Everything She Wants
Note: This fits into the Two Princes and Captures universe.
It was the summer of her first year of high school that her boy problems got completely out of control. She knew that having crushes on both of her close friends wasn't anything a good girl should indulge in, but when a third guy entered her life, she started to feel like a shoujo manga heroine. It was fun to read about, she realized, but it wasn't a fun to actually experience.
Akari had long been used to the routine of visiting the Go parlors. Usually she went to Touya's salon, but some days Sai would request that they go somewhere else to play against new people.
Touya-kun was aware of her habit, and didn't discourage it. Instead he offered her cautionary advice, warning her that certain parlors should be avoided. "Not everyone who plays go is a gentleman," he told her. "Make sure you only go to parlors in good neighborhoods, and don't go to a new one at night."
She had been touched by his concern, assuring him that she would be careful. There had only been one time that a salon had intimidated her, and even though Sai protested, she'd left immediately. She wasn't a stupid girl.
Summer break was too short to do everything she wanted to do. She went shopping with a couple of her friends – the ones she rarely had time to hang out with due to her pursuit of Go – and took a week at the beach with her family. The boys were cute, and many flirted with her, buying her ice cream or sodas, and she had enjoyed the time on the beach, sprawled out in the hot sunlight. Most of all, she enjoyed the time to be ordinary. She loved Sai, but resentment was beginning to fester in her heart.
Sai tolerated her activities, knowing that Akari had her own ideas of fun, but she could sense his discontent. He would sit fanning himself, even though he couldn't feel the heat, staring up at the sky. She felt a bit guilty for not indulging his obsession, but it was her life and she wanted to enjoy herself. She knew she was being selfish, but she figured she was entitled.
When they returned to the city, she thanked Sai for his patience with the only thing that mattered; a chance to play against new opponents.
The parlor they visited this time was located ten station stops from her home. She'd heard about it through a couple of Touya's regulars – a place that had good coffee and strong players.
The woman behind the counter raised an eyebrow as Akari stepped the the doorway, a bell announcing her presence ringing in her wake. She recognized the cynically look in the woman's eyes; some schoolgirls liked to attend salons as an attempt to pick up guys. Some recent Weekly Go editions had featured the exciting "new wave" and the "hip" kids involved in it, particularly Touya, whose handsome face was a marketing marvel for the Institute. She'd been pretty amused by it, but Touya was exasperated, pointing out that he was a nerd at heart.
"Student rate, please," she said, pulling out her school I.D. and her wallet.
"Five hundred yen, coffee is extra," the woman replied, and Akari pulled five 100 yen coins to pay. The woman accepted her money, but her eyes were still distrustful.
Akari ignored it, bowing politely before turning to scan the crowd, looking for a likely prospect. She needed a good player that wouldn't be offended to lose to a girl; she'd learned early on that Go parlors had a lot of men with chauvinistic tendencies, and it was best not to upset the apple cart early on.
Sai was bouncing up and down, eager to play. "Challenge him, Akari!" Sai said, pointing his fan toward a teenager who was sitting in a corner alone, placing stones on a goban half-heartedly.
Him? she thought in surprise. He looked like someone who'd been dragged there He dressed in casual yet fashionable clothes, and his hair was stylishly wild. The red-tinted strands hung in his eyes, and she longed to push them back. He was cute she thought, then blushed at her the shallowness of her thoughts.
"He's good," Sai murmured in a voice she'd learned meant he was being serious. "He should give us a good game."
She walked over to the boy, feeling the eyes of the counter woman on her, and knew that she'd been taken for a fan girl. She almost asked Sai to select someone else, but he'd already made up his mind and was stubborn.
"Um, excuse me?" she said, hoping he wouldn't think she was hitting on him.
He looked up, and she noted with surprise that he had pretty eyes. "Yes?" he said, and he looked suspicious, too.
"I... um, well, I'm looking for someone to play. Do you have time for a game?" she asked, hating the slight stutter in her voice.
"Sure," he agreed, and a smile pulled the corners of his lips up. "I'm always willing to play."
She slid into the seat across from him, opening the lid of the nearest go ke to check the stones. White; she preferred playing that, since it was slightly more challenging for Sai. She could feel the spirit's presence at her shoulder, but didn't bother glancing at him.
"What's your kyu?" he asked.
"I've never been officially ranked," Akari demurred, "but I'm very good."
"How many stones would you like?" he asked, taking a different tact.
"You mean a handicap? I don't want one, I want an even game," she replied. This was a familiar ground for her. Her games always started out with a variant of this conversation.
He gave her a dubious look. "Don't think I'm bragging or anything, but I'm a pro. You're going to need a handicap."
"A pro?" Sai practically squealed in joy. Akari ignored him, keeping her focus on the stranger.
