Disclaimer: The usual saying and what-not… who started this thingy anyway? The word 'fanfiction' is already self-explanatory, isn't it? So if we were to look at it this way, we don't really need disclaimers. No one can really sue anyone, for the word 'fanfiction' already made all claims mote, since fanfiction means fictions that are made by fans. And fans are people who are crazy about works of others…
Er… never mind. Exam stress, forgive my rambling. But I still think disclaimers are useless in 'fanfictions'.
Happiness! Rebecca-chan has been such a sweetheart to beta my new chapter for me. She also edited chapters 14 and 15! And boy, am I glad for people like her. All I have to say is this, I never thought my chapters can be that colourful! Hehe… Thanks to all those who offered to beta for me, and I hoped I offended no one… in anyway. I had not thought that I would have quite that many offers and I was astounded but happy. It shows how many people are actually reading this. Thanks again and enjoy the new chapter(s)!
…'words'… flashback conversation
Chapter 16: More Troubles Brewing
"What is going on, Yongha?"
Yongha paused in the midst of drying his hair. Turning to where the voice comes from, he found Suyon sitting on the floor. Yongha hummed and continued drying his hair.
"I don't know what you're talking about, Suyon."
Suyon's eyes narrowed, glaring as Yongha draped the towel across his neck. Yongha had been staying over with Suyon instead of going back to the Touya residence for the last few days. Needless to say, Suyon was glad for the company, he really was. He was also grateful for the fact that they didn't have to arrange for a place to meet up everyday or something, but at the same time he couldn't help but feel that Yongha was using him as a reason to run away.
"Is that so?" Suyon asked, in a tone that prompted Yongha to face him fully. "Then why would Touya claim that you're jealous of him?"
Suyon watched with vindictive pleasure as Yongha's face became ashen before returning to its neutral expression. Immediately, Suyon felt horrible for having such thoughts… but truly, Yongha had tried his patience one too many times.
"You… you heard?"
Suyon almost flinched at Yongha's quiet, defeated-like voice, belying his calm features. Hesitantly, Suyon nodded.
For a long while after that, none of them spoke. Not Suyon, who was waiting for Yongha to give him explanations, or even a single lame excuse, nor Yongha, who was waiting for Suyon's questioning, and maybe even condemnations.
Finally Suyon decided to be his normal blunt self. "What's really going on, Yongha?"
Yongha stared at Suyon for a while, countless emotions warring within his deep eyes, before turning away while replying casually, almost insultingly, "Nothing much."
Gritting his teeth, Suyon stood up in one smooth motion. "Nothing much? Nothing much! Do you really think I'm stupid, Yongha?"
"No… of course not, Suyon. You know I don't think that little of you."
"Then tell me what is going on… what the hell is the matter with you?"
"Like I said, nothing much."
Yongha's jaw clenched at the sharp curse. "Suyon…"
"I don't believe you! Ever since I stepped down from the plane, these few days spent with Shindou and the rest … please, Yongha, tell me. Let me know what is going on."
"What makes you think something is going on?"
Suyon scoffed. "I'm not blind, Yongha. You, normally a very gracious person, were actually needling your host's son and getting riled up by him at the same time. Not once, but almost every single time you two meet up, and the way you looked at each other… besides, if nothing is going on, you would have not say 'nothing much'. You'd just leave it at 'nothing'."
Yongha hummed at the explanation, smiling lightly at Suyon's observations. Sometimes, having someone who knows you inside out are truly a blessing in disguise. And at times, it was a burden.
"As expected of you, Suyon... but trust me, don't get involve in this. Let me deal with it myself."
"Why should I? Why won't you let me help? Am I not your friend?"
"This has nothing to do with friendship. It's just… there's something I want, Suyon. Something that I want so badly… God help me, but I really, really want it."
"… Yongha…" Shocked, Suyon could only stare at the anguish prominent in Yongha's features. Just as sudden, Yongha switched back to his normal haughty self.
"Ah… don't worry, Suyon. It's nothing. Just…" A sudden smirk appeared upon Yongha's face. "Just an obsession…"
Suyon suppressed the impulse to snort in disbelief. 'Nothing, huh? If it is nothing, you wouldn't have looked like the world had fallen apart or something like that.'
