptly when he realised that no one was standing behind him to share his enthusiasm.
Waya blinked at the sight of Shindou staring over his right shoulder almost in a state of stupor. Following his friend's line of sight and not seeing anything or anyone of interest, Waya frowned in mild concern. Shindou really hadn't been himself these last few days, constantly looking over his shoulder and then shaking himself with a rueful smile when he obviously didn't see what he'd been looking for. Normally, he'd have asked Touya about it, considering that if anyone knew what was wrong with Shindou, it was probably Touya. But since Touya wasn't here, it was slowly beginning to worry Waya.
"Shindou. Oi Shindou! What're you looking at?"
"Huh?" Hikaru turned back to Waya with still slightly glazed eyes until his brain was able to process the question. "Oh! Nothing. It was nothing. Don't worry about it!" Laughing a little, he raised a hand to wave off his friend's obvious concern.
Waya didn't look convinced. "You sure?"
"Yeah yeah! I'm fine! Don't worry!" He rose from his seat and turned towards the exit. "Hey, I'm gonna go get something to drink. You want anything?" At Waya's shake of the head, Hikaru shrugged. "Okay. I'll be right back!" With that, he was off striding towards the exit.
Waya tracked his friend's departure with quizzical eyes before shaking his head again and getting to his feet to find his lover. Maybe Isumi-san would have some ideas about what was bugging their long time friend.
Absently punching a button on the vending machine, Hikaru bent to collect his drink as it clunked into the tray. He smiled a little as he popped the top and took a long sip, rolling his eyes at himself.
It was almost funny how he kept expecting Touya to be standing behind him when he knew full well that his rival wasn't even in the country. Coming to the arcade just didn't feel the same without the other pro's feigned expression of suffering and raised eyebrow as if to say 'Remind me why I'm here again?'
Hikaru chuckled under his breath at the thought, slumping to rest his weight against the wall beside the vending machine. Touya was never partial to coming to the arcade, preferring to watch whatever Hikaru was playing rather than wander off to play anything himself. He said it was a place where he felt distinctly out of his element, to which Hikaru had always snickered just loud enough to earn himself a hooded glare.
But all that being said, his rival had never once refused to come when invited. And once Hikaru'd explained the controls, the dark-haired go pro was a speed demon on par with the best of them on the Daytona race track. It was getting to the point when racing Touya Akira was becoming synonymous with challenging him to go as a mere lower-dan -- ten to one odds said you were gonna get creamed.
The only one who'd ever managed to come close or even beat Touya on occasion was Isumi-san. It was a fact which never failed to prompt Waya into grousing good-naturedly that it was always the quiet ones you had to watch out for.
With a little wistful quirk of his lips, he idly wondered what his rival was doing right then. Knowing Touya though, most likely in his hotel room, still hunched over whatever game he'd played today. His rival was a go freak like no other.
Except maybe Sai.
Come to think of it, Sai had always been excited to come to the arcade. "Look! Look! Hikaru! There are people dancing in this box! And it's snowing in the other one!" He'd always cheered whenever Hikaru played something, but would nevertheless be begging to go to a go salon soon after. "Ne ne Hikaru! Let's play go! Hikaru!"
If he closed his eyes and thought hard enough, he could almost hear the last syllable of his name being dragged out as phantom arms with billowing sleeves encircled his neck. And the answering "Wai!" when he finally acquiesced.
Sai's almost child-like enthusiasm toward go had always been able to bring a smile to Hikaru's face, however grudging it may have been. After all this time, the memory was no different, even if the smiles they induced were no longer the same.
Nowadays, they were almost always bittersweet; sometimes a tad regretful, other times a touch guilty, but never as carefree as they had once been.
Standing against an unobtrusive wall, Waya frowned.
Wandering around the crowded arcade for the last five minutes had revealed neither hide nor hair of his lover. Asking their friends had been a dead end as none had seen the dark-haired pro since he'd finished his last game on the motorcycles. It was puzzling, given that Isumi's tall stature should have been easy to spot over the heads of the crowd.
He was almost ready to give up and simply call when a familiar hand descended over his eyes from behind.
"Looking for me?"
"Maybe..." Waya answered, crossing his arms over his chest in a feigned gesture of nonchalance.
Chuckling quietly, Isumi slid the blinding hand away, taking the opportunity to feather a caress over a smooth cheek before allowing his lover to turn around. All the while attempting to keep his other hand discreetly behind his back.
So in the grand tradition of attempts at hiding things, it was subsequently the first thing Waya noticed.
Waya raised an eyebrow in question, looking pointedly at the hidden hand. "What's going on?"
Isumi's lips curved up, eyes laughing, as he brought out the hand in question and deposited a plushie of a small green dinosaur in Waya's. "Got you something. It reminded me of you."
Studying the small plushie in the strobing lights of the neighboring machine, Waya's brows creased. "Thanks... but why? It's just Yoshi."
Isumi's smile widened. "It is, isn't it... Yoshitaka?"
Hoping that the dim lighting hid the blush spreading over his cheeks, Waya wrinkled his nose at his full name. "Only my mother calls me that," he protested, prompting a laugh from the taller man.
