The Never-ending Road: Chapter 79 – The Wizard of Go

By Leitbur


Exhaling as he placed a black stone down at 7-11, Waya frowned as the murmuring amongst the crowd picked up again. Off to the side Miyamatsu 6 – Dan paused a moment before beginning to discuss Waya's strategy anew.

Across the board Hikaru's eyes focused in on the board, deep in concentration, his mind a tornado spinning with options. Some might look at Hikaru now and think that such deep concentration meant that he was going at this demonstration game with everything he had, but Waya knew better, the cold analysis was there, the careful thought and consideration, but there was no fire in those eyes, no passionate intensity to utterly destroy his opponent on the board. Unfortunately, Waya had to admit that the same was also true for himself; this game was more like a chore, even if they were making a good show of things for the crowd.

No, the real intensity had come two days ago when Waya had played his first match of the Oza 2nd Preliminary, ironically against the very same Miyamatsu 6 – Dan that now commentated this match. That had been an intense game, both players going back and forth, the lead had jumped back and forth half a dozen times, often by no more than a point or two toward the end, the atmosphere electric in anticipation. A part of Waya wondered if Miyamatsu resented having to commentate the game of a player who had defeated him by such a narrow margin only a couple days prior, but he quickly dismissed that; Miyamatsu wasn't that petty.

If anything it was the crowd that ought to be resentful as Waya was the last minute replacement for Akira Toya after Akira had requested not to participate in this demonstration today after his Honinbo League match against Kurata had ended in defeat. Waya hadn't seen the game record for that match yet, but had heard that it had been a masterpiece by both sides, although at the end Kurata had forced Akira to resign. That loss had the double effect of knocking Akira out of the Honinbo League once again and Kurata into the Honinbo Final. Many were already speculating that Kurata would win his second title of the year given how well he was playing, and that was why they had arranged to begin preparing for the Hokuto Cup tomorrow at Akira's apartment, as quite soon Kurata would need to begin focusing on the Honinbo Finals almost exclusively.

Klak.

Hikaru placed his stone down firmly yet nonchalantly, his eyes never leaving the board. It was never easy to tell with Hikaru, his powers of concentration were such that he could become absorbed in the most trivial of games the same way he did a Kisei League match. Such concentration certainly must have helped him when the heat of the most pressure filled games, to become so absorbed as to not notice the world around him and thus not feel the tension in the room around him. Still, Waya had often wondered if doing so might eventually burn Hikaru out so to speak. After all, unlike most pros Hikaru had been playing the game for far less time, and thus had not logged the hours that all of them had, Waya included. There were reasons that pros didn't put all that much thought or energy into pick-up games or demonstrations, it often left one thin for the games that really mattered. Being young and relatively new to the Go World Hikaru perhaps could afford to put energy into all his games, but Waya couldn't help but think that sooner or later it would catch up to his friend. There was the possibility that Hikaru didn't even realize what he was doing either, that this was just a natural state of being for him, and that too was a scary proposition.

Leaning back slightly in his seat, Waya closed his eyes and listened to the sounds around him, the commentators discussing the depth of Hikaru's move, how it had a dual purpose while the crowd 'oohed' and 'aahed'. Farther back in the room he heard stones clicking down on the board as customers tried their hardest in teaching games against the assorted pros. Unlike many other functions this one was a bit thin on big name talent as the highest ranked player out there was a 4 – Dan, most of the other high dans declining as they were just hitting the takeoff time for a lot of major tournaments. The Go Association had been banking on drawing people in with the demonstration games between Hikaru and Akira, and even that had now fallen through.

People still came to watch Hikaru play of course, but Waya was under no illusions that anyone was interested in seeing him play. This was Hikaru's show, and he was just along for the ride.

