Notes: Since I'm new to this fandom, you are probably wondering if this is going to be a shounen-ai story. I'm a yaoi/slash writer, but I have been told that often the relationships in my stories seem to be subtext. Well, just so you know, it's intentional subtext.

Thanks to Sheree and Tari Gwaemir for retro-betaing!

Jigo: a drawn game.

China Soba: The noodle shop by the Go Institute that Hikaru frequently visits. (He saw Kurata there once too)

Jigo by Dracostella

Fuseki: The opening moves of the game where influence and territory outlines are formed.

The day I became a 9-dan, my father died of a heart attack. I wasn't there when he died. I was told later that his last words were for me.

Two weeks after his death, when all the ceremonies had been taken care of, mother moved to Hiroshima to live with her sister, also a widow. She did not explain to me why she decided to leave me, but I understood. It would have been unbearable for her to remain with me.

Left alone in my house, I went to sit by father's go table. Though I have sat here alone often, I noticed for the first time how loudly the water flowed in the garden. And when my first stone cracked the board, I saw that my hand was shaking. By the fourteenth stone, the shaking stopped. Yet no matter how loudly the stones clinked against the board, I could still hear the water in the garden.

When I had finished replaying my last game with father, I retrieved all the pieces and started over again.

I had replayed our game nine times when I heard a noise in the garden. When I looked out, I saw Shindou Hikaru. He had climbed over the wall around our garden, and landed in the pond.

"Um… Sorry about disturbing your koi," he said as he slogged over, leaving wet shoe prints on the pebbled path. "I haven't seen you in a while, and when I rang the bell, no one answ--"

He stopped talking in the middle of a word when he saw the go board.

He had seen our last game. Father had invited him to come and watch.

He looked up from the board and stared at me, then he took off his shoes and socks, and came in without being invited.

He sat down across from me, took the white stones, and continued the replay with me.

Two replays later I realized that I could no longer hear the water.

When I moved to place the first stone down for the beginning of the fourth replay with Shindou, he caught my hand.

"Come and stay with me for a while," he said, the same way he announced his challenges in go. "I don't want you to stay here and starve while your mother is away. That way, when I beat you, you can't blame it on not getting enough food."

"If you are feeding me, then I'll be lucky if I can play a single game. I'll most likely be dying of food poisoning," I replied after a long silence.

"HEY!" Shindou stood up and towered over me, "I have never ever food poisoned anyone! Waya was already sick that time--" Shindou paused and sat down again. "So, you are coming?"

I nodded.

***

I had already retrieved my travel bag from my room, and started to head out of the door when Shindou caught my hand again.

"Is this all you are bringing?"

"What else should I bring?" I opened my bag and held it out to him.

"I… well…" he shifted his weight. "Suit yourself."

We walked in silence to the train station, but when I stood before the ticket machine, I suddenly realized I did not know where he lived.

"Buy a 390 yen ticket," Shindou said when he saw me staring at the machine. "I would have invited you to the study sessions at my apartment, but I didn't think you would come."

"Your neighbors probably would not have appreciated our shouting matches," I said.

Shindou laughed, and scratched the back of his head. "I guess the Go Salon's clients probably don't either."

"Probably not," I said as I passed the train gates in front of him. "Which train are we taking?"

"Platform 2," he said. He ran until he was walking beside me.

***

Shindou's apartment was small and sparse. Only one room, a kitchen, and a bathroom. In the room there were two futons on the ground, placed on opposite sides of the room, and a go table between them.

"I borrowed a futon and some blankets from my mom," Shindou said. "I didn't know if I could get you to come or not, but I wanted to be prepared."

Shindou had anticipated my question… how many games have we played now?

I dropped my bag on the futon with the blue blanket. I had no doubt that the futon with the yellow blanket that has GO in English written across the top belongs to Shindou.

Shindou smiled at me when I looked to him. Then he walked into the kitchen.

"I'm making ramen, what flavor do you want?" Shindou put a pot in the sink and turned on the water.

I didn't know what he was asking, and for a moment I felt oddly disoriented.

"Oh, never mind, all I got is the original flavor ones left." Shindou opened his cabinet and took out two packages of instant ramen. "Not as good as China Soba, but it's still good."

I nodded.

"Touya sensei treated me to ramen once." Shindou placed the pot on the stove and turned on the heat.

Father had not told me.

"He probably didn't tell you 'cause you were playing in that International tournament against the Korean Pros at the time, and he didn't want you to be bothered that you missed him while he was in Japan," Shindou continued. He retrieved a pair of scissors and cut open the packages. "He came with some Chinese Pros to my third match against Kurata-san."

"When you won," I said.

"Yeah, Kurata-san asked for my autograph afterwards." Shindou laughed and put away the scissors. "Touya sensei came up to me and asked me if I wanted to have dinner with him. Did you know that your father used to eat at China Soba too? That place has been around forever."

I shook my head. All the times I ate with father it was at home.

"The owner was so shocked when he saw Touya-sensei." Shindou was not looking at me. He stared intently at the water.

"I thought he was going to talk to me about the game, but he just ate ramen with me."

There were bubbles forming at the bottom of the pot.

"When we finished eating, he suddenly told me that I have almost caught up."

One of the bubbles came to the surface and burst.

"I thought he was talking about you, but then he said he looks forward to the day when I'll give him the same kind of game Sai did."

A few more bubbles rose and disappeared.

"Then he sighed and said that someday, my rival, my only true rival will be you."

The water began to boil.

~TBC