"So can I call you Yoshi?"
A positively evil grin spread over Waya's face. "Only if I can call you Shin-chan like Sakurano-san does."
At that, a hint of red appeared on Isumi's own cheeks. "Knew I shouldn't have mentioned that to you."
Snickering at the minor victory, Waya glanced down at the small dinosaur resting on his palm before leaning up the few necessary inches to brush his mouth briefly over Isumi's. "Thanks, Shin-chan."
Thus began another round of mirthful chuckles to which the taller of the pair simply shook his head. "You're welcome, Yoshi."
He watched Waya laugh for a few moments, a tender expression flitting over his own face before asking, "So was there a particular reason you were looking for me?"
Mind drawn back to the problem at hand, Waya nodded. "Yeah. I think something's wrong with Shindou."
Isumi blinked. "Wrong?"
"He keeps looking over his shoulder and then spaces out when he doesn't see anybody there. I tried asking him about it, and he just said that it was nothing." He scowled. "If Touya was here, I'd ask him, since he'd probably know, but..."
"But Touya's not here," Isumi finished, a contemplative expression falling over his features. "Which could be the problem in itself..."
Waya made a noise of affirmation.
"And you want me to go talk to him because..?"
"Because you're better at these things than I am." At Isumi's skeptical look, Waya waved his hands as he tried to find a better way to express himself. "You know... More subtle. Tactful."
Isumi had to laugh, especially when his lover looked like he'd swallowed something bad as soon as that word had fallen from his lips. "That's because - "
"Yeah, I know," Waya cut him off with a mildly affronted exhalation. "Because I have all the tact of a bull in a china shop. Haven't we been through this?"
The taller pro grinned indulgently, the expression itself communicating more than Isumi ever would through words. "So where is he?"
Stepping out of the arcade truly was an experience like no other. In the space of a second, the gloom receded, and your senses were assaulted by the fact that yes, there were more colors in the visual spectrum than of the neon or clashing variety. And that no, constant noise from all sides of the floor-pounding sort which masqueraded as 'music' or 'sound effects' really wasn't the norm. It also wasn't until you'd stepped out that the funny scratchy feeling from the back of your throat informed your brain you'd been 'speaking' at levels far louder than what you were used to.
Isumi grimaced as he rubbed at his throat in an effort to relieve the aforementioned scratchy feeling. Maybe they should've given more thought to picking a place to get together. Shindou had definitely had the right idea, coming out here for a drink. If that was indeed, all he'd come outside for.
Rounding the corner, the dark-haired pro's brow crept up into his hairline as he caught sight of the younger man.
Slumped against the wall next to the vending machine, drink can dangling from his fingertips at his side, Shindou looked uncharacteristically morose. In fact, with his head lowered and blonde bangs obscuring his eyes from view, Isumi would maybe even go so far as to say that Shindou looked like a defeated man, if any semblance of the word 'defeat' could be applied to the go prodigy.
He walked up with a deliberate scuffle of his shoes against the tiled floor in an effort to warn the other of his approach. But it was an effort that went unappreciated as Shindou never even noticed until Isumi had walked right by him to stand in front of the vending machine.
When the bleached-blonde looked up, green eyes unusually dull, Isumi gave him a concerned look. "You okay?"
The last vestiges of bitterness disappeared from Shindou's smile, leaving behind only the usual cheer, albeit a bit dampened, as he waved off the question, rising from his slumped position. "Yeah, I'm fine."
Isumi was unconvinced, but chose not to make a big deal out of the evasion. Instead, he proceeded to dig into his pockets for change, tossing out a casual "You sure?" as if it had been an afterthought.
Hikaru grinned, the light returning to his eyes as they became knowing. "Waya sent you out here, didn't he?"
"No! I was just coming out here for a drink - " Isumi trailed off when he saw amused disbelief written all over the bleached-blonde's face. He then had the good graces to redden slightly. "That obvious, are we?" he asked with a rueful grin before bending to retrieve his drink.
Hikaru laughed. "Just a bit."
"So are you okay?" Isumi couldn't resist prodding.
"Fine, really! Just thinking about some stuff I haven't thought about in a while..."
Isumi inwardly raised an eyebrow at the deliberate vagueness of the answer but decided to let it go. Popping open the tab on his drink, his eyes strayed to the can in Shindou's own hand and blinked to find it not the usual soda. "I didn't think you liked Oolong tea."
"Huh?" Startled, Hikaru looked down at where Isumi was gesturing and laughed, raising his other hand to the back of his head in an awkward gesture. "Oh... I s'pose Touya got me used to it. It's practically the only thing he'll drink."
At that, Isumi smiled. "Speaking of Touya, have you talked to him recently?"
"Tried calling him on Monday, but he wasn't there. Probably at some go salon or something even though it was his day off. You know how he is," Hikaru said with an exasperated roll of his eyes, though the amused grin ruined the overall effect.
Isumi hid his growing smile behind the rim of his can. It was always interesting to talk to Shindou about Touya. Or vice versa, though Shindou was clearly the more talkative of the two. They always made everything between them seem so natural in the course of their deepening friendship, that it was no surprise neither of them realised just how deep their relationship had gone. Or that they had long since transcended the boundaries of mere friendship.
