The Future of Go
I don't remember when it started, my obsession with Go, but I do know what it developed into, how, and why. My otousan was very well off and most of the time I was left alone. My okasan could have cared less what I did. So I played by myself and somehow I began to play Go. My otousan began to pay attention to me, but only when I played Go. He even got a tutor for me and my thoughts centered around Go and everything Go.
I was always praised for my dedication to Go and it followed that it became my life, the only thing I lived for. That's how it was and I clung to that as my own future because I could not imagine what I would do if Go did not exist.
So I played Go and loved Go and eventually became a Go instructor to the emperor himself. I was happy. There were no lack of people for me to play with be they male, female, rich, or poor and everyone commented on how strong a player I was. Then he came along.
That is something I have never forgotten and never will forget. Now that I think of it I was rather naïve in that it had never occurred to me that someone would even dare to cheat and that surprise was what caused me to hesitate. It also gave him the opportunity to call me the cheater. My life ended that day in so many ways. It was probably worse than I made it out to be, but to be considered a cheater at a game I had always played fairly at, a game I lived for, was too much.
Drowning myself was not hard. I had never learned to swim because I had always been playing Go. After that I slept for a long time in a state of limbo, my soul asleep but never at rest. When I awakened I met him, Honinbo Shusaku.
I was happy with him because he enjoyed Go as much as I did. Every match we played together, with him placing the stones exactly where I told him to. The matches we played I thrived on and each new challenge I met with eagerly, learning more and more about Go as I went along. Things had changed so much since my time, but the only changes that interested me the most were the ones involving Go.
In many ways I think I loved Shusaku. Or, as much as a long dead spirit can love anyone, I suppose. I went everywhere with him, I whispered comments in his mind to the point where we were almost in constant contact. I never wanted him to die and yet I watched him slowly fade. We both knew he was dying, but he asked me toward the very end to play one more game with him.
So we played. He said I was letting him win and I told him I wasn't even if I was. I told him what a wonderful player he was, how strong he has gotten and he told me it was all my doing. I saw him grow weaker and start to slump forward. I saw the drops of blood.
"Don't leave me, please don't leave me. I don't want to be alone!" If I could have, I would have cried.
"I'm sorry Sai," he told me. There was a faint smile on his lips. Then he said, simply, "Goodbye." Shusaku collapsed on the Go board in front of us and I panicked, trying desperately to revive him, to call him back, but he was gone. When his spirit left him there was no pause, nothing keeping him back and I was left with the shell that had been Honinbo Shusaku, my first and only friend. I tried to shake him, to touch him, anything, but my hands always went right through him. I couldn't move him, I couldn't put him in a better position and I sat there, feeling so entirely empty and alone until his body was finally found.
I had to die to find a friend like Shusaku. That should have worried me, but I only felt sadness at his loss. Unable to take the pain of it, I retreated once more, my spirit resting in the Go board that Shusaku and I had played so many games on.
It was a long time before I awoke again and that was when I met Shindou Hikaru, a boy who knew nothing about Go and wasn't particularly interested in playing either. Naturally I was upset and pestered him and kept pestering him until he began to like Go as much as I did.
That's when I started to become redundant. Shusaku had never told me that I couldn't play for him, but Hikaru was not Shusaku. I began to feel like a leech or, as Hikaru had said before, a spirit merely haunting him. It had been different with Shusaku – he had always listened and acknowledged me and had always included me into his life. With Hikaru I was forced to face reality. I had haunted Shusaku's footsteps as I now haunted Hikaru's and I was nothing more than a worthless, bodiless spirit that was ruining Hikaru's life as I had likely ruined Shusaku's.
I realized that there was really no point for my existence. Hikaru didn't need me and probably never had. It was likely the same with Shusaku. They both might have been better off without me.
No sooner had the thought crossed my mind then I was drifting, just drifting. I thought I was asleep again, in fact I was sure of it, but I wasn't asleep. Because one day it happened, my environment changed and strangely enough I opened my eyes. I actually opened my eyes; I had form and feeling. I was cold and everything looked blurry, but I was not a spirit.
I was an infant.
It alarmed me at first, not being able to move properly, or see properly, but I reasoned that I also had not been in a body in far too long. It would have been even more awkward if I had suddenly been returned as an adult. Now I had a chance to relearn all of those things on my own time, as a child. I didn't even think of whom my new parents were until I was placed in a woman's arms. I don't know why, but I liked her right away. She was tired, but happy and smiling. "Shinji," she said, looking at me. "Yamamoto Shinji."
