Disclaimer: I do not own Hikaru no Go (but I do own this fan fic and a complete set of the manga in Japanese heh heh heh...). Hikaru no Go is the property of Hotta Yumi and Obata Takeshi.Spoiler Alert: This fan fic is an ambitious attempt to pick up from where Hikago abruptly ended in volume 23 of the manga. The events take place one week after the end of the Hokuto Cup.
For those who are not familiar with the Hokuto Cup, it is an international go competition (Japan-China-Korea) that took place about four months after the end of the animated series. The member selection tournament for team Japan is covered by the Hikago 2004 Special and the entire Hokuto Cup arc (including the actual games) is covered by volumes 19-23 of the manga. So, if you don't want to know about the Hokuto Cup or what happened after the member selection process, you may not want to read this fan fic because spoilers abound! In any case, I hope you will take the time to read this anyway.
Pairings: This fic is going to be non-yaoi because I am trying to stay true to the series (to the extent possible anyway). However, I am not opposed to yaoi... while making sure that no one was watching, lachesis deftly tossed her akihika/hikaaki and wayasumi/isumiya paraphernalia into her cramped little closet o.O; That being said, a few shonen-ai hints may show up every now and then. -.-; (Just as Hotta sensei intended?!)
A/N: Both Ko Yongha and Yashiro Kiyoharu made their first appearance in the series during the Hokuto Cup. Ko Yongha was team Korea's first board and Yashiro was team Japan's third board.
Important note: Baduk is the Korean name for go.
Please sit back and enjoy!
Chapter One: Ko Yongha
Ko Yongha sat slightly hunched-over on a floor cushion in his apartment, quietly contemplating an intricate game of baduk that he had recreated on the board before him. He shared his apartment with his older sister, which explained the little feminine touches such as the colorful floor cushions, the decorative flowering plants on the balcony and the pretty dishes in the cabinet. Between him and his sister, they were able to afford a relatively spacious apartment located in the upper floors of a modern luxury high-rise in one of Seoul's more sought after neighborhoods. His sister insisted on buying this apartment because the balcony had a nice unobstructed view of the city. Yongha found that the calm view of the city helped him to relax whenever he became too stressed over baduk. Therefore, he agreed to the purchase of the apartment.
It was early evening. The light from the setting sun cast a warm golden glow on Yongha's smooth skin, accentuating his high cheekbones, straight nose, and perfect lips. One of his sister's friends once laughingly told Yongha during her drunken state that his lips looked like they were meant to be kissed. Yongha excused himself rather quickly once it became clear that his sister's friend was hitting on him. He reflected afterwards that he might have stayed if that girl was more attractive looking.
A light breeze swept in soundlessly from the open balcony doors to his left, tugging gently at his auburn-colored hair that fell elegantly around his shoulders. His hazel eyes narrowed slightly in concentration as he looked intently at the shapes and connections formed by the slate and shell stones. Those very same eyes were framed by incredibly long lashes, so beautiful that it seemed wrong for a young man to possess them. The only flaw on Yongha's handsome features was a slight crease on his smooth brow.
Yongha closed his eyes and gave a tired sigh. Silently, he willed his neck and shoulder muscles that had unconsciously tensed up in the past hour to relax. He shifted his lean body into a more comfortable position to ease his legs' growing numbness. He opened his eyes and stared absently at the view of the city bathe in the soothing colors of the sunset. The sun, a vivid orange globe, hung low on the horizon. The light from the sun shone brightly against the shades of red, orange and indigo dominant in the evening sky.
Unbidden, Yongha's thoughts drifted back to the events that had happened exactly one week ago in Japan - the Hokuto Cup. He played against Shindou Hikaru over the first board at the Japan-Korea match where he won against Shindou by a slim margin of half a moku. Yongha placed his hands on the ground behind him, leaned back and stared up at the stucco ceiling. Has it already been a week? Yongha wondered. It feels like yesterday. I can still distinctly picture everything in that room, feel that unfamiliar rush of excitement and anxiety coursing through my body, and see that look of relentless intensity in your eyes. Yongha's eyes brightened at the memory. It was not just another game. I'll be damned before I'll admit it to anyone, but I'm certain that I will remember that game for years to come.