"You miss him?"
"A bit, I s'pose..." Hikaru answered, grinning, after a moment of thought. "There's only so much game re-creation I can stand. And since he's not there, I've been roped into playing more shidougo at the go salon than I care to count. Though it's always fun to see Ichikawa-san's face whenever I leave, in her words, 'like a normal, civilised human being, instead of a preschooler that's just been insulted'."
Joining in the laughter, Isumi privately thought that he could well sympathise with Ichikawa-san's dilemma. After all, he'd certainly witnessed more than his fair share of the now infamous Shindou-Touya post-game outbursts.
"Well, since you've had enough of recreating games, why don't you come out to dinner with us?" Isumi offered when the laughter died down. "Then you can come over after and play a few games with us. It's been a while since we've had a chance to play together."
Still chuckling, Hikaru shook his head as he glanced at his watch. "Thanks, but I've gotta get going. Touya's fish need to be fed, and I've got a tutoring session tomorrow morning." Draining the last of his drink in one swig, he tossed the empty can towards the bin before directing a grin at the older pro and began making his way back towards the arcade entrance. "Next time though, definitely!"
At Isumi's nod, he lifted his hand in a wave. "I'll just go tell the others that I'm leaving and I'll see you later Isumi-san!"
Returning the wave, the older pro gazed thoughtfully at the other's retreating back before it disappeared around the corner.
On the one hand, it would be gratifying to see the two of them finally stop dancing around each other. It certainly wasn't as if either of them were queasy at the idea considering how well they'd taken to the whole thing with him and Waya. And by this time, Isumi wasn't even about to attempt to convince himself that they didn't know, regardless of how much he and Waya didn't advertise their relationship.
But on the other, Isumi wondered if it was his and Waya's place to interfere. After all, sooner or later -- and it did look to be 'later', if they were left alone -- one of them would take a step back and be forced to realise that he had in the other everything one could ask for in a partner. Not to mention that Isumi had doubts as to even the possibility of he and Waya being able to pull off the interference as smoothly has Yang Hai-san had.
Ultimately, it was probably better for them to wait until they were ready to admit to it of their own volition. The last thing he and Waya wanted was to be the ones to throw up a wall of awkwardness between the two.
Sipping at his drink, Isumi shook his head ruefully at his conclusion. Waya would not be happy. If there was one thing about his lover that disappeared as soon as he left the goban, it was his patience.
As if on cue, the brown-haired pro rounded the corner and made a bee-line for Isumi with a puzzled crease in his brow. "Shindou left. And I think he's getting weirder by the minute. He muttered something about how you could tell they were his fish because even they were on a regular schedule... Do you have any clue what he was talking about?"
"I think Touya asked him to feed his fish while he was away in Korea - hey!" Midnight blue eyes aimed a pseudo-glare at cheeky brown ones as the can Isumi'd been drinking from was swiped from his hand. "I was drinking that."
Waya, however, was unrepentant. "I know." Grinning, he guzzled the remains of Isumi's coffee before asking, "So? Did you talk to him about it?"
Flickering his eyes heavenward in affectionate exasperation, Isumi resigned himself to the loss as he answered, "Yeah..."
"And he was evasive about it. Said something about thinking about things he hadn't thought about in a while." Isumi smiled slightly. "But I think Touya not being here is a big part of it."
Waya frowned. "So what do we do?"
"I don't think we should do anything." A finger on Waya's lips forestalled the expected protests. "Really, think about it. If we doing something, it might actually make things worse for them. Especially if they're not ready to accept it. Making things awkward for them is the last thing we want to be doing."
"Yeah, but they've been doing this for what? At least a few years. What if they end up doing it for a few more years?"
Isumi chuckled. "Then they'll just end up doing it for a few more. Whatever they're comfortable with. They'll realise eventually."
Waya scowled. "They have an extremely long interpretation of 'eventually'."
Laughing outright, Isumi had to agree. "That they do. Though I don't think we would have been much better if Yang Hai-san hadn't been so impulsive."
"Which is why I still think we should say something!" Waya insisted.
"What would you say?"
The brown-haired pro shrugged, a wicked grin spreading over his face. "I don't know. Probably something like 'Shindou, either get your head out of your ass and tell Touya that you like him, or stop moping. You're getting on my nerves!'"
Isumi laughed. "I somehow don't think that would go down very well."
"But at least Hikaru would understand exactly what you were talking about."
Startled by the unexpected interjection into the conversion, both whirled towards the source of the voice.
End Part 13... to be continued.
End Notes: A large majority of this part was written I-don't-remember-how-long ago. It's interesting (to me anyway) to note the changes in my writing style over the years. Hopefully, regardless of how much I've cringed at certain parts while reading over this, you still found it an enjoyable read. I'd entertain thoughts about a re-write, but I think I'd better actually finish it before trying to bite off more than I can chew /LOL/ I can only hope that the coming months will afford me a bit more time to indulge in doing so.
Comments and/or questions will, as always, be appreciated.