I wanted to tell her that my name was Fujiwara no Sai, but my mouth was not able to form the words and they came out as strange sounds instead. It was somewhat frustrating and yet I was happy to be in a body once more. Maybe in time I would get used to the name "Shinji."
From the first moment I opened my eyes on that day I began actively trying to improve myself as quickly as possible. I wanted to talk, I wanted to talk, all with the ultimate purpose of being able to play Go again. Without Go I wasn't whole.
"He's the best baby a woman could want! He hardly ever fusses or cries and he always seems to be perfectly content." I turned my head toward 'kasan and she smiled at me. I smiled back. "Sometimes I think he understands every word I say."
"Nonsense," the lady that 'kasan had run into at the grocery store replied. "He's barely a month old!"
'Kasan shrugged. "Isn't he also not supposed to be able to smile like that until about two months? Some of the sounds he makes almost sound like words, too – even the pediatrician commented on that! She said that he was developing very rapidly for his age."
"Oh, they say that about every baby they see so that the parents don't worry about them!"
I ignored the rest of their conversation in favor of viewing my surroundings. All the different food items fascinated me, even though Hikaru had introduced me to a lot of them. I couldn't wait until I could try some of them.
Most of my time was spent in trying to train myself to sit, stand, and walk and all the while attempting to form words. The first word I was able to say was "Go," but that was when I was alone. When 'Kasan was around I humored her by saying, "'Kasa!" Sometimes when I was feeling generous I would even say, "'To'sa!" It amused them and I needed the practice.
My motivation to walk increased after being forced to watch childish shows on TV. I remembered all too clearly that Hikaru had been able to watch shows about Go and he had certainly not watched shows with talking ducks or bears! There were buttons on the TV that I had seen Hikaru push, too, to change the – what were they called? Channels? There had been something else, too, a little box with buttons, but that had looked too complex.
It took me a while to figure out how much pressure to put on the buttons in order to make them do anything. One of the buttons said "power" and after pressing it I determined that that shut the TV off. The "sound" buttons made the sound louder or softer depending on whether you pressed the up or down arrow. The "channel" buttons changed what was on the TV and these became my favorite ones.
Initially I didn't find anything Go-related, but after flipping channels for a while I saw the flash of a Go board on the screen. I stopped immediately and sat down to watch. It was a pro match and one of the names they said meant nothing to me, though I thought I might have read it before from some of the Go articles I had read when I had been with Hikaru. The other, however, I knew very well. It was Touya Akira. I was enthralled by the game; Akira had improved greatly. I wondered what had happened between him and Hikaru since I had been reborn.
Then the channel changed back to bouncing, happy, talking creatures that they said were "bunnies" but they didn't look a thing like a real rabbit. I turned my head to see 'kasan standing there. 'Tousan had come home and had asked why I wasn't watching a kid's show. I waited until they had left and I flipped through the channels again until I found the Go match again.
"Shin? Did you change the channel?"
I didn't even turn around. My eyes were focused on the TV screen. Touya Akira was playing black and I was sure he was going to win. Then the channel changed. I made a sound of protest and glanced back at 'kasan who was holding the remote control. I dragged myself to my feet, uncaring if they knew that I was changing the channels or not and flipped through them until the TV was back to the Go match. I was only just in time to see Akira's opponent resign.
"What is it, dear?" I heard distantly.
"Shin changed the channel right back to where it had been before. It looked like that one old game – um, oh what's it called? With the white and black stones?"
"Isn't that Go?"
"Yes, that's it. But why would he want to watch that?"
"Well, it can't hurt anything."
I wanted more than ever to have my own Go board again, to hold the Go stones in my hands and hear them clack as they hit the wooden board. I couldn't exactly ask for one, though! Half of the time I could barely understand the words that were coming out of my own mouth! So I waited patiently until my opportunity came and when it did I took it.
Okasan kept saying that I could pick out a toy once she was done shopping because I had been such a "good boy". I know she tried to interest me in the toys that she bought for me, but they honestly held no attraction to me. She always wondered why the stuffed bear she gave me before putting me to bed ended up on the floor when she checked on me in the morning. If I could have, I would have told her it was because I threw it there.
That's when I saw it. It was in a section with games and I wanted it. I began to squirm immediately; 'kasan almost dropped me in her surprise. I never squirmed. Perhaps I was too good of a child. "Shinji, what is it? What's wrong?"
"Down!" I insisted. Finally, she put me down and I tottered immediately to my destination. I ignored all of the fond smiles of the adults around me. 'Kasan followed me and stared at me uncertainly as I wrapped my arms around the wooden Go board. I didn't care if the wood it was made out of was the cheapest wood in the world – it was a Go board and I needed it!