The corners of Yongha's lips turned up slightly. Because, for the first time in my life, I felt truly alive while playing baduk. No, that was not exactly true. That feeling was also there when I played, and lost, against the former Japanese Meijin, Touya Kouyo, during his brief visit with So Chang-Won sensei at the Korean Baduk Association here. Yet, there is no question in my mind that the game against Shindou was infinitely more satisfying. I won, yes, but it was much more than that, Yongha thought. Yongha sat upright on his cushion and looked thoughtfully at the game on the baduk board. I know what it is, Yongha nodded absently. For the first time in my life, I encountered a player around my age that possessed gaming skills approaching my own.
Yongha paused at a thought that he had been pushing around at the back of his mind for the last several days. After so many years, has a rival finally appeared?
In Korea, Yongha was considered a baduk prodigy. There was no one among his peers who possessed the same mastery or the natural flair for the subtle game of baduk. Yongha looked disinterestedly at the numerous plaques and trophies that lined the top of a cabinet on the opposite wall. Plaques and trophies are nice, but they are meaningless if they were too easily won, Yongha thought dispassionately.
Yongha constantly pushed himself forward, straining eagerly to reach the next higher level, because he knew that was the only way to gain recognition. Put simply, recognition meant access to stronger players. His peers were simply no match for him. He craved a good game like an addict craved his drugs. He actively participated in Korea's title tournaments where he advanced as far as the challenger round for Kuksu (National Champion), one of Korea's top baduk titles. He began to play frequently in the international competitions, hoping that he would soon have a chance to play against top pros like Touya Kouyo. The former Meijin's sudden retirement was like a stinging slap in the face.
I used to think that the level of game play among the younger generation was weak and pathetic when compared to the strength and elegance of the older generation, Yongha thought. However, after the Hokuto Cup, I think I will have to revise my opinion. A gleam of anticipation shone in Yongha's eyes.
Yongha turned his attention once again to the game on the baduk board. Through a strange twist of fate, I ended up playing against Shindou instead of Touya Akira in the Hokuto Cup. Maybe it wasn't so strange after all, he mused, and maybe, I subconsciously wanted it that way. He thought back of the very first time that he met Shindou.
Suyon and I had arrived early at the hotel where the competition was held. While we were waiting to be called, we stood idly near the entrance of the hotel lobby chit-chatting about Suyon's uncle who owned a go salon in Japan. I immediately noticed when Suyon suddenly fell silent and wore a startled look on his face. I followed Suyon's line of vision, and noticed with some surprise that a boy with bleached blond bangs was glaring straight at me. I was not scared or angry, but was rather amused that a total stranger in Japan was giving me such a look of intense animosity. I shrugged it off. It was certainly not the first time that this happened. Many baduk players in Korea considered me a rival and would often glare at me that way, but I never cared because they were not worthy of my time. Based on my reading of Suyon's body language, this apparently was the boy who Suyon considered to be his rival. I had no business to be present in this "touching" reunion, so I left.
Later that day, Suyon confronted me to ask whether I had ever insulted Shuusaku in front of a certain Japanese reporter, Yongha thought with a grin as he recalled the scene in his hotel room. It turned out to be all a misunderstanding due to the language barrier. I could have let Suyon resolve the issue with Shindou, but instead I held him back. There was something about the glare in Shindou's gray-green eyes that intrigued me. It held a promise of fierce challenge. I thought that it would be such a shame to nip a good fight at the bud, so I added fuel to the fire by publicly insulting Shuusaku to get Shindou's ire up even higher. It worked like a charm, Yongha's grin became broader. The expression on Shindou's face was absolutely priceless. If insulting the legendary go player Shuusaku, risking the displeasure of my Japanese host and risking the embarrassment of my team were necessary get me some recognition and a few extra jabs at Shindou - so be it. I knew that I would play against Shindou eventually, but I had not expected to see him appear before me as the first board in the Japan-Korea match. Then again, it wasn't totally unexpected either, Yongha thought with a suppressed chuckle.
The match with Shindou was everything I had hoped for and then some, Yongha thought with a small smile of satisfaction. The battle that took place on the board was bloody, more so than I would have ever imagined. Shindou was sly. He would attack my groups at the most unexpected places and play at some odd places, but over the course of the battle, I realized all of those moves were well-executed designs in his campaign to destroy my army. Nevertheless, I prevailed because I was able to read the game farther ahead than he, Yongha thought haughtily. It was glorious how Shindou responded to my attacks and how I in turn responded to his. Back and forth, back and forth we went. Each move becoming more daring and more critical to the outcome. I felt my palms sweat as I tapped on all of my reserves, calculating each move carefully for I knew any misstep could cost me the game, and I was certainly not planning to lose.
