Title: DIFFERENT ROADS, SAME DESTINATION
Author: Lady Addiction
Fandom: Hikaru no Go
Warnings: GEN, AU, angst, people with disabilities
Dedication: In thanks to the Lord for his many mercies in my own life.
My apologies for taking so long. As my real life has started picking up, my fandom existence has been receding. I apologize especially for my faithful reviewers for not replying. I hope that this new chapter will be of consolation. Your feedback has been extremely encouraging and fun for me to read, and I thank you!
Kuwabara Shinnosuke sighed as he wandered around the Go convention. It seemed for the quadruple-title-holder that his life was all about conventions, interviews, and matches, and the people he met were all the same. It was boring.
The Akenoyama Annual Go Festival was one of the smallest Kuwabara had ever been to, and mainly made up of middle-aged or elderly men who were eager to meet the Honinbou and watch his demonstration. It was held at the district's main banquet hall, which had been decorated with colorful banners, sales and exhibition booths, and tables for people to play shidougo with the professional players that were hired to manage the event.
Kuwabara had every right to decline the invitation but since his wife was right now adamantly reorganizing their house for an upcoming family reunion, the elderly man had decided to make a surprise visit.
He never got tired of the gratifying double takes as people recognized him or of how the event organizers were immediately panicked when he showed up at the door. He finally had to assure them that there was no need to change the schedule, as he wanted to simply look around. Kuwabara had hidden a feral smile, as the faces of some of the organizers grew paler. He couldn't help but notice how one or two vendors had quickly fussed with their merchandise, somehow miraculously transforming signs or prices.
It was such a pity what the Nihon Ki-in has been reduced to, he thought to himself, eyeballing one of the suspicious merchandise. It looked to be one of those kaya-imitation gobans. The chubby salesman smiled and wiped his forehead madly, greeting the Honinbou politely. Kuwabara spent a pleasant half-hour terrorizing the salesman to the point where he would think it was a good idea to close shop immediately, before moving on with a smug smile.
Suddenly, he came upon a long table with several laptop computers running. The booth assistant, a young, pleasant-faced man that Kuwabara knew vaguely, was helping a child at one of the computers. Kuwabara drew closer and saw that they were playing Net-Go.
At seventy-five-years-old, Kuwabara was the oldest active pro in Japan. He had strived to build a reputation as being tricky and unpredictable, so naturally when he started hearing about Net-Go, he made an effort to learn how to play in order to shock his students and colleagues. It was not his preferred method of play since he lacked substantial challengers, except for one player who was rapidly gaining notoriety.
The booth assistant stood up, telling the boy that he can now start playing, before looking at where Kuwabara was standing. The assistant's mouth dropped open, but the elderly pro brought a finger to his lips. The young man nodded nervously and moved aside.
Kuwabara watched the boy play, at first idly, then with a sharp intensity. He soon realized the child playing was no ordinary player. Instead, he defeated his first opponent within ten minutes, an opponent ranked at 10k. His second opponent was a 3k and was also quickly dispatched.
It wasn't until the boy's opponent was a 4d that the game started to stretch for longer. Kuwabara followed the play, amazed and thoughtful at the clever and unpredictable plays the boy made. He had easily recognized a very strong influence of Shusaku evident in the boy's games; actually, the boy played like a true student of that legendary Honinbou if not for his modern jouseki and tesuji.
When the boy won the game by another resignation, this time at yosei, Kuwabara stepped forward and tapped him on the shoulder. The child yelped and swiveled his chair around. The elderly man narrowed his eyes at the unconventional hair and the clear green eyes of the undoubtedly Japanese boy. "You, boy, what's your name?" Kuwabara asked abruptly.
"Shindou Hikaru," the boy replied with an annoyed expression. "You shouldn't startle people like that, Jii-san. I could have had a heart attack."
Kuwabara let out a crowing laughter. "Little boy, I'm more likely to have a heart attack than you. So, Shindou Hikaru, are you an insei?"
The boy shook his head, causing Kuwabara to mentally rub his hands in glee. Ideas were bubbling inside of him; he always loved upsetting the system. "Why not? You seem to be a good player," he said casually. "Even an old man like me can see that."
"I was thinking about it but I missed the insei exams and I was told the next one would be in another few months." The boy's expression showed clear annoyance at this.
"Oh? Are you wanting to become a professional player?" Such strength would be wasted if you were not, Kuwabara added mentally.