Opening his eyes and looking back down on the board now, Waya took in the move and saw the dual purpose that Miyamatsu had mentioned. The dual purpose was there, but it wasn't as impressive as Miyamatsu was making it out to be, but playing to the crowd, half of whom likely were struggling to keep up with what was being said, it likely seemed god-like in nature. Really most moves had more than one purpose, a stone could attack a position while strengthening one's own position, it could force an opponent to choose between defending two positions, and it could make life while threatening or even killing another group. In this case Hikaru was trying to force Waya to connect with a peek so that he could extend and seal off Waya's attack, taking away the territory Waya was trying to gain while securing his own.

If this were a real game Waya likely would have done just that, accepted the compromise and lived to fight it out somewhere else while keeping sente. After all, picking an all-out fight with Hikaru was normally an invitation for disaster as Hikaru's ability to read ahead and battle it out in the trenches was exquisite, but fortunately this wasn't a real game.

Klak.

Placing his stone down firmly, Waya heard a slight intake of air come from the area where the commentators stood, as instead of connecting he'd played a keima into Hikaru's shape, risking the cut for the opportunity to threaten the life of Hikaru's stones. Hikaru would cut his own stones next, and a fight would ensue for control of that position, and if Waya could control that he could capture the group and take a commanding lead. If he failed though it would be nearly impossible to come back on Hikaru, not with his end game skill.

Waya understood the shock from Miyamatsu though, this strategy was incredibly complicated and would likely be far over the heads of the spectators for whom this game was meant for. What Miyamatsu was not aware of though was that given how well Waya knew Hikaru, it was likely about to get far too complex for Miyamatsu to follow very well.

As he thought that a sudden low chuckle emanated from across the table and Waya looked up to see a newfound shine in Hikaru's eyes and a large grin across his face, a grin that Waya matched. He'd been right, Hikaru was now intrigued.


Placing the last pile of clothes into his suitcase, Hikaru considered for a moment how his life lately had all been inside his suitcase. Last week he'd traveled down to Osaka to play Ishibashi in the Honinbo 3rd Preliminary and then two days ago he'd been to the hotel in Nagoya for a pair of demonstration games and a few private teaching sessions, and now after being home again for a day he was packing up and heading over to Akira's apartment for three days of training for the Hokuto Cup along with Waya and Kurata. Realistically he would have just gone straight from the train station to Akira's yesterday, but his mother had wanted him to come back home first, and admittedly he needed to get some new clothes while his mother washed the ones from the last trip.

His mother washing his clothes. He'd heard Nase make comments about Waya doing the same even though he was living on his own, like he still hadn't left the womb or something. It was a tricky question, for both Waya and himself as well. Was he still just a little boy who lived at home and relied on his mother to take care of him, or was he a grown professional who made his own living and his own choices. The answer likely laid somewhere in between, as his situation was far from being ordinary. Akari had once joked that boys never grew up, and while he could see a certain truth in that too it was an oversimplification of things. After all, did girls ever really grow up either? Perhaps no one ever really grew up and the world was just inhabited by population of eternal adolescents trying to convince themselves that they were mature and grown up. Even more confused was his mother, and it was partly for her sake that Hikaru hadn't moved out like Waya and Akira had, or at least that's what he told himself. Of all the people who had been affected by the changes in his life that his Go career had created, his mother had been hit the hardest.

Closing and locking the suitcase, stretched and looked down at his old Go board in the corner. His first Go board, the one his grandpa had bought for him; he barely used it anymore. He'd turned to studying on his grandfather's board, the one he'd inherited when…

Frowning Hikaru turned his gaze away and picked up his suitcase. He'd take it with him when they had their next training session at Waya's, as his friend had insisted that Akira not get to host all the study sessions, even if Akira had more room at his apartment for them and there was only going to be two separate training periods. Waya had always been a bit competitive with Akira, although Hikaru didn't quite know why that was. The best Hikaru could figure Waya seemed to think Akira was privileged, or at least acted that way, but Hikaru couldn't see it. Certainly others treated him that way at times, but Akira himself had always seemed to not let such things get to him. Perhaps Hikaru wasn't the best judge of that though, after all he'd been told before that he was seen as being a special player, a prodigy, and that certainly wasn't true.

