DISCLAIMER: I don't own HnG. :(

WARNING: Spoilers for the whole thing, esp. Volume 18 and on. (Do not read if you have only seen the anime, or if you have only read the Shonen Jump releases.)

Notes: I'm baaaaack! No, I didn't die! ^_____^ (Except it's not a Dancing update… Sorry!)

Why did I write this? Because I have no life. :-P And because if no good and intelligent Hikago chapter fics (some good one-shots have been coming out lately, fortunately) are posted sometime in the near future, I will go crazy. (Seriously, I'm crying at the quality of some of the newest fics. T_T) :-P At least there's been a bunch of updates for some of my fave Hikago stories lately… (Namely Aishuu's "Brightly Burning", Murinae's "In the Forests of the Night", and Halcyon Clouds's "Following in Your Footsteps") ^_^ And… I have recently discovered Midou-kun's brilliantly fast-paced "A Mind of His Own".

Well, really, because there's a serious lack of fics that focus on Nase as a go player. Heck, there's a lack of fics that include Nase, period. And women's go is actually just as interesting as men's go… (Though men's go tends to be stronger.) Also because I'm a feminist (Bwahaha.) and most Hikago fics don't give a shit about the girls. Not that there are very many girls in Hikago in the first place… But still. And of course, because Nase's a minor character with a lot of potential.

Also… credit for all dialogue from the manga, volumes 1-18, goes to the people who did the Toriyama scanlations (no longer available online). I tweaked a few lines that were (imo) awkwardly worded though. Dialogue from volume 19 and beyond was translated by me from Chinese.

Pairings: Wellll… the normal ones, I guess: a screwy Hika/Aki/Aka, Kag/Tsu (if I manage to fit them in the story), and Ogata/Ashiwara. But those will only be hinted at. NO Isumi/Waya though. And NO Waya/Nase. (I don't agree with those two pairings… for various reasons.) All other pairings (there's about two more… maybe three – They're the ones that are going to be more prominent in the story) will be determined later. Or actually, they've already been determined, but I'm just not telling. :-P If you know my pairing preferences (If you really wanna know, slog through my profile for help…), you will be able to guess one… XD Here's a hint: one is shounen-ai/yaoi/slash/whatever you wanna call it, one is het. (Wasn't that helpful? :-P) The third one… I'm not sure if I want to include it, but it's also het. None of them include OCs. The two hets I have never seen in fanfiction before, but the yaoi I have seen, though only a few times. The yaoi is the one you should be able to figure out. Really though, the romance aint gonna be really kicking in for a while yet, so I have plenty of time to decide. And you have plenty of time to guess. ^_~

*looks up at what she's typed* Errr… Sorry for the long rant…

This is My Life

Chapter One: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

            My name is Nase Asumi, and I play go.

            Yeah, go.

            I'm a professional player, in fact. Seeking the hand of God and all that bullshit and stuff like my fellow pros. And of course, a few titles along the way.

            I'm one of the few girls who even try to pursue this path. Most other girls I know are much more interested in boys and fashion and the latest pop stars and actors and actresses – you know, stuff like that. No one cares about some funky ancient board game they've never even heard of that's played mainly by weird old men immersed in clouds of cigarette smoke. Seriously. And I wouldn't blame them, actually.

            'Cuz the moment you discover go, you either hate it and leave it behind forever, or you let it encroach steadily upon your life, until there is nothing left but the wooden board and the criss-crossing lines and the never-ending patterns of black and white. Nothing. And when you make the choice at last to walk this road until the end, there's a lot of things you just gotta give up. Like your social life. Your sense of normalcy. Everybody you thought were your friends. Your family. And you don't always get anything in return.

            And it's hard. Hard to be different. Hard to sacrifice everything for something you aren't even sure you can reach. I mean, sometimes I just wanna have fun, but…

            Well, that's life, I guess.

            I don't mind.

            'Cuz I love go.

            And if I ever had to go back and choose again, my choice will always remain the same.

            'Cuz go is fun.

            And this is my life.

            Yeah.

*          *          *

            It's Sunday. I should be at the Institute, but instead, I'm here at a skating rink.

            Enjoying myself, for once.

            I think.

            I can't remember a Sunday I haven't been sitting before a goban, getting ready for a game. I've never missed a single insei day – ever. Not since I first passed the insei test six years ago.

            I sigh. It seems I've been an insei forever.

            "Huh? Quit being an insei?"

            "Yeah, I'm quitting at the end of March."

            "Six years… Well, it was fun."

            "Go is fun."

            "… You're really quitting?"