"What kind of obsession?"
Yongha turned his sad, smiling eyes to Suyon. "One that you don't need to know about. It's my desire, and my burden to carry. You really shouldn't get involved, my friend."
Undaunted, Suyon pressed on. "Is it about Touya?"
"Touya? You mean Akira-san?"
"Obviously. After all your animosity is clearly with him."
Yongha smiled ironically. "Ah, yes. It is, isn't it?"
"Well?" Impatience coloured Suyon's words.
Suyon sighed before repeating his words as though speaking to a small child, "Is it about Touya?"
Yongha's lips twitched at Suyon's tone, laughter threatening to break through. "Of sorts. It's more like Akira-san is a thorn at my side." This time, Yongha really grinned at Suyon's soft grumble of 'obviously' in a sardonic tone. Yongha then raised an eyebrow at the look he was getting from Suyon.
"So… since it's not really about Touya, I assumed that he has what it is that you want?"
For the second time that night, Yongha froze before weariness set in. He should have known, should have guess. Suyon, if nothing else, was very astute. He could easily piece together little bits of information to get the big picture. He really didn't want to involve Suyon in this. Walking wearily towards the window, he stared unseeingly at Tokyo's night lights.
"If I say yes, would you promise to stay out of this?"
Suyon looked at Yongha in contemplation for a while longer before sighing in defeated acceptance.
"I really don't know what is up with you, Yongha, but I can't really do anything if you refuse to even let me in, right? And I suppose you're not going to elaborate more? Well… you know where I am if you ever need me."
Yongha gave Suyon a smile, nodding his head in gratitude. Turning his back to the window again, he tilted his head slightly to gaze at the night sky. Frowning at the lack of stars obscured by the city lights, his thoughts soon returned to Hikaru and the enigma that forever surrounded him. He didn't know why or even how, but he began talking.
"Hey Suyon… did you know that Hikaru claimed Honinbou Shuusaku as his Master?"
Suyon stared at Yongha with surprised eyes, task of getting ready for bed completely forgotten. 'Hikaru? Since when has Yongha started calling Shindou by his given name?'
Disregarding the silence from the other boy, Yongha continued talking in a distant yet strangled tone.
"'Shuusaku is my Master'… that's what he said to Akira-san. He even admitted that he was angry at me during the Hokuto Cup for I had dishonoured his Master's image. 'Master'… can you believe it? And yet, I can… God Suyon, have you seen his Go lately? Read his kifu?"
By then, Yongha had turned away from the window and was now facing Suyon. Suyon sucked in his breath when he looked up at Yongha's eyes. He didn't remember seeing such painful desperation in those cocky eyes before. And yet, there were admiration and even reverence in them. Somehow, these soulful eyes made Yongha seem more human than he normally did.
'For Shindou… those emotions are for Shindou,' Suyon realized suddenly with a jolt. 'Don't tell me… what he wants… Shindou?'
Unaware of Suyon's shock, Yongha continued, his hands slowly clenching tightly the towel around his neck.
"He plays… plays so much like Shuusaku, his self-acclaimed Master. He even claimed this relationship openly, and yet no one refuted him. In fact, most of them actually acknowledge it, like it's true. Did you know that Touya Koyo-san even bought a book of all of Shuusaku's known kifu for Hikaru?
"So many people, pros even, have tried copying masters of the past, and yet they could never fully play like those legends. But Hikaru, Hikaru plays like he is the reincarnation of Shuusaku himself with all his brilliantness. Maybe not to Shuusaku's level, not yet, but he's slowly reaching there. Watching him play… placing those stones on the goban, the moves, the play, it's nothing but pure, unadulterated beauty."
Suddenly, Yongha burst into a self-mocking laughter. "Listen to me… I sound like a mad person. Delusional even. But you know, Suyon. Hikaru is even stronger now, his Go even further evolved… and he's still growing. Soon, he'll surpass most of us."
"It's so rare for me to find someone who can make me panic in a game, especially one who's younger than me. And now that I've found him, I won't… I can't turn my thoughts away from him."
