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~ A Hikaru no Go Alternate Universe ~

Disclaimers: Hotta and Obata. Shonen Jump. Not Mine.

NOTES: Shonen ai eventually (AkiHika), but that's WAY off. This actually starts a few months after Sai disappears, but the time line is VERY screwed up.

Prologue: Who Can Say

Anyone could come to take an insei test. That was the beauty of it, because no one was turned away, but it also led to many hopefuls who had no talent having their hopes crushed.

When the fifteen-year-old walked in with his confused mother beside him, Shinoda, the insei master, sighed a bit to himself, preparing to let the boy down gently. The bleached bangs and casual yellow shirt warned him that this boy probably had no clue what he was asking for; knew nothing about the world of Go.

He smiled at the boy, checked the name on his list, and motioned for the teenager to take the seat across from him. "Shindou Hikaru?" he asked.

The boy nodded, falling into a comfortable cross-legged position, rather than the traditional kneeling pose. "Yes." He handed over three kifu, which looked like they had been printed out from the Internet.

This wasn't the first time Shinoda had seen NetGo kifu, but it was the first time anyone had submitted them at the insei test. Each of the moves had been numbered neatly with a computer, and his eyes widened as he examined the skill level displayed by both players. "These are yours?" he asked, trying to make sure. The moves were beautifully rendered, and he started to take the applicant a bit more seriously as he studied them. Shindou's kifu showed a strong player who had the ability to cut off opponents at every turn and plan deeply.

Shindou nodded. "I used my real name so you could be sure," he said softly. He seemed slightly distracted as his mother shifted beside him.

"Ano... how long will this take?" the woman said, shifting forward uneasily.

Shinoda hid his surprise well; usually parents were more eager than their child, but Shindou's mother seemed utterly baffled by what was going on. Apparently, this was all Shindou's idea. He made a mental note of that, and turned to the woman. "The test takes about an hour. Parents are allowed to wait outside," he told her, knowing she was going to bolt.

He saw her lean close to Shindou, who waved her off as she said something. Smiling nervously, she bowed to him and left the room.

"Place three stones," Shinoda said to Shindou, deciding to sort it all out later. This was a most unusual testing.

Shindou blinked a bit in surprise. "We don't play evenly?" he asked. He looked a bit disappointed.

Shinoda had to keep from chuckling. Most would-be insei were relieved at the break, but Shindou seemed insulted. "No. I'm a pro. It'd be very unfair for us to play an even match, and this is to judge your skill level."

Shindou's eyes narrowed, and he clenched his fists before relaxing. "Okay," he said, digging into thego ke and placing three shale stones.

Shinoda played his first stone where he always did against would-be insei, and waited to see Shindou's response. This would be the deciding factor - how Shindou actually played. Any oddities about him could be dismissed; it was his game that mattered.

The boy seemed to calm down as he placed a reply, beginning the game in earnest...

It was a slaughter, but one the insei master hadn't been expecting. Less than twenty moves in, he stared down, realizing that giving this boy a three stone handicap had been ridiculous and Shindou had been right to be insulted. There was no way he could save the white stones on the left, and the boy was quickly claiming enough territory on the bottom to win by over 10 moku.

This was like playing a pro.

He bowed to resign, and the boy stared at him. "Do I pass?"

Something about the way Shindou asked that drew Shinoda up short. There seemed to be a deep sorrow in his eyes, as though he really wasn't focusing. His blood chilled when he realized that Shindou wasn't even trying.

"Who taught you to play?" he asked. Surely if he had been trained by a pro, rumors of Shindou would have come to them. There shouldn't be a teenager this strong, not unless he was in the pro world.

Shindou's eyes lowered. "A friend," he said softly. "We'd play every night, and on the net..."

Past tense, the insei master noted. "Do you two still play? He's surely a professional." If the student is this good, what is the teacher like? he wondered, feeling his heart begin to race. The Japanese Go world could use talent like this, he thought eagerly. If Shindou and his mentor entered....

Shindou shifted uncomfortable. "He's gone," he said softly. Then his eyes hardened again. "Do I pass?"

A part of him almost said no, for despite Shindou's astounding skills, there was something amazingly... off about him. With his talent, he would quickly crush the other insei, and that wasn't necessarily a good thing. They were trying to mold the players of the future, not destroy their confidence by putting them up against someone who would easily pass the pro exam.

His eyes widened as he realized exactly what sat in front of him, in the shape of this casual boy. NetGo and a friend... what would he be like with real guidance? His heart raced at the thought. Maybe Touya Akira wasn't the player of his generation. Maybe there would indeed be a rival for the rapidly rising 2-dan...

It took Shinoda a moment longer to make his decision, but it was inevitable. The Go world needed to be shaken up, and Shindou would be the one to do it. He nodded slowly, feeling like he was being swept away by a current he couldn't control. "Come in starting next month," he said. "Get your mother, and I'll let you know about the details."


Credit: Thanks to those who said "go ahead and do this" and a special thanks to tenshihanafubuki, who's signed on as beta for this ride. This is the first of a few length HnG AUs I have planned, but part one should be out later this week. With Alter Egos out of the way, it's time for a new project!