            "I'm gonna concentrate on getting into college."

            "You're not gonna try for the pro exam as an outsider?"

            "Nah, it's not like I'll get lucky and pass."

            Whatever. I needed a break anyway. Seriously, it's just one day. And Iijima-kun's always been so pessimistic, it's a wonder he stayed insei this long in the first place. I'm definitely not gonna miss him.

            Well, I guess I will. We've known each other so long and all.

            Stupid damn pessimistic worrywart Iijima-kun.

            "Nase, have you ever thought of quitting? I guess not, you're a year younger than me and a girl and all."

            "Of course I have! The ones who passed last year's pro exam were Ochi, Waya, and Shindo – all younger than me!"

            Really, just because I'm a girl… I don't want to just settle for the women's league! Sheesh! And it's totally not fair when a bunch of idiotic boys who are all younger than you pass, while the ones who actually deserve to pass (like poor Isumi-kun) don't! Well, Waya's passing was all right I guess. But Ochi? Shindo? They haven't even been inseis for very long – less  than a year!

            I must seriously be distracted, because suddenly I find myself flying right into another skater.

            "Ahhh!"

            "Watch out!"

            But it's too late, and we crash to the ice. The other skater is a guy about my age, I realize. He's landed flat on his face, and I've landed right on top of him.

            Oops. Eh…

            "Oh, gosh, sorry," I say, seriously concerned. "You okay?"

            The guy grins goofily at me. Um… Okay… "I'm fine, I'm fine," he replies. "Just glad I was able to protect you. But… aren't your laces a bit loose? Wait, here, I'll tighten them for ya."

            Well… he's nice, I guess. Not exactly the cutest guy I've ever met (darn), but nice. Not at all like those jerks at my school. (Not at all like those go-obsessed idiots at the Institute.) Though… protect me? What from? What? (When did I ever need protection?)

            "Arigato," I say, still distracted, and I hold out my foot.

            "You can't help but sigh."

            "Exactly."

            I sigh. I'm usually always at the Institute, and now to be playing around on a Sunday… Things just feel weird. My fingers are seriously itching for the feel of stones in my hand.

            Whatever.

            I just wanna have fun today.

            Just this once.

            Suddenly, someone calls my name. "Asumi!" I look up.

            Shit.

            Oh, hello, Harumi. (Sorry, I don't believe I know you, good-bye.) Yes, it's nice to see you here too. (Actually, it's not.) Yes, I'm doing fine. (Actually, I'm not.) Yes, Takeshi-sensei was such a jerk last Friday. (What did he do again?) Yes, your new shoes are the cutest things ever. (They're horrendous.) Yes, that stupid math test was hard. (I think I aced it.) Now please, GO AWAY. I am NOT taking part in another one of your dumb schemes to attract your latest flame, I am NOT taking part in another one of your dumb schemes, I am NOT taking part in another –

            Her eyes widen when I see her. Not a good sign. NOT a good sign. "Come over here!"

            Shit.

            "So, what do you think?" she asks in an overly cheerful voice while winking. (Wha?) She manages to see the confusion on my face, and adds, explaining, "My boyfriend's friend," as she indicates the guy I just crashed into.

            "Oh…" (Phew.) "He's alright I guess…" I venture tentatively. "He's nice."

            Good. You've already gotten with the guy this time. So there's no need for me to take part in –

            Oh, shit.

            "Good!" she sings, winking again.

            Shit.

            "Hey, I want to be alone with my boyfriend now. So you can hang out with him."

            I feel my face turning pink with embarrassment. And shock. But mostly embarrassment. "WHAAAAT?" I try to protest, but already she is dragging me back to the two guys.

            "Ma-kun, we're back!"

            Well, her boyfriend's actually pretty cute this time. I wonder if he's smarter than her last one, too. (Harumi, dear, has your taste actually been improving lately?)

            "Well, we're going! Have fun together!"

            Damnit damnit damnit. Kuso! Harumi, you are soooo dead…

            I look over at my date for the rest of the day. (Well… I guess he's not that bad…) What am I supposed to do now? It's not like I haven't been on any dates before, but… We don't even know each other!

            "Umm…" I say finally. "You thirsty?"

            "Plus I want to have time for fun."

            "You do?"

            "Of course! I'm a sixteen-year-old girl!"

            Yeah. Just have fun.

            We are at the vending machines now. I bend over to pick up my drink. Why am I so damn nervous?

            Oh yeah, this is the first time I've skipped an insei day. That's probably why I feel so tense. I'm so used to serious go games on Sunday that I can't shake the feeling, I guess.

            But today, I just wanna have fun.