"I want him, Suyon. I want Hikaru. He's going to leave me behind… heck, he'll probably leave Akira-san behind soon. Finally I have found someone whom I want to keep, someone I don't want to let go… but he's growing so fast, too fast. I'm not stupid, I know I have his attention now just because I have beaten him in Go after insulting his Master's image. But it's another story when he wins the next time we play, isn't it?"
Suyon kept silent, not knowing what to say or do with Yongha's confessions. He remembered that he had often joked that Yongha was obsessed with Hikaru, but he had never once thought it to be true.
"Yongha… is that why you never play with Shindou? All these weeks you've spend here, deliberately missing your advancement back home?"
Yongha gave Suyon a forlorn look. "I can't, Suyon. I can't accept it if I were to lose in that game to Hikaru. I will also lose his interest."
"I never thought I'd say this, but Yongha, you are an idiot!"
Shocked, Yongha stared bewilderedly at Suyon. Noticing Suyon's intense glare, Yongha almost took a step backwards.
"Can't you see? Shindou treats you as a friend. A friend, do you hear me? Even if you lose to him, you're still his friend. Regardless of what you have not accomplished here, you have managed to gain his friendship."
Suyon could only stare at Yongha, shaking his head in amazement. "You really are an idiot." After a short pause, Suyon opened his mouth again, asking hesitantly. "Yongha… when you said you want Shindou, what do you mean?"
Seeing Yongha's perplexed frown, Suyon decided to elaborate. "I mean, why do you want Shindou? It's not… it's not as simple as wanting him as a rival, isn't it?"
Suyon didn't know how long he held his breath, waiting for an answer from his lost-looking friend, wondering if he would ever get one. When Yongha finally spoke up, albeit quietly, Suyon let out the breath he was holding, in relief or not he couldn't tell.
"I-I don't know, to tell you the truth. Would you believe me if I said I had actually wanted him as a rival in the beginning? That I was willing to fight Akira-san for his place in Hikaru's life?"
Smiling suddenly, Yongha leaned against the window sill. "As I got to know him better, the more… intrigued, I suppose, I was with him. He has something in him that others don't."
"Yeah," Suyon agreed softly, reminded of the time when Hikaru had challenged him to a game of Go. "Shindou's someone special."
Yongha let out a dark chuckle. "Look at me. I was so adamant that I shouldn't involve you in my crazy affairs and then I go ahead and tell you everything. Suyon," Yongha looked up, staring helplessly at his friend, "I'm at a loss. We'll be leaving Japan soon. I don't quite remember the reason why I came to Japan in the first place anymore."
Suyon could do nothing but watch his friend lean miserably against the window. He couldn't even begin to imagine the turmoil Yongha was going through. Of course, he understood the longing for a rival, someone he could pit himself against to further improve himself. But Yongha… It seemed that Yongha wanted that, and more.
Yongha had never felt the need or a longing for a rival before, and now Hikaru was plaguing him with all these new feelings, it was no wonder that Yongha was practically breaking down. As much as he wanted to help his friend, Suyon knew that this was one battle Yongha would have to fight alone.
He wanted to help, God knows how much he wanted to help, but he understood that there were certain things that one must fight for himself. And this was one of them.
"Thank you, Yongha, for telling me. And I give you my word that I won't involve myself." Suyon smiled slightly at Yongha when he looked over.
"It's late. Things will look better in the morning… at least that's what my mum always tells me. You can inform me tomorrow if that works."
Yongha started laughing. Not the dark or hysterical laughter he had been giving the whole night, but a soft, sincere laugh. Shaking his head humorously, he walked to the makeshift bed that was his.
"All right, I'll tell you in the morning if it works. Good night and sleep well, Suyon."
"And Suyon? … Thank you."
Suyon didn't reply or react at the softly whispered gratitude, but Yongha was sure that Suyon heard it all the same.
Yes, having a friend like Suyon was truly a wonderful thing.
Hikaru smiled secretively as he walked pass another group of Go enthusiasts talking about the 'reappearance' of the legendary net Go player, Sai, while Sai himself was trailing behind Hikaru bewilderedly. After all it was only yesterday that Sai 'reappeared'.
'Hey Sai, looks like you're hot news now.'