I won by half a moku. The euphoria that I felt in finally playing against a worthy player was indescribably intoxicating. The match ended too soon. I wanted more. Would I feel the same sense of euphoria if my opponent was Touya Akira instead of Shindou Hikaru? Perhaps. However, I would not know until I played him. Someday, I intend to do that. Hopefully, that someday will be soon.
Yongha looked toward the balcony and watched as the light steadily faded against the darkness. He watched until the light finally succumbed and the darkness emerged as the victor. That is, Yongha thought with a wry smile, until the light returned the next morning in full force to dominate and wash away any vestiges of darkness. Perhaps, that was the true meaning of eternal rivals.
Yongha's revelry was interrupted by the sound of the door bell to his apartment. With a small grunt of effort, Yongha stood and stretched his tall frame. His height gave many people the impression that he was much older when in fact he was only sixteen years old. He was dressed casually in a pair of loose fitting slacks and a comfortable looking shirt that left the top two buttons undone. His legs felt stiff after spending the last hour sitting more or less motionlessly in front of the baduk board. As Yongha took a step toward the door, his eyes, of its own accord, wandered back to the baduk board to take in a bird's eye view of the game.
Ding Dong! Ding Dong!
The door bell rang again, more insistently this time. Yongha tore his gaze away from the board, thoroughly disgusted with himself at how obsessive he was starting to get over that game. Yongha went to answer the door.
A teenage boy wearing a baseball cap, a sports jacket, a black shoulder bag and two white plastic bags in his hands was standing impatiently at the door. The boy had to look up to scowl at Yongha since the top of his head barely reached Yongha's shoulders.
"Yo! Suyon!" Yongha said and raised his hand in a quick wave in greeting.
"Yongha, what took you so long to answer the door?" Suyon demanded.
"I was finishing up with what I was doing," Yongha said.
"Well, I've been standing here for five minutes carrying all this stuff. Can you at least answer the door first?" Suyon complained loudly.
"Stop exaggerating. Just chill," Yongha said smoothly as he helped Suyon carry the two plastic bags into his apartment. Suyon closed the door a bit harder than necessary. Yongha cocked an eyebrow at Suyon. I should probably bring it up with Suyon again that he needs to work on his patience, this streak of rashness is bad for baduk, Yongha thought as he made a mental note to have that talk with Suyon. However, Yongha added to himself, not tonight. Yongha placed the plastic bags on the dining room table. Based on the aroma emanating from the bag, it was clearly their dinner for tonight. The smell made Yongha realize that he was in fact very hungry since he had not eaten since brunch. He was studying kifus from the recent Korean title matches early this afternoon. After that, he recreated his game with Shindou and then uncharacteristically - he lost track of time.
"Oi, Suyon. Aren't you a little late today?" Yongha asked in a conversational tone as he emptied the food onto the pretty dishes from the cabinet.
"I would be in here earlier if you answered the door," Suyon remarked sarcastically as he took off his baseball cap, jacket, and bag and placed them in a neat pile next to the baduk board in the living room. Suyon looked at the game on the board with interest.
"Very funny," Yongha said dryly.
"I always get here around seven. It's not like it's a surprised visit or anything," Suyon answered. For over a year now, ever since Suyon's return from his first trip to Japan, they had been meeting once a week every Saturday evening to analyze noteworthy games, to discuss the results of the games that each played during the past week, and to gossip about the latest baduk news occurring both in Korea and overseas.
"Gotcha. I'll go get the tea ready and the dinner set up," Yongha answered with a small shrug and set the kettle to boil.
"Oh yeah. I got you the Shuusaku books that you wanted from the library and more kifus from Chang-Won sensei," Suyon said, sounding somewhat distracted.
Like Yongha, Suyon was a professional baduk player in Korea. Suyon represented team Korea as the third board at the Hokuto Cup last week. While the organizers and the players at the Hokuto Cup undoubtedly saw Yongha as an arrogant "bad boy" who had no respect for decorum or authority, Yongha generally behaved and was quite well-liked in his home country. His easy grace, his charismatic personality, his undisputed talent in baduk and his twisted sense of humor all served to garner continuous support from his peers and fans alike.
Yongha had a habit of checking on his peers and the younger crop of players to see whether any one of them possessed the skill or the potential to excel that would make them worthy of his time. The spirited Hon Suyon quickly caught his attention.