A prodigy… who decided such things anyway? Was someone just a prodigy naturally, or did it take some other authority to declare it? Not to mention at what point did someone go from just being really talented to being a prodigy, and was it based on one's age, or accomplishments, or the state of the society he was born into. The word could be thrown around and manipulated in so many ways, about the only constant in the definition was that somebody was really great at something, usually from an early age. It was a term that people flocked to, if only so they could say one day long in the future that they'd seen or met that prodigy, like if they entered the proximity of them that they too might gain a bit of genius.

He understood a bit why people might see him as a prodigy, they saw a young boy who'd just started playing Go a few years prior with no teacher to help him rise up and turn the Go world on its head. They didn't know about Sai, about the constant lessons he'd had with him every night to help him reach this level, of the genius he'd been exposed to and how a bit of the brilliance of Sai might have been transferred to him amongst all those lessons. Not to mention that as he was beginning to understand the Japanese Go world was fairly anemic for true young talent, and claiming to have a prodigy or two playing in its ranks likely was good for sponsorship and attracting fans and other future players.

He was a good player, a strong player, but was his ascent due more to his own talents or the lack of talent amongst the rest of the Japanese Go world? Working hard, taking every opportunity to grow and gain strength, that was how he'd climbed this ladder so quickly, but a prodigy? No, that wasn't him, a real prodigy would be able to fully show the Sai that still lived on within his Go. Compared to Sai he was just a small candle next to a star, who with hard work and a little luck might shine that bright at the end before sputtering out.

Sai's Go was true greatness, true genius, and his own Go was far from that now. Perhaps in time that would change, his Go was his own and could be nothing else except his own, but a part of him still would give it all up to have Sai and his Go back again.

Making his way out of his room and down the stairs, Hikaru turned toward the door and slipped into his shoes. As he did so he called back, "Mom, I'm leaving now, be home in a couple days."

Peeking her head into the room, his mother replied, "Are you sure you don't want to stay for dinner?"

Hikaru shook his head. "Nah, we'll pick something up to eat or order in. There's a lot of work to do and I want to get started."

Exhaling with creased lips, his mother replied, "Well all right. Please take care Hikaru."

Finishing tying his shoes, Hikaru replied, "Thanks Mom, I'll be fine. Oh, and I left that income tax information you wanted over there by the phone."

"Oh, good. Thank you Hikaru." With that his mother made her way over to the phone as Hikaru picked back up his suitcase and turned the knob to the door. As he stepped through the threshold however Hikaru heard his mother scream out behind him, "FIVE AND A HALF MILLION YEN?"

Gritting his teeth and mentally cursing himself for not realizing that he should warn her about the amount, Hikaru shut the door behind him and took off as his mother fell to her knees in shock.


"WHAT DO YOU MEAN MY MOVES SUCK?"

"Exactly what is sounds like," Hikaru replied, "they suck overtime!"

"OH YEAH, WELL WHAT DO YOU CALL YOUR MOVE THERE THEN!"

Glancing at the board, Hikaru rolled his eyes and answered, "Your attacking that move, well give how much your move SUCK perhaps you can't see the subtle nature of that move."

Akira scoffed. "Ha, I've seen more subtlety from a 10 Kyu."

"WHAT!"

"You heard me Hikaru."

"Oh yeah, well… You played like a 10 Kyu this entire game!"

Blinking, Akira sneered and replied, "Well then, given that you only won this game by two and a half points what does that make you, a 9 Kyu?"

"So you're admitting that you played like a 10 Kyu then huh?" Hikaru shot back.

"I did not! Stop putting words in my mouth!"

"Did too!"

"Did not!"

"Did too!"

"DID NOT!"

"DID TOO!"

"DID NOT DID NOT DID NOT!"

"DID TOO DID TOO DID TOO!"

"DID NOT TIMES INFINITY!"