"We'll nigiri," she said firmly.
A couple of the customers that were close enough to overhear the conversation snorted. "Trying to hook a boyfriend," she heard one mumble, and she stiffened with suppressed outrage.
I hate it when they think things like that! she thought. If I was a boy, they'd treat me more seriously.
"Ignore them, Akari," said Sai in a flat voice. "We're here to play. We'll change their minds."
The boy was studying her, squinting thoughtfully before he nodded his agreement. Without conversation, they reached into the go ke to nigiri, which he won. They bowed politely to each other, and then the boy played his first hand.
"5-3," Sai said, and she located the coordinates without hesitation. She and Sai had been playing this way for ages.
Her irritation at the rude insinuations faded, and she lost herself in the flow of the game. She might not play very well herself, but she could see that she was serving as a conduit for someone greater. Every time Sai played, she marveled at the depth of his thought.
Her opponent was good, but not up to Akira's level, much less Sai's. He was more cautious, relying on traditional moves. Here and there Sai murmured in satisfaction as the boy rose to the challenge, but the end result was a foregone conclusion.
"I resign," he said, lowering his head. His eyes were fastened on the board, and he didn't seem to notice the crowd's sudden explosion of conversation. Instead, he studied the final result, before whistling and shaking his head. "I guess that teaches me not to be arrogant, doesn't it?"
"You played very well," she said, shifting in her seat. She always hated the post game talks.
"But you're better," he said. "This keima..." he pointed at a spot in the board where Sai had completely overwhelmed him. "I've never seen anyone play like this. Who are you? Why aren't you a pro?"
She could feel Sai's stare penetrating her back. It was an old issue between them; Sai wanted her to take the test so he could play the best in the nation regularly, but she couldn't sacrifice her entire future for him. "I like Go, but it's not my life," she said. "It's more fun to play between friends than serious competition."
He chuckled and shook his head slightly. "It's too bad, but if that's how you like it. I hope we can play again sometime?"
"Sure!" she said, pulling out her cell phone so she could get him phone number. "Um, what's your name?" she asked, realizing they hadn't been properly introduced.
He looked at her, and the expression in his eyes broke her restraint. She started to giggle, and seconds later he broke into laughter. She liked the warm sound. "I'm Waya Yoshitaka," he said with a grin.
She bobbed her head respectfully. "Fujisaki Akari," she introduced herself.
"Can I treat you to lunch?"
"Are you trying to pick me up?" she asked.
"Do you want me to?" Waya retorted. His eyes glinted playfully as he offered her the chance to shoot him down without being offensive.
"Maybe." It was summer break, and a summer romance would be a wonderful thing. Guiltily she squashed thoughts of Touya and Hikaru to the back of her mind. They were just her friends.
The counter woman gave her a glare as they left, sniffing with smugness. Akari gritted her teeth, hating proving her right, but Waya was smiling at her, and she forgot her resentment. Sai looked unhappy as Waya escorted her next door to a restaurant. They selected a booth in the corner, and placed their orders.
There was no awkwardness in their conversation. He asked about how she'd learned to play, and she diverted the topic onto her teachers at school, not comfortable talking about Sai. Unlike Touya, he let it pass.
Like most young professionals, Waya wasn't attending high school. He worked full-time playing Go, but liked to attend concerts and play video games. They talked about their favorite bands – he preferred J-Rock and English music, while she was a firm devotee of J-Pop.
Waya was easy to talk to, she found. He liked Go, but he didn't tune out the real world. He liked going to the movies, and had seen most of what she liked. He suggested casually that they might want to catch a show the next day, and she agreed. They arranged to meet at noon, so they could eat lunch first.
Sai was quiet through the whole conversation, and she pretended he didn't exist. When she and Waya finally parted, she gave Sai a grateful smile.
Thanks for not complaining, she thought at him.
He didn't whine at her about how they'd been wasting time when they could have been playing Go. Instead, he merely walked beside her as they headed home. She wasn't used to his silence. Akari wondered if she'd hurt his feelings.
She waited until she was back in her room to confront him. "Sai, are you angry at me?" she asked.
"No," he said, and he lowered his eyes. "Just worried that you might end up hurting yourself."
"Hurting myself?" she echoed. "Sai, it's just a bit of fun."
"Is it?" he asked.
Sai never spoke like that unless he had a point, and she bit her retort back. She wondered if he was jealous, but decided it wasn't likely. There was genuine concern in his eyes, and she thought back over her interactions with Waya – and came to a sickening realization. She sat down heavily on her bed, burying her face in her hands.
"Akari?" Sai prompted.
"He reminds me of Hikaru. And Touya-kun." Was she really so indecisive that she was going to choose a consolation prize, rather than risk her heart?
Sai merely spread the fan in front of his face, saying nothing.