Sai blushed. He knew he was very well known net Go player, but to think that he was this famous was quite astounding. After all, all he wanted was to play Go without causing Hikaru trouble.
"I never knew…"
'Believe it, Sai. Many people in Japan, and all over the world alike, mourned when you were... when you stopped appearing online.'
Hearing the slight pause, Sai looked over at Hikaru and saw that the young pro was looking straight ahead stubbornly. Sai sighed mentally. His leaving was still a depressing subject for Hikaru and he would go all out just to avoid mentioning it. Sai knew that deep down Hikaru was still afraid that he would just suddenly leave again, despites Sai's assurances.
"How long do you think it will take before Touya-sensei and Ogata-sensei hears about your reappearance?"
Sai's expression turned serious. "I hope soon. I really would like to play against Touya-Meijin again."
"I know… by the way, Touya-sensei is no longer the Meijin. He retired after losing to you, remember?"
"I remember. It's just… well, he's worthy of that title, even though he has retired. Besides," Sai smiled. "He'll always be Touya-Meijin, retired or not."
"Yes, if you look at it that way. It's just such a shame that he retired, though Touya is happy about it. He said that his father is much more relaxed nowadays and in turn it made his mother happy."
Before Sai could reply, he heard someone calling Hikaru. Turning around Sai saw Waya trying to reach Hikaru without running or bumping into anyone and Kariudo trailing behind.
"Hikaru, Waya-kun and Hamano-kun are here."
Hikaru turned around upon hearing Sai's statement and waved at his approaching friends, indicating that he would wait for them.
"Yo, Shindou! You're a hard person to find," Waya complained good-naturedly.
"Oh, you know, I'm always here and there. It's depends on your luck if you can find me or not," countered Hikaru with a grin, causing Waya to roll his eyes.
"Shindou-kun! Morning!" Kariudo all but yelled out of cheerfulness.
"Morning, Hamano," Hikaru replied Kariudo while Sai echoed the greetings beside him. Waya winced at the hyper Kariudo. It was hard to imagine at times that this guy was older than them by years.
"Hamano and I were stuck with tutoring. Thank God we were seated next to each other. So, where's Yongha? I would have thought he and Suyon would tag along for this event… Never mind about that. Have you heard? Sai, the legendary net Go Sai is back online!"
Hikaru hid a smile at Waya's enthusiasm. "Yongha decided to do more sight-seeing with Suyon, and we're meeting up for dinner and yes, of course I have heard about that."
"Yeah, me too… though I have never seen his games before. I heard that he's an amazing player."
"Well, of course! He did win against Touya-sensei in a serious net Go game before," Waya replied in his what-planet-are-you-from tone. "I wish I could play against him at least once," Waya then said wistfully.
Hikaru shrugged while Kariudo ignored him. Apparently the reappearance of Sai had cause Waya to have a single-track mind for now. "He's very strong, Waya."
"I know. That's why I want to play against him. Not only is he a strong player but he's a damn brilliant strategist!" Waya frowned, looking over at his friend. "But you know, your Go and Sai's Go, they're almost similar."
"What? Another Shuusaku?" Kariudo exclaimed in shock to which Waya nodded absently.
Hikaru smiled brilliantly. "Is that so? I thank you for the compliment, Waya."
"It's not a compliment!" Waya grounded out. "Geez, do you enjoy getting me all rile up or something? If I didn't know better, I would have accused you of being Sai himself!"
Hikaru smiled wryly. Waya's wild accusations were hitting a bit too close for a comfort.
"So, what else have you planned for today?" Hikaru asked, changing the topic.
"Just one more tutorial session. Since I'm a net Go fanatic, Morishita-sensei signed me up for it… without my consent, mind you. And Hamano, the lucky guy, is free… I bet you are too."
Hikaru and Kariudo laughed. "My sympathies to you. I'm glad that none of the higher pros have such authority on me."
Waya shot both his companions a sour look. "Don't rub it in, idiot. I really don't understand you. Many would have jumped at the chance of being the student of any of the higher pros, but, no, not you."