"Yeah. I was actually thinking of signing up for the pro exams but the person at Nihon Ki-in told me I should go to Insei classes first," Shindou said, turning back to the computer. "I'm not going to bother. It's stupid. I'd rather take the pro exams right away, except I missed the application deadline." His hand movements were jerky as he communicated his anger through the mouse.
"Hmmm, and why do you want to become a pro so early?" Kuwabara asked, quite curious about this unusual boy. He had met a number of Go hopefuls but none who intrigued him so much as this young boy. There was a strange intensity in the air around Shindou Hikaru, which made Kuwabara feel more wary.
"I want to earn money," the boy replied frankly. "I don't want to wait until after high school or university before I can get a job. I want one now."
Kuwabara frowned at this thoughtfully. In his experience, a child of ten, maybe eleven, was more interested in friends, playing games, and popular culture than in finding jobs. Yet, this sapling was clearly serious and sincere about his desire. He decided to prod at why.
"That's none of your business, Jii-san," came the snapped reply. "Look, can you go away? I want to play another game."
"Why not play at a salon? Surely they have stronger players there than over the Internet."
"You're so nosy, Jii-san! Salons cost money, that's why!" He agreed to another challenger, this one another 4d.
Kuwabara watched in silence as the boy played, admiring the obvious skill and good judgment displayed. The boy must be dedicated, he concluded, for his game shows the experience of hundreds of matches. Definitely pro material. He pondered the enigma before him.
"Boy," he said when the game concluded and Shindou had won with 4-moku, "I am actually a fairly-good player myself and I'm always looking for somebody to play with. Do you have time over the weekend to play me here?" The booth assistant choked at this.
Shindou turned back to face him, eyes narrowed in a suspicious gaze. "You're not one of those disgusting old men, are you?!" he asked bluntly. "I'll scream really loud if you try anything!"
Kuwabara crowed with laughter, ignoring the indignant gasp of shock by the assistant. Actually, the assistant had been getting redder and redder as he and the boy talked but he signaled the other man to leave them alone. "You have my word that I will not harm you, young Shindou," he replied, still chuckling. "How about this then? I will pay 1500 yen for three hours of your time a week and I promise it will all be about Go. You are looking for a job, right?"
The boy's face became thoughtful. "It's only for Go, right? What's the catch?"
"Oh, that you will do whatever I say for those three hours," Kuwabara smiled cannily at him, "or are you too scared of a little old man like me?"
"I don't know," Shindou scowled and crossed his arms, "that still sounds very suspicious to me. Are you sure you're not one of those---"
At this, the booth assistant seemed unable to withstand the boy's continuing disrespect towards one of the icons of the Go world. He cleared his throat and stepped forward, looking disapprovingly at Shindou. "If you will pardon me," he interrupted, "I will vouch for Kuwabara-san, Shindou-kun. You have my word that Kuwabara-san has no such intentions upon you."
The boy looked disconcerted, and he cocked his head to the side, his eyes becoming distant. When he straightened up again, his expression was friendlier. "If you say so, Ashiwara-san." He looked at Kuwabara and nodded. "You have a deal, Kuwabara-san. 1500 yen for three hours. I'm usually free on Sundays." They exchanged contact information and Kuwabara walked off, a wide smile still on his face.
Suddenly, Ashiwara the booth assistant came up to his elbows. They stopped a goodly distance from the Net-Go booth, where Shindou had restarted playing. Kuwabara looked at the other man thoughtfully. "Ashiwara, Ashiwara…ah, I remember!" He stroked his chin. "You are one of Touya-Meijin's students."
The younger pro bowed. "Ashiwara Hiroyuki, it's a pleasure to meet you, Kuwabara-sensei," he greeted politely.
"So, Ashiwara-kun, what can I do for you?"
"Ano, about Shindou-kun…"
"Ah, he is an interesting child, isn't he?"
The other pro looked sheepish. "I wouldn't have noticed if it weren't for your attention, Sensei. But may I ask why you are showing such an interest in him?"
"Oh, I'm an old man and an old man needs something diverting every once in a while." Kuwabara crowed in laughter again. "Shindou-kun, I think, would prove to be very diverting."
He walked off, leaving the younger man astonished and thoughtful.
Kuwabara is one of those characters who stood out as much from the manga as he did from the fics for me, but that was possibly because of how they inserted him canon-wise. But I do like him and writing him has made me like him more. I hope that I was able to do his character justice and that this chapter still fits with the fic. I'll have much to do to revise this fic, I think, once it's complete. But I hope you continue to enjoy it!