            "Should we stop skating, and go outside?" asks the boy.

            I shrug. Sure, why not?

            So we go outside, and I'm still thinking about stuff, I guess, when he starts talking to me again.

            "We can go bowling or something. Whatever you want. How about a movie? Or karaoke?" He sounds reeeaaally desperate, I think, randomly. But then he adds, hastily, "I mean, it doesn't have to be today. We just met and all. How about next Sunday?"

            Errr…

            "… Oh, sorry… I'm busy next Sunday…" I reply, hesitantly.

            "Then the week after!"

            "Sorry, the next week too… no good." I smile, embarrassed. Nope. And the next week too, and the week after that…

            He smacks his forehead, and I realize that he really is disappointed. I feel my cheeks heating up again (Is he really that interested?) and I hurriedly try to explain. "Ah, oh, I'm not saying no or anything! It's just that Sundays… On Sunday I always… h… have classes…"

            He looks up at me again, eagerly. "Class? Oh, what? What do you do?"

            Errr…

            I swear, smiling must be some sort of a defense mechanism for me. "……… Go."

            "Huh?"

            I smack myself mentally. "……… Go."

            "Huh?"

            I smack myself again. "……… GO-O."

            "OH! Go?"

            I think that this smile is now permanently plastered to my face. Seriously, I knew nobody other than a few geeks would have actually heard about go, but… All the same, this is SO embarrassing.

            "Go, eh? Oh, I mean…" I wait for the inevitable, Isn't that some sort of a weird game? I think my grandfather plays it… But instead, the guy exclaims, "That's great! Go's cool! Hey, you know those places they play go? Let's go!"

            WHAAAAAT? "Huh? You want to go to a go salon?"

            "Yeah, let's go. I wanna see you play go. If I learn it, then we can play together. That sounds great!" he declares in a manner that reminds me of Harumi's pet puppy, so damn eager to please, and slobbering over everything in the process. Nevertheless, I am relieved. At least he didn't make some stupid jibe about only creepy old men playing go. (Though it is true, mostly.) I can't believe he actually wants to learn, though… Could be an interesting experience, I guess. And it's at least familiar territory for me.

            "Well, it's not something you can learn quickly, but… Should we go for a little bit?"

            "Umm… This is the place…?" asks my date hesitantly. I can understand his misgiving. It's not exactly the most glamorous section of Tokyo.

           "This is downtown. The go salons here are a playground for adults," I explain, rather nonchalantly. I'm pretty used to it; I used to come down and beat up all the old geezers when I was a little girl. Well, a lot of them, anyway. Some were actually pretty strong, and lost only because they felt sorry for me. Most of them got pretty fond of me, too. Sometimes I think they take a perverse pleasure in losing to little kids – like it makes them feel more hopeful for the future of go. Oh, I don't know. How am I supposed to know how old geezers think?

            "P… Playground for adults?" I glance at him, startled. I had almost forgotten he was there. Was he scared? Sheesh, downtown wasn't that bad. "No, if something happens, I will protect you, Nase-chan!"

            What?

            … Never mind. I'll just pretend I didn't hear that.

            When we walk into the salon, clouds of smoke immediately waft over. The smoke clears after a few seconds, revealing an entire room of creepy old men. Man, this really is a sleazy place. I sneak a peek at my date, slightly concerned.

            "… Th… There's really no kids here," he stutters.

            "It depends on the place. Some salons have children's classes," I explain, patiently.

            "Oh…" is his almost inaudible reply.

            We walk up to the counter. The guy standing behind has thinning, greasy black hair. "1000 yen per person," he sneers slightly.

            I reply calmly. "I'm the only one playing. He's just watching."

            The man raises an eyebrow. "Watching? I don't think so. He'll be in the way."

            Pssshh. Fine, we'll leave and find a better place.

            But then, someone calls out, turning from his game. "Hey, let him watch, or the cutey will leave too."

            Cutey? Me? Hmph. Just don't underestimate me!

            Someone else speaks up. "Yeah, they came all this way, no need to send them away."

            "If she's the only one playing, that's even better."

            The man at the counter gives in at last, if somewhat reluctantly. "Bah. All right, he doesn't have to play."

            "Nase-chan, I'll pay…"

            I'm smiling. Again. (Since when did he start calling me Nase-chan?) "Oh, I can pay for this," I say, embarrassed, reaching for my purse.

            "Hey, another beer!" calls someone.

            "It's coming," says the man at the counter irritably. "Now… who's open for a game…"

            "Hey, girly, play me!" I look over to see where the voice is coming from. It's a bald man, with a creepy looking face, but other than that, he doesn't seem so bad. My date gulps. I wonder why.