Hikaru smiled serenely at Waya. They've had this conversation one too many times for Hikaru to react to it anymore. Even Kariudo was shaking his head. They may not have known each other long, but Kariudo had been accepted into their group easily. He could easily tell you that this was one of the old arguments in the house.
"You know why, Waya."
Waya glared. "I just don't understand you."
At that response, Hikaru smiled while keeping his eyes closed slightly, hiding the emotions in. He no longer remembered when he learnt such trick, but at least his friends wouldn't question him when they couldn't see his emotions. "I don't expect you to, Waya. I already have one Master… and I… My loyalties lie there. Surely you don't expect me to betray my Master?"
Waya huffed. He understood the point of being loyal to one's Master, but Hikaru had never mentioned any other Master than Shuusaku… and Shuusaku happened to be one very, very dead guy. But before Waya could begin berating the other boy, Kariudo pointed out the sight of Ogata walking straight towards them. Waya sighed deeply in his mind.
"Shindou…" Ogata greeted once he was within hearing distance, staring intently at Hikaru before glancing over at the boy's companions, "Hamano… 3-Dan and Waya 2-Dan, correct?"
"Yes, Ogata-sensei. How are you?" Waya asked politely, bowing slightly more out of habit than showing respect, while Kariudo repeated the sentiment more sincerely.
Hikaru on the other hand, was just watching Ogata with a sharp glint in his eyes and a small smirk playing about the corner of his lips. 'Sai, I believe Ogata-sensei is here for you.'
Sai stared at Hikaru before shaking his head in bemusement. What happened to the boy who used to freak out whenever Ogata came by?
Not waiting for a reply from the beloved ghost, Hikaru smiled at Ogata and bowed gracefully. "Ogata-sensei, how nice to see you."
Ogata waved the pleasantries away, narrowing his eyes on Hikaru's distinctly amused disposition. "Shindou… I would like to talk to you for a minute."
That said Ogata turned away, fully expecting Hikaru to follow. Hikaru smiled slightly at the older man's antics before shaking his head. Kariudo was frowning, he hadn't known of the interest that Ogata held for Hikaru and was puzzled by Ogata's appearance. Waya on the other hand was scowling at the retreating back. He never did like the curt and arrogant man. Sure, Ogata-sensei is a great Go player, but his attitude was much too cold for Waya.
"Sorry, Waya, Hamano. Apparently I have to go." Hikaru shrugged. "Maybe we'll see each other later or something, if either of us is still around."
"What? But Shindou, I wanted to hang out with you." Kariudo pouted.
"Er… Well, Ogata-sensei never did say I can't bring someone along. So you coming along too, Waya?"
Waya shook his head. "I need to prepare for my net Go session soon anyway."
"Okay then, see you around. Let's go Hamano."
Waya wordlessly nodded his farewell, watching as Hikaru sprinted after the older pro with Kariudo following behind. A frown slowly made its way onto his face. Even after befriending Hikaru for over three years, he still didn't understand why the higher ranked pros, title-holders and many more were so interested in Hikaru, most especially Touya-sensei, Kuwabara-sensei, Kurata-san and not to forget, Ogata-sensei.
'None of the pros has any authority on you… and yet all of them are watching you. Why are they all so interested in you, Shindou?'
My editor asked me why was Yongha being suddenly polite and calling Akira, Akira-san. To clear this up for her as well as others who may be asking the same thing, Yongha has always been polite. Even when taunting Akira, Yongha always call him with the suffix. A barrier of sorts, I trying to give, after all Yongha only call Touya Akira by his given name so that Yongha can differentiate between him and Touya Koyo.
Yes, Hikaru is playing netGo for Sai, but I probably will not be writing any scenes on it. Note this though, Hikaru went and bought a computer and fixed up a line so that Sai can play online without them needing to go to a cyber café.
And now for some bad news… I'm starting my industrial training in a week. I'm not sure when I'll find time to write new chapters, or even go online. Final year student blues… whoever said that final years are honeymoon years seriously need to check their head or get their priorities straight; I have never been so busy! Sob Sob… I even forgot about dinner dates with my friends thanks to all those workloads. Man, I have never been chewed so thoroughly for such a long time. No promises, I sucks at them, but hopefully I'll get a new chapter done… soon.