I tugged at the Go board, but it was too heavy for me to move. Damn my weak little arms! "Go!" I looked up at her pleadingly. She didn't understand.
"Come on, Shin. It won't be much longer now." I could see she was confused at my behavior. I never pleaded or demanded, I barely cried, but when she picked me up to take me away from my Go board, MY Go board, I burst into tears.
"No! Go! Go!" 'Kasan tried to quiet me and was shocked when she failed. No, damnit I am not hungry, I do not need a new diaper! I want my Go board! "Down!" She put me down again and my tears halted and once more I attached myself to the Go board.
Quietly she knelt beside me and looked at what I was clinging to. "A Go board?"
I almost saw her mind connecting things together. "This is the game you watch on TV isn't it? Shin, this game is too hard for you."
"Go!" My eyes filled with tears and I watched her melt. Yes, do you really want to make your sweet little boy cry? Get it! Get it!
"Is this want you want?"
I nodded frantically. "Go!" I released my hold on the Go board when she reached for it and I was quiet as she lifted us both up, me and my Go board. There was a distinctly confused look on her face for the rest of our shopping trip. Once we were home again I looked up at her and asked, "Go?"
She looked conflicted. She was glad that I was talking to her, but she wasn't sure she should give me the Go board. I understood as she set down my Go board and took it out for me. It wasn't the Go board she was certain about, it was the Go stones; she was afraid I would try to eat them and then choke on them. I wanted to tell her that of course I wouldn't do that, but my tongue and mouth would certainly not cooperate enough to say that.
I reached for one of the Go bowls and then for the Go stones. They were in bags and I tugged at them. Weak little arms and fingers. "Open?"
"Shin, when did you learn that word?" Okasan opened the bag of black stones before she even realized she had done it. I took them from her before she could protest. I began to place the black stones one by one into one of the Go bowls then I gave her back the empty bag and handed her the other one and asked her to open that one, too. She hesitated this time, but then opened it as well. I placed the white stones into the other Go bowl.
My stubby little fingers wouldn't hold the Go stones properly, of course, but I could still pick them up and place them on the Go board. I began doing just that, my mind running through the countless games stored deep in mymemory. 'Kasan watched me and I knew she had no idea what I was doing and that was just fine with me. I doubt she even noticed that I adjusted the stones so that they were placed perfectly on the intersections of the lines. When 'tousan came in I was still playing through a game and 'kasan was still watching me. He stopped when he saw us both on the floor; I barely spared him a glance. "What's that?"
'Kasan shook her head. "He saw the Go board at the store and he got upset when I tried to take him away from it so I got it for him. He kept saying 'Go, Go, Go' and he looked so happy when I picked it up. Then he asked me to open the packages for them and he put the the different colored stones into different bowls and just began playing. It's amazing."
"Should he be playing with those little pieces?"
She shrugged helplessly. "All he has done with them is place them on the board. He does it so carefully too!" Then suddenly she glanced at the only clock in the room. "Oh! Shin, you must be starving! Come on, I'll put these away for you and get something for you to eat."
I gave her an unhappy look, but my stomach told me I was hungry. We had both forgotten about lunch, her in watching me and I in playing with my new Go board. Then I began putting the stones carefully back into their proper bowls. I saw 'kasan's hand pause in its approach toward the Go board and she held her breath as I continued. All the black stones went into the black bowl, all of the white ones went into the white bowl and then I put the lids on them and then I tried to lift one of the bowl. I quickly put it down again before I dropped it.
I pointed to the bowls and then to the top of the Go board. "Here! Go here!"
'Kasan mutely obeyed. When both bowls had been placed on top of the Go board I adjusted them to their proper places and turned to her to wait. Both 'kasan and 'tousan were very quiet for the rest of the evening and I was content in the silence. I had a Go board again. (1)
My days from then on were spent playing Go and watching the channel that had Go matches and other Go-related shows. We celebrated my third birthday before I knew it. The only things I had asked for were Go books – I had asked for them by name. 'Kasan had picked out some other toys and such and I politely glanced over them before looking over my new books. My parents couldn't understand what about the books held my attention because there were either black and white pictures of played games or lots of words without pictures. They had no idea that I was perfectly able to read and I decided it was better not to enlighten them.
At times I wondered why I had retained all of my former knowledge, but most of the time it seemed an unimportant detail. I did. What else mattered?
I was usually very careful about concealing the extent of my knowledge, but one day I was distracted by the game of Go being shown on the TV that I was playing out on my own Go board. I watched every match of Hikaru's and Akira's that I could and played them out as well to see the possible flaws in them. 'Tousan came home near the end of the match when I was deeply involved in the match, numbers flying through my head. Flippantly 'tousan asked who was winning. He didn't understand the faintest thing about Go and had no idea how points were counted.