            "Sure," I reply as I walk over smiling. (And for once it's not from embarrassment.) I take off my coat and set down my purse.

            "How many stones do you want to place?" asks Baldy.

            I sit. "An even game is fine," I say sweetly.

            "Haha! For such a cute face, you sure act tough." Baldy lights a cigarette.

            Hmph.

            But I am serious now. I know better than to underestimate him. "Onegaishimasu." I bow.

            Baldy chuckles and blows a cloud of smoke in my face, but I don't really notice as we nigiri and begin to play.

            Good… My rhythm is coming back. This is about the time I'd normally be facing the board as an insei…

            Oh, is that a mistake I see? Hm… Now how should I attack? This way gives him a chance to prolong the game… This way looks pretty hard… Oh! Now this way should be pretty fast! Fast and painless! I slap down the stone confidently. Pachi!

            Yeah! Good! This is me!

            I begin to hum inside my mind.

            "Goddamnit! Forget this game!" shouts Baldy suddenly, slamming down on the board and messing up the game. I look up, unperturbed. "I underestimated this girl… I can't beat her unless I play seriously!" He lights another cigarette. "I wasn't trying hard in that last game! Now let's play again, girly!"

            Heehee. I can beat this guy easily. I think suddenly of my date, and wonder how he's taking it. He seems pretty impressed – he's not talking at all or anything. All right! I'll show him my cool side!

            Pachi!

            Hmm… this hand should decimate his corner…

            Pachi!

            And here I should be able to launch a double attack…

            Pachi!

            Suddenly, a voice penetrates my thoughts. "Nase-chan…"

            I look up eagerly and smile. "What?" So what did you think? Huh? Was I cool, at least a little bit?

            "I'm leaving."

            I continue to stare at him blankly, grinning like an idiot.

            "Bye." He runs out, slamming the door behind him.

            Only then do his words finally register in my brain. "Eh?" Wha? Huh? Wha?

            Yes, I think the smile is now permanently plastered on my face.

            Damn… I mean, he wasn't that cute and all, and he was kinda dumb… But still…

            "Forget him, come on!"

            "Yeah, yeah! Keep playing!"

            I sigh.

            Well, at least someone appreciates me.

            The next time I am at the Institute for an insei day, Iijima-kun comes over to talk to me as I am about to leave.

            "Nase! Why did you miss last week!? You mentioned quitting as an insei, so I was worried."

            Wow, that's a new one, Iijima-kun. When have you ever not been worried?

            "I went on a date," I reply dryly. (Yeah, some date.)

            Iijima-kun looks at me, and realizes that I'm not joking. He gets all huffy for some reason. "Oh!"

            Well, gee, you were the one who wanted to know!

            I decide to explain, annoyed. "A friend set me up."

            "Pft! That must have been fun," says Iijima-kun sarcastically. (… Huh? Am I missing something here…?)

            "And after skating, we ended up going to a go salon."

            "A go salon!?" He is surprised. Hmph. Good for him.

            "After he found out I play go, he said he wanted to see me play," I explain.

            "You played?"

            "Yup. With some weird old men," I reply, rolling my eyes.

            "…… You got dumped, didn't you." For some reason, he sounds almost pleased. (Fine, be that way! It wasn't your date!)

            I sniff. "You said it."

            I turn to leave.

            "It's too hard to go out with normal kids," I tell him before stalking off. "I'm gonna stay an insei for a while."

            I really am not in a good mood now.

            But still, it's the truth. Like it or not, I'm just gonna have to deal with it.

            Well… this is my life, I guess.

            Yeah.

Tsuzuku

The scenes in this first chapter were from Nase's side story, Volume 18, except for the opening section, which is basically from a future Nase's POV. I couldn't think of anywhere better to start, and I was too lazy to slog all the way through from the beginning of her insei days. It would probably bore you guys anyway. Sorry if you've already read Volume 18 and think it's a bit repetitive though. Not to mention my pacing is horrible.

When am I ever going to update "Dancing Upon Clouds"? Err… (ehehehe?)…

I'll bet you anything though, that this fic won't be quite as popular as Dancing. *sighs* In fact, if I get any reviews at all, I will be seriously surprised. (Just because Dancing's more popular doesn't mean I'm going to update it sooner, though! Oops, did that just slip? ^_~ Updates for that one depend purely on how motivated I am. Which is not very much, currently.)

Also, does anyone know the names of the two kid inseis in the very last chapter of HnG? (I only know their names in Chinese… Bleh.)