Since the beginning, it was obvious that Suyon had a special affinity for the ancient board game. Unfortunately, it was equally obvious, at least to Yongha, that Suyon lacked the mental toughness that was expected of a successful professional baduk player. However, after Suyon's return from his visit with his uncle living in Japan, Yongha saw the change in Suyon's attitude toward baduk. Suyon's eyes burned with determination to win and his competitive spirit reached a fevered pitch, often to the point of intimidating his opponents. That was the time when Yongha decided to take Suyon under his wing and they began to meet every Saturday. Over time, they developed a relaxed relationship where they more or less treated each other like brothers. There was still a fair discrepancy between their skill levels, but Yongha knew that the gap was narrowing every day. Yongha did not mind, because it gave him the push that he needed to keep moving forward with his pursuit to master baduk.
Yongha craned his neck out of the kitchen to see why Suyon seemed so quiet. Suyon was sitting in front of the baduk board with a look of rapt fascination on his face.
"Oh. No wonder he sounded distracted earlier," Yongha thought, a faint knowing smile on his perfect lips.
Shindou. Everyone seems to be so fascinated by you, Yongha thought as he took out two metal spoons and two pairs of chopsticks from the kitchen drawers. What is it about you and your unnatural obsession with Shuusaku that you would do anything to play against me to avenge a perceived insult against a man that was dead over a hundred forty years ago? Yongha thought with a frown as he reached up to pull out two bamboo placemats from an upper shelf. Not that I really mind, Yongha reflected thoughtfully. I'm sure that you would not have played the way you did but for your obsession with Shuusaku. In any case, absent your obsession, my opponent would have been Touya instead. Yongha shrugged indifferently as he quickly prepared two table settings directly across from each other on the small square dining table. I am a realist. I'm not interested in what could have happened; I'm only interested in what actually happened.
The kettle gave a shrill whistle. In quick practiced motions, Yongha prepared the tea and went to check on Suyon.
Suyon glanced up upon hearing Yongha's muted footsteps on the hardwood floor. "I thought you would be studying the games that Chang-won sensei gave you the other day instead of this one," Suyon said with a serious look on his face as he pointed to the baduk board. It did not escape Suyon's notice that Yongha was showing a more than passing interest in Shindou.
Yongha leaned casually against a sturdy wooden bookshelf filled with books related to baduk in the living room. With an amused smile Yongha said, "How long are you planning to sit there? Let's eat. The food is getting cold." Yongha went to take his place at the dining room table without waiting for Suyon's response. Suyon was about to say something, but he decided to let the matter drop for now.
Over dinner, Yongha and Suyon reviewed and discussed Touya Kouyo's games from the Chinese League. A brief article summarizing the recent activities of the former Meijin and his latest kifus were published in this week's issue of Korea's professional baduk newspaper.
"I thought that when Touya sensei suddenly retired, he would be pretty much out of the spotlight. Who would have thought that he is now the hottest item on the international circuit?" Suyon said with open respect and admiration in between bites of his dinner.
"A truly dedicated player like Touya sensei will play baduk until the day he died. The term 'retirement' is just a polite way for Touya sensei to tell the world that he has chosen a different path to pursue the hand of god," Yongha answered calmly.
Suyon looked at Yongha's with a startled look, thought for a moment and finally said, "Hm... I never thought about it that way, but I guess that sounds right." Trust Yongha to come up with a deep answer, Suyon thought as he stole a look at his companion's placid expression.
"Oh yeah, I almost forgot," Suyon sat up suddenly and smacked a hand to his forehead. He walked quickly to the living room and returned seconds later with a sheet of paper in his hand.
"Chang-Won sensei faxed this to me last night since he knew that I was going to meet with you today." Yongha took the proffered paper from Suyon with a puzzled look. Suyon resumed his seat from across Yongha with an expectant look on his face.
Yongha's eyes widen upon scanning the contents of the paper. A hint of a smile began to curl at the corner of his lips which quickly widen to an uncontrollable grin. His eyes sparkled and took on a wild and excited gleam. There is a god, Yongha thought feverishly. I will get a rematch against Shindou in four months!
"You know, Yongha, you really should consider investing in a fax machine," said Suyon with a smug smile, unable to resist a stab at Yongha.
Yongha did not hear him. His thoughts were already on the types of strategies that he will use against Shindou at their next meeting.
A/N: I noticed that there are barely any Hikago fanfics with Ko Yongha in it. I hope it's only because people don't really know about him (since he didn't appear in any of the animated series) rather than not liking him. -.-; The next chapter will take place in Japan and will be starred by Hikaru.
If you like what you see, please let me know. If I know that people are actually interested in reading this, it gives me more incentive to continue this project. Comments welcome.
Oh yeah, this is my first attempt at writing a fan fic...