"DID TOO TIMES DOUBLE INFINITY!"

"Idiot," Akira shot back, "there's no such thing as double infinity!"

"Sure there is, I read it online once!"

"Oh, well then if it's online then it must be true. Did they have little pictures and such to help you understand it?"

"No, but I hear the title of your new Go Book is, "Go: Written by a Beginner for Beginners."

Sitting between the two on another side of the board, Waya watched the madness between the two play out with a slacked jaw. He'd heard about this from a few people before, that Hikaru and Akira would get into intense arguments over Go, even over small details, but none of the stories had ever suggested that it was like watching a pair of preschoolers going at it. What was coming next, remarks like 'that's what you are but what am I'?

Kurata would be arriving soon, and would want an update on how things were going, and given that they'd only played about six games of speed Go thus far this training session seemed doomed to failure. It wasn't like the Koreans or the Chinese players would be behaving this way, Waya was sure that both of them would be in strict training in preparation for the Hokuto Cup, and given that he was almost certainly going to be the third chair Waya wanted to acquit himself well. Unfortunately the first two chairs were not all that inspiring right now, and Waya was beginning to think he should send the two to a corner for a timeout.

Finally Hikaru swung his head over toward Waya and said, "Waya give me your laptop, I will prove to this loser that double infinity does exist!"

Staring back at Hikaru for a long moment, Waya answered, "Oh that is soooo not happening. Now would the two of you like to get over your prepubescent behavior and get back to training? The Hokuto Cup is just over two weeks away and I'm sure that Ko Yeong Ha isn't sitting on some beach relaxing and drinking lemonade."

Grumbling, Hikaru looked away grumpily and muttered, "Akira started it."

"NO I DIDN'T!"

"YES YOU-"

"STOP IT BOTH OF YOU OR I SWEAR I'LL SMACK YOU BOTH OVER THE HEAD WITH THIS TEAPOT!"

Just then a knock came at the apartment door and Akira hopped up saying, "That must be Kurata." as Waya closed his eyes and gave a silent prayer to the God of Go for letting Kurata arrive now.

Stepping through the threshold and slipping out of his shoes, Kurata glanced around and said, "Good, you've already started. Hope I didn't miss much."

"Not at all Kurata-sensei," Akira replied, "we've just been playing speed Go. I'll put your coat in the other room and then go get some more tea."

"Thank you Akira. Have you guys eaten yet? How about we order in some sushi."

Akira nodded. "We can do that, I know a good place down the street that delivers."

"Excellent!" Kurata replied, "Three servings for me, oh, and some miso soup too!" Turning his attention back to the room Kurata continued, "Nice to see you again Waya. How is Morishita-sensei doing?"

"Umm, just fine Kurata-sensei. He's been preparing all last week and this week for his Honinbo League match against Ogata."

"Good to hear. Tell him Kurata says to play strong, hate to see him lose and drop out of the league. Well we might as well get some work done while we wait for the food to arrive. Waya you're with me, we'll let Hikaru and Akira play against each other."

Holding his breath a moment, his mind reflecting on the scene that Kurata just missed, Waya replied, "Um, Sensei, are you sure that's a good idea? Perhaps if I played one of them then…"

"Ha ha! Oh don't worry Waya, no need for you to be intimidated by my Kisei title or anything. You're a 3 – Dan so it's best that you play me. I understand you've played some high level games before, that's good, less to worry about. Now come, let's see what you can do. Don't worry, Shindo and Toya are both experienced 7 – Dans, they'll be just fine training with each other. Besides, I need to know how strong you are."

Grimacing, Waya sat down and gave a stray glance over toward Hikaru who was busy clearing the other board of stones. 'Don't worry' huh, it seemed obvious that Kurata had never witnessed what Waya just had, and given that he decided the lineup, maybe that was for the best.


Placing his hands down on his knees, Kurata gazed at the Go board in front of him. This was the second game he'd played against Waya and so far he liked what he saw. The kid still had a lot to work on, but his overall game was fairly solid except perhaps when he became overly aggressive. Not that he could fault that aggression, one didn't defeat stronger opponents by playing it safe.