"Shindou Hikaru-san!" I replied. "He's ahead by 12.5. He's going to win another title."
"12.5?" I didn't hear the strange note in his voice and without thinking, still placing stones on the board as the moves on the screen were made and mentally counting points, I began to explain the concept of territories and captured stones. My eyes were glued to the screen and I smiled as Shindou's opponent rightfully resigned. "See, 'tousan?" I turned to look at him, a smile still on my face, but 'tousan was watching me and not the TV. My smile slowly faded as I suddenly realized everything I had said.
"Shin?" 'Tousan asked carefully. "Would you like to play a game of Go with someone who knows how to play?"
I couldn't take my words back now, I knew that and the idea of playing an actual game with someone else appealed too greatly for me to say no. "Yes."
Two days later 'tousan brought home a friend of his who knew a bit about Go. I wasn't certain exactly what 'tousan did, but it was something in a big building and 'kasan said he was a businessman, whatever that meant. When they entered I heard 'tousan telling his friend, "I feel a bit ridiculous asking you to play a game against my three-year old son, but I really have no idea about any of this. I just want to know if what he is saying makes any sense?"
The other man assured him that it was fine and other nonsense. I cleared the Go board and set everything up properly and waited. When 'tousan and the other man entered I greeted them politely. I could see 'tousan's look of surprise at my bow; his friend smiled. We were introduced and I promptly forgot the man's name in my excitement to play.
'Tousan and 'kasan sat down to watch while I grabbed a handful of Go stones and waited. When my opponent just looked at me I asked, "Aren't you going to choose one or two stones? I'm going to assume we are evenly matched, but if you want a handicap that's fine too."
I got a small smile and I saw his eyes move to meet my 'tousan's. He hadn't expected me to know anything about how to play shogi. He placed one stone on the board and I allowed the stones in my hand to drop to the board. "I'm black." We traded colors, said "onegai shimasu" and began to play. He was not a particularly strong player, but I hadn't expected him to be and from where I sat I was clearly playing a teaching game. Still, it was nice to be able to play with someone else for a change.
"Do you know who is winning?" I suppose the man couldn't believe that I was winning and was aware that I was winning. He was making sure it wasn't a fluke and I understood that – I was, after all, only a three-year old child in his eyes and not the reincarnation of a thousand year-old Go-instructor that had been a wandering spirit for a very long time.
"I am," I replied without hesitation, "By 4.5 points once you take into account the 5.5 moku handicap." I paused, unsatisfied with the way I held a black stone in my hand. "My fingers don't want to hold them properly, but I'm working on that." It took an effort not to add "again".
I easily won the match despite the fact that the man had begun playing seriously. I had matched him move for move, never allowing him to over take me though I still held back so that I did not completely out match him. We played to the end. He didn't want to resign to a child, perhaps, but I still won. As he was leaving – he opted not to stay for dinner though he had been invited – he was saying to 'tousan, "I thought you said you couldn't play Go!"
"I can't," 'tousan replied weakly.
"Then you are the Go player?" he asked my 'kasan.
She shook her head. "I don't know the first thing about Go."
There was a long pause. "Who taught him then?"
"No one. He watches Go matches on TV and he has a few Go books but since he can't read I don't know how much good those can actually do. Is he really that good?"
"Better," the man replied. "It took him no time at all to count up the points. If I were you I would get him a tutor in Go. That boy of yours is destined to be a pro if he's this good now."
'Kasan quickly asked, "Don't you think he's a bit young for that?"
"I would say yes, except that your son is does not act his age." After the man had left, 'tousan approached me again and asked if I would like someone to come more regularly and play Go with me. I almost said that I knew perfectly well what a tutor was, but instead I just said yes. There was nothing more that I wanted than to play Go. I knew there was still a lot I could learn and I wanted to learn all I could.
to be continued-
(1) Sai/Shin is a very advanced one-year old here.
Meep! To everyone waiting for me to update other chapter fics… don't kill me? I swear it was my bookstore's fault for having Hikaru no Go volume three! That forced me to actually read vol 2 (I read the shonen jump ones so I hadn't actually read the manga) and then I ended up reading vol three as well. Then Sai called to me and demanded I write the fic about him that I said I would. Waah! He was too cute so I couldn't deny him. I doubt I will update this fic often (taking into account the other six-ish fics I'm also working on) but I suppose if I get a lot of reviews I might update more often. :)