I'm glad everyone likes 'kasan so much. LOL Or, should I say that I'm glad everyone likes Sai/Shin so much that they hate his okasan.

Also, it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn't explained something properly. No one caught it, but I guess that's okay. Hara-san, (male) retired pro Go player is related to Hara-san (female) the publicist which is how Sai/Shin's parents got information on getting him a publicist in the first place – yay for connections. Hara-san (female) is the man's niece… and no I've never given either of them given names. Maybe someday.

The Future of Go: Chapter Nine

by Ami-chan

I recognized that I was in a hospital room immediately and for a moment I couldn't remember why until I heard Hara-san's voice beside me, whispering in concern. "Shinji?" Her hand was curled around mine and I stared at her until her face came into focus.

"What happened?" The last thing I recalled was being at the Go Institute having just finished a match. I was about to leave and then everything got hazy from there.

"You collapsed." The relief in her eyes was more than obvious and Hara-san brushed the hair from my eyes, offering me a strained smile in an attempt to lighten the mood. "The press is going to have a field day with this. They said it was from exhaustion."

I nodded in absent agreement, glad she had phrased it that way instead of saying that I had fainted or passed out. Saying 'collapsed' sounded like I had just stumbled or fallen over for a bit rather than crashing onto the floor and not remembering being transported to the hospital. My head didn't hurt so I figured that I had managed not to fall onto the Go board. Having a concussion would have just made things all that much worse.

"Shinji! Shinji!" 'Kasan was suddenly shoving her way into the room and I caught a glimpse of the hallway beyond and the flash of cameras on the other side of the door. Yes, Hara-san was right; this was going to be a big story. That was wonderful. "Are you all right?"

It was probably cruel of me to actually be shocked that she was worried. I almost laughed and I probably would have if I had had the presence of mind to do so. She was holding Kisho in her arms and he was struggling in annoyance because he liked to try to walk on his own now. As soon as he saw me Kisho's struggles increased and he began chanting my name and trying to reach for me until finally 'kasan was forced to set him down beside me. I attempted to sit up, but Hara-san precluded that by adjusting the bed until I was in propped upright enough to reach Kisho. "How are you doing Sho?"

The look on his eyes was what I could only describe as devastated, yet he was smiling and happy to see me. I doubted 'kasan's erratic mood had helped to reassure him that everything was fine and she did look concerned.

"My poor baby," 'Kasan murmured and for a moment I thought she was talking about Kisho until she began placing kisses across my face and holding me as much as she could manage because of the bars of the bed and the wires around me. "I came as soon as I heard, but they said you're okay, that it's going to be fine." Her eyes darted toward Hara-san as if seeking confirmation of that before 'kasan's gaze focused back onto me.

Kisho was tugging at my hand and my gaze turned to him as my sluggish mind tried to comprehend what was going on. So, fainting was good because now she was concerned about me? I didn't have long to think about before the door was thrown open once more, once more there was the clicking of cameras and the voices of reporters who were trying to be quiet and the hospital security that was obviously trying to get the media to leave. This time it was 'tousan that entered, his pace quick though he was apparently attempting not to look too hurried or to run.

He breathed a sigh as he reached the opposite side of the bed from 'kasan, mindful of the machines I was hooked up to, one of which was apparently pumping some clear liquid into me. "Shin." His hands took possession of my hand and arm while I mustered up the energy to smile up at him as assuredly as I could manage. "I've talked with the doctor and he suggested that you've been involved in too many things and that you should cut back on your activities so that you can have more free time." Here 'tousan glanced at 'kasan and though no words were exchanged the meaning was clear.

'Kasan nodded, but I knew she had missed his point when she uttered the words: "It's obvious you should quit playing Go."

I didn't recall doing it, but I must have screamed because 'tousan, 'kasan, Hara-san, and Kisho all jumped and the machine beside me began beeping like crazy. A nurse rushed in a moment later to check on me and paused at the look on my face. My vital signs were much improved and the machine was disconnected so that I could have my fit and not set off any alarms. Only, my "fit" was over, having lasting only a second or two and afterwards I was just… tired.

I had almost no reaction when 'kasan offered tentatively, "It would be less stressful for you if you weren't playing Go anymore."

"You'd have to kill me to keep me from playing," I returned, entirely serious, but too worn out to do more than blink.

'Tousan, who had never let go of me, asked, "What would you like to do, Shin?"

That was my glimmer of hope and I stared up at him as I considered all the possibilities. I couldn't drop out of regular school, I knew that, but, "Cram school? I don't want to go." It was fun, yes, but homework from two schools was far too much, especially since I seriously doubted I would go beyond high school – or maybe I'd skip high school, too. I still had years before I had to make that decision. I almost suggested dropping drama club and yet I'd found myself enjoying it to some degree and as fun as Go was for me, I got more human interaction through the club activities. If it got to be too much I could always tell 'tousan I wanted to quit.