Still he had come here today with the expectation that Waya would be the third chair, and nothing so far had demonstrated anything to the contrary. There was certainly a bit of Morishita in Waya, as was to be expected, but it was still a unique style of play, as it ought to be. No two players played exactly alike, certainly a teacher's influence could be felt, similarities drawn, but an individual insight was always unique.

His team this year was stronger overall than the previous year, but that too was expected since two thirds of the team were returning with far more experience and ability. Thinking back on it though Yashiro might not have been the best choice for the third spot last year. He had been completely new to the Pro World and had yet to play a single big game; relying instead on pure raw talent. That was all well and good, and it got him through the qualifiers last year but talent that can't be harnessed does no good.

By comparison Waya this year was older and had been a pro for two full years now. Waya also had a bit more tact than Yashiro did last year, playing to outsmart rather than overpower. Waya had also played against high Dans a bit as he'd nearly missed the Tengen Tournament and had just beaten Miyamatsu 6 – Dan in the Oza 2nd Preliminary. The kicker though was that Waya had been to China recently and played against all the current Hokuto Cup team members. The fact that he could go into at least one of his games and know exactly what to expect from his opponent should help keep any nerves from the pressure of the game.

No, he was fine with Waya as his third chair, the question really became who should be the first chair. This was trickier than last year when he'd played mind games with Hikaru in an attempt to get a win out of him against the Chinese team only to have it backfire. Last year though Akira was clearly the best player and he'd taken a lot of heat for not starting him against Ko Yeong Ha, even if the match had turned into a masterful nail-biter.

This year though both players were established and well respected, and wore still both were all but dead even in their ability. Akira had won every official game the two had actually played, but that game had been nearly a year ago and the progress of both since then left no real way to compare. In a sense it would have been easier if there was a consensus belief as to which one should be 1st chair, then at least he wouldn't have to answer questions about why he chose the expected player, or say things like he just flipped a coin. Of course maybe that was the best thing to do, just flip a coin and let Fate decide. This must have been what a manager felt like in baseball when he had two established aces on his team, who pitches Game 1 when you really couldn't go wrong with either one.

He could always leave it up to Hikaru and Akira, but if he did that then why did they even need a manager in the first place? Maybe he should have Hikaru play as 1st Chair against Korea and Akira against China, make it even. Or flip it and have Akira play Ko Yeong Ha, give everyone the match they'd been hoping for last year. Ko Yeong Ha most likely would be preparing for Hikaru again after all, perhaps throwing a curveball with Akira would work. He still had time to think about it, but given that he wouldn't be able to attend next week's training session it was likely better that he make the decision sooner rather than later. Heck, given that the Go Association had no choice but to schedule his first Honinbo Final match right after the Hokuto Cup he'd even considered stepping down as the manager of Team Japan. It wouldn't have come to that normally, but Kuwabara had stepped his game up a notch and won the right to play Ogata in the Gosei Finals, and pushing back the Honinbo Finals would have created all sorts of scheduling conflicts.

Normally in this situation they would have just swapped the finals and had Kuwabara and Ogata play one another next week, but Ogata was already in the middle of defending the Judan title from Hatanaka, so it had been with many apologies that the Go Association had informed him of the problem. Maybe this was for the best though, after all Kuwabara had lost the Judan Challenger match to Hatanaka too, so perhaps he'd be too exhausted in his old age to properly defend the Honinbo title. That would certainly cement his position at the top of the Go world, holding the Kisei and Honinbo titles simultaneously; Kurata Kisei Honinbo, yes that had a nice ring to it. Then he could sit back and devote all his attention to dealing with the up and coming stars like Hikaru and Akira and not have to worry about winning titles.

Those were things he could ponder later though, he needed to focus on the Hokuto Cup first and the headaches that would bring him. Maybe a coin toss wouldn't be so bad after all.


