Title: Tricks and Traps
Series: Crossover of Petshop of Horrors and Hikaru no Go
Disclaimer: PsH is the work of Matsuri Akino; Hikago, Hotta and Obata. Characters belong to their creators and appear here for non-profit entertainment only
Type/Notes: General fic. Zero sex, zero violence.
Summary: Hikaru and his ramen cravings bring them to the strangest places.
"This is Chinatown, Shindou," Touya said. "I don't think you can find Japanese food here." Much as he hated to complain, his feet were tired after being dragged around the crowded place for the last hour.
"The concierge said there was a Japanese restaurant around here," Shindou said, his face grim with determination. "The right one."
Touya deduced that it was futile to tell Shindou that one could also find Japanese food at the hotel, or at any number of fine Japanese restaurants in the city area. Since arriving in America, Shindou had been on a near-obsessive search for ramen.
Not just any type of ramen: the broth had to be from the best beef bones that had been simmered for up to eight hours, flavoured with seasonal vegetables and, of all things, apples. The ramen itself had to be handmade, of the same type found in Japan. Even the naruto had to be the exact same size and texture. Shindou appeared to have an encyclopedic knowledge of what made ramen, ramen, and had declared those tasted so far to be inferior. Touya had heard less exhaustive descriptions of Go games.
"This place is confusing!" Shindou grumbled, after they had gone round the same block twice. "It's like a maze, how can anyone get around here?"
Touya forbore from pointing out that it was not confusing if you had a rudimentary sense of direction, and basic navigation skills. "Shindou, let's go back. You can look for it tomorrow."
Shindou shook his head. "No, the tournament starts tomorrow, and we won't have the time," he said. He looked around, as if miraculously expecting a ramen stand to appear out of thin air. "Damn, it's starting to rain," he said, glancing up.
Sure enough, heavy droplets were starting to fall, faster and faster.
"Here," Shindou said, grabbing his hand and pulling him into a shop. "Let's wait for a moment first," he said. "Maybe we can ask the shopkeeper to call a taxi for us… uh."
Touya turned around to see what Shindou was looking at, and belatedly realized what a strange place they were in. True, many of the shops in Chinatown had heavy, obvious Chinese décor, but Touya had the feeling that the beautifully furnished room was not merely the work of an overzealous decorator with a generous budget. More than that, there was the man who seemed to have appeared from the back of the shop, who seemed to be even more exotic than any single item in the shop.
He had a young-looking face, but did not give the impression of youth. He had long black hair that fell almost to his shoulders, giving him an almost feminine look, but even in the long dress--a cheongsam, Touya realized--he was wearing, he did not give the impression of someone weak. On the contrary, he looked dangerous. He felt dangerous. Touya did not realize he had taken a step back until Shindou muttered, and Touya glanced down to see that he had stepped on Shindou's foot.
"Welcome to my pet shop," the man said in English, approaching them with a smile. His voice was low and melodious, and it seemed to Touya that he was trying to tone down whatever impression of himself that he had been projecting to them. Yet, there was no doubt at all in Touya's mind that this man was highly skilled in letting other people see only what he wanted them to see in him. Maybe it was because he was so used to seeing behind appearances in Go, that he could see how that carefully manicured image of harmlessness, of an exaggerated Oriental exoticness, was not harmless at all. Touya's nerves tingled.
"Er, hi!" Shindou tried using his English: "We, er, came in," he gestured outside, and whispered to Touya, "how do you say, 'we came in to avoid the rain?'"
Touya stared. Shindou seemed entirely unaware of the unusual aura that surrounded the shopkeeper.
"Ah, you're Japanese!" the shopkeeper exclaimed in fluent, unaccented Japanese, evidently having overheard Shindou's question. "I'm Count D, and this is my pet shop."
"Oh," Shindou glanced once at Touya, and grinned widely. "You can speak Japanese. Cool! We, er," he gestured at the door. "We wanted to avoid the rain," he said, and bowed a little. "Sorry for the intrusion."
Touya bowed as well. It seemed the right thing to do.
"Not at all," Count D smiled, and came forward.
Touya noticed that one of his eyes was violet, and the other yellow--almost golden. He shivered a little, and both eyes focused on him, for a split-second. Touya swallowed. Then the Count asked, "You're visitors to our fair city, then?" and the moment was lost.
Shindou nodded in answer to his question. "We've been here for three days," he said.
"What brings you to Chinatown?" the Count asked, then stopped as though reminding himself. "Where are my manners? Please, have a seat. Since you came in to avoid the rain, you're not here to purchase a pet."
For some reason, he sounded faintly regretful and indulgent at the same time. Touya couldn't help feeling that he would be wise never to buy anything from this man.
He soon found himself sitting on an elegant chaise made of some kind of dark wood, inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Beside him, Shindou was regaling the Count D about his adventures in finding authentic ramen.
"Some tea, perhaps? You must be thirsty after searching for a whole afternoon," the Count said, setting down a tray of cups suddenly.
Touya did not even see where he got the tea from.
"I think I might know which place you're talking about," the Count said finally. "Mrs. Chen's son-in-law is from Japan; I understand he opened a small restaurant last year. I shall give you the address later."
"Really?" Shindou asked. "Thank you very much!" he said with his usual enthusiasm.
"Now, you said you came to America three days ago," the Count said, smiling with polite curiosity. "You're not tourists, are you?"
"Nope," Shindou said. "We're here for the World Go Tournament. It's being held in Los Angeles this year."
The Count raised a hand to his lips in an artful gesture of surprise. "You play Go?" he asked. "Both of you?"
"Yeah," Shindou eyed Touya. "We're the Japanese representatives. And one of us is going to beat the other."
If anything, the Count's eyes grew keener. "Ah, that explains it," he said, glancing at Touya.
"Explains what?" Shindou asked, taking up his cup of tea.
The Count continued to smile. "I was just thinking, when I first saw the two of you just now, that you couldn't just be friends. You're rivals as well, right?"
Shindou blinked in astonishment. "How did you know that?"
The Count replied, "I am a businessman, and I need to seize up my customers quickly, to make a sale. But you're not customers!" he was quick to assure them. "I'm afraid I can't sell you anything, as you will be in the country only for a short period."
"Wouldn't have wanted one anyway," Shindou said, before he turned red. "I'm sorry, that was rude. I can't take care of a pet properly anyway. I play too much Go."
"Oh, yes. An intriguing game, I've always thought," the Count said. "One can lose count of the time when the game is right," he added.
Shindou groaned. "I know the feeling. One time Touya and I played so much that we forgot about the closing times for the subway, and I had to spend the night at his place." He brightened, as he belatedly realized, "You play Go, too, Count D?"
"Of course," the Count said, and gestured.
At a far corner, there was a simple looking Go board, beautiful in its starkness. Touya stared, sure that the corner had been empty just moments ago.