"All right, Shin, no more cram school." Though I believed 'tousan and knew then and there that I would never have to go to another cram school again, I also saw the expression on 'kasan's face. She was worried about me, yes, but she didn't want me to stop any of her activities for me, she wanted to stop the only thing I had ever done just to do. If I thought screaming at her would help I might have, but even if I thought that would work, I didn't feel up to doing much of anything.

I almost didn't say anything, but figuring that this was my best opportunity to finally get a bit of leniency – and since I wasn't planning on being admitted to the hospital again any time soon – I pressed my luck just a bit. "And my grades?"

'Tousan caught my drift immediately. "Just do your best, Shin. That's all we've ever wanted." My eyes narrowed just a bit, my eyes darted toward 'kasan and back to him. He winced, lowered his voice and added, "That's all I've ever wanted."

There was a heavy feeling that fell around us, pure likeenergy crackling through the air and the only thing I could do was close my eyes and wait out the storm. "What? Are you trying to blame this," 'kasan demanded with a vague gesture in my direction, "on me?"

"Maybe if you hadn't put so much pressure on him – "

"So, what? I'm a horrible parent, is that it? Because I want what's best for my son?"

And oooh that had been brewing for a while hadn't it? I tugged Kisho toward me and sneaked a glance at Hara-san whose eyes had gone surprisingly wide. Obviously she didn't want to be here for this but she also wasn't about to abandon me, either. I appreciated Hara-san's loyalty.

"Shin is our son and I want what's best for him, too. It obviously wasn't working otherwise it never would have come to this."

"And that's my fault?"

Hara-san coughed loudly, interrupting them. They both fell silent but it was clear that 'kasan, at least, was not ready to drop the issue by a long shot. With Hara-san right there she merely glared and bit her tongue, waiting in silence as a nurse came to check on me again and then as the doctor came to declare that I was able to go home. I was mentally trying to calculate when it would be appropriate for me to get my own place and just as quickly gave up. All I knew for certain was that it wasn't yet and it wasn't worth the time to speculate.

The next few weeks I suffered through the media's attention and the attention of, well, everyone. My friends and senseis were concerned. Many of my other classmates were merely curious while others purposely went out of their way to taunt me, suggesting that I was weak and "girly". Souko blackened several eyes in that time and it seemed to me if she were the standard of "girly" that it wasn't a bad thing at all. Unless you were thinking about it in the overly violent protective sort of sense and that that was a bit bad, but she did mean well.

At the very least the articles published about me were interesting and the speculation really wasn't that far from the truth. For the most part, anyway. They suggested that I was/had been working too hard, while on the other hand they suggested that a child was incapable of maintaining the required schedule, concentration, and skill in order to be a professional Go player. I disagreed with that part. With my slightly relaxed schedule I was able to resume my typical playing level, which meant that I had to tame down my games to keep myself from completely overwhelming my opponents.

"I can't believe this!" Souko-chan slammed a magazine onto my desk, glaring at it like it was the most hateful thing in existence. "Look!"

I scanned the title of the article, "Predicting the Fall of Yamamoto Shinji's Game". I glanced up at her again, wondering at her anger and at the fact that she seemed to read more articles on me than my parents or I did. "What's wrong with it?"

"They want you to lose!"

Oh. I smiled up at her in amusement. "Of course they do. That would make a great story, wouldn't it?"

Her anger faded into a confused frown. "You're not worried about it?"

"There's always a winner and a loser. The odds are that I will eventually lose." Provided the player was skilled enough to defeat me. I knew my eyes were gleaming when I looked at her. "I wouldn't mind meeting someone who could challenge me even if it meant losing." Even now I was still seeking desperately for the divine move.

"Isn't the point to want to win?" Souko asked, curious now.

"That's part of it, but not the whole point. The point is to challenge yourself, to do your best and to get better. In every loss there's a lesson learned."

"But Shin, you've never lost."

I left it at that. I had lost numerous times when I first started and I still remembered it and my determination to become better, each loss compelling me to learn more, to think more. It had been challenging, interesting and I had never been alone. The realization struck me then that I wanted to lose. I wanted to find someone who was better than I was just so I could feel that sensation again, but I certainly wasn't going to lose on purpose.

I continued to apply myself to Go while also concentrating on my friends, the drama club, Kisho, and school work. The only subject I had difficulty in was English; even so 'kasan had no room to complain, I made certain of that.

Before I knew it Kisho was starting preschool. Kisho wanted to go everywhere I went, do everything I did, but he quickly grew frustrated with the concept of Go even though he desperately wanted to learn how to play. Or, he thought he wanted to know how to play. Usually I'd end up taking him to the park and pushing him on the swings or we'd bring a soft ball or soccer ball to amuse ourselves with. Kisho liked soccer best, since that only involved kicking the ball and not trying to hit the ball with a bat.