His elbow leaning back on his rolled up pillow, waist tucked under the blankets of his futon, Waya scrolled down the list on the screen of his laptop and selected another game record. This was the most recent game that Qian Lei had played, a city league match against a 4 – Dan whose name Waya didn't recognize. He'd looked over her games before, but that was as a fellow pro studying the game, this was as an upcoming opponent, and he was really studying her.

The game they'd played earlier in the year had been intense, but both of them had grown as players since then, and this time he was determined not to lose to her again. Tapping the keyboard as he moved through the sequence of played stones, Waya took in the positions thoughtfully. Perhaps he was getting ahead of himself, he did after all have another game before this one, and the 2nd Round of the Kisei 2nd Preliminary was nothing to scoff at as Isumi had learned last week. With Ochi's defeat earlier in the month that left Waya as the only remaining low Dan in the Kisei Preliminaries, and he desperately wanted to make the Kisei League.

In truth if it weren't for the Hokuto Cup he might well have locked himself away and devoted all his effort into winning those three remaining games needed to join his Hokuto Cup members in the league. The look on Ochi's face when he leapfrogged him with the automatic promotion to 7 – Dan would have been priceless too, but this was an opportunity to claim his own bit of fame at the top of the Go World. There was also a part of him that didn't want to let Hikaru get too far ahead of him either, a desire to keep pace with his friend and show that Hikaru wasn't the only star of their graduating class.

Morishita had preached patience, that the fact that he was even competing in 2nd preliminaries was a cause for celebration as it wasn't common for young pros to get that high so quickly. Waya merely needed to be patient and know that perhaps in a few more tries his time would come, that it wasn't about who got there first as the journey to get there was different for each person. The fact that Ochi had started off quickly had not been an accurate estimation of who the best or most successful of the three would be, nor did Hikaru's rise to the Kisei League mean that Waya was left behind forever. They were all pros now, how long it took them to reach their destined spot in the Go World was not as important as reaching that place.

It was great in theory, and easy to say, but it was still hard to watch others around him having success without feeling that perhaps he was letting everyone down. Morishita could have been right, he might very well reach the Kisei League next year after learning from his experiences this year, but there was also no reason that he couldn't make it this year either, that now was his time to shine and show what he could do. Obviously he'd love to go all the way and strip Kurata of his title, but just getting to the League, everything else after that would just be gravy. Just to get there, just to get there. That would be…

The intrusion of snoring next to him brought Waya's mind back to reality and he glanced over at Hikaru sleeping on the futon next to him. His friend had the right idea; he needed to be well rested for tomorrow's practice session, and any more studying of game records tonight would not offer more advantages tomorrow.

Closing down the program running the game records, Waya tapped his internet browser and brought up his email account. He almost always checked for new messages before he went to bed, not that there usually were any, but one never knew when something interesting might happen or some urgent piece of news that…

One new message, from Isumi. It was odd, Isumi usually didn't email things to Waya, preferring more to call him on his cell with news. Heh, well as long as he hadn't suddenly decided to propose to Chieko and was asking him to be best man in an email it was fine, cause not asking in person would just be…

Opening the message, Waya saw two words followed by a link. The two words were simple, "Read This."

Clicking the link, the page jumped to the Go Weekly website, and the headline of the article caught his eye.

Hikaru Shindo: The Wizard of Go

Blinking, Waya glanced over at his sleeping friend and then back to the screen. I wonder what Shindo is going to think of this tomorrow.


Author's Notes:

Hello everyone. Well, I suppose I owe everyone here an explanation about the long hiatus. As I reported in the last chapter I won a big court battle to get unsupervised visits with my son just before Christmas. However the first week of January, just before my first long visitation with my son, I received a phone call from my local police station informing me that my ex was accusing me of sexually abusing my son, and that my visits would be canceled until it was investigated. Three weeks, two interviews, lawyers fighting and a polygraph test later the accusations were