Every now and again the drama club would insist that I actually played a part – they suggested that I was too pretty to keep off the stage even though I told them I preferred to be in the background. By pretty they meant that I was good for girl roles and once or twice I actually got to be a male character. My latest role had me as a fair maiden who had almost no lines, which I liked, but also had me being kissed by a heroic knight played by another boy. Not that he actually kissed me. He got close enough to make it look like a kiss and that was it. The girls complained about the oversight but I didn't.

The day I was waiting for, Souko-chan's birthday, was fast approaching. Every year she had some sort of party at her house and I had yet to miss one. I knew she'd like the present I'd gotten her because it was a gold charm bracelet I knew she'd been eying for some time. It had lots of little animals on it like a horse, a bear, a rabbit, an elephant and a few others. I'd wrapped it myself in silver wrapping paper and tied with a red ribbon and even if it was a bit messily done I didn't think Souko would mind.

Everything was perfect until 'kasan told me, "Shinji, you have to pick up Kisho on Thursday and then come straight home. I'll be out…"

I didn't hear anymore of what she had to say and by the time I managed to she'd finished speaking and was waiting for my response. "'Kasan, you said I could go to Souko-chan's party on Thursday."

"You can't go now you have to watch your brother." She made it sound as if it were the easiest thing in the world to do.

"I can take him with me!" I knew I sounded slightly desperate but it was only because I was.

"No. You're to come straight home."

There was no reasonable argument I could have made and I knew that. She'd made up her mind and there would be no persuading her, but that didn't make it any less difficult to swallow. I turned away to retreat somewhere – to my room, to play Go most likely, to distract myself even momentarily – except that when I turned I nearly trampled Kisho who had been standing almost directly behind me. Kisho did not look happy but he wasn't looking at me at all. He was looking at 'kasan. Or, rather, 'kasan's back because she hadn't bothered to face me to speak to me.

"Okasan!" His scream made 'kasan jump and spin around to face him in surprise.

"Kisho?"

The angry expression on his face did not alter and if anything it got only worse. "Why do you hate him so much? Why?"

Now she just looked terribly confused. "What do you mean? Hate who?"

"Shin! Why do you hate Shin? What did he ever do to you?" Kisho was so angry he was shaking, his fists clenched tightly and the beginnings of tears stinging his eyes. I wanted to move to comfort him and yet I was far too stunned to do anything as if I were an impartial observer.

"I don't hate Shinji." She looked surprised and her eyes darted toward me; my eyes were focused on Kisho.

"Then why won't you let him go!"

'Kasan was shaking her head. "I said he couldn't, Kisho, so he can't."

The next words out of Kisho's mouth were garbled by tears, but not so much so that we didn't get the basic gist of it – something about hating 'kasan for being so mean to me – and then he was stomping off presumably to his own room. 'Kasan stared after him for a while then looked down at me. I didn't look back. When I got my mind working again I followed after Kisho. I tried to calm him down and assure him that it was all right but I didn't do a very passable job at it because we both knew I wasn't "all right" with it and I couldn't change that.

Souko was upset when I told her I couldn't go to her party and tried to talk me into going anyway, that it would be okay if I brought Kisho, too. As much as I didn't want to disappoint her I told her that I couldn't and I meant it. She understood even if she wasn't happy about it.

On Thursday I brought her present with me and she opened it up at lunchtime; she was as ecstatic about it as I thought she'd be. Then her smile faded as she remembered why I had given it to her earlier instead of at her party. "Are you sure you won't come?"

"You know I want to."

She could only nod at that.

After school let out I went to Kisho's preschool and began to head back home. Only Kisho firmly planted his feet and refused to move. "Sho, we have to go home now."

"No!" He attached himself to my arm and I sighed in frustration. "We're going to Souko's party!"

"You know we can't do that, Sho."

Kisho shook his head stubbornly. "We're going!" He was incredibly stubborn and we both knew it. After a few more moments of resisting I finally agreed as he knew I would. It wasn't as if I didn't want to go. Once I'd given in he instantly became more agreeable and he chattered the entire way there – they'd painted that day and had gotten everything, according to him, covered in paint, but then they had to clean it all up. Not quite all, I noticed; he still had traces of red and blue paint underneath his fingernails, but that was a small detail. At least he hadn't gotten any in his hair.

When Souko opened the door she was delighted and asked what had happened to change my mind. I pointed to Kisho and she laughed and ushered us inside. Souko's otousan was there, as always. I wasn't entirely sure what had happened to Souko's okasan but I assumed she'd either left them or died and I didn't want to ask either way. At any rate she wasn't around. I liked her 'tousan, though, and he seemed to like me well enough, too. I settled in to enjoy the party with Mai, Kita, and Suka who we still kept in touch with, along with several others. There were cupcakes and party favors and music and games and it wasn't until it was all over that I remembered to dread the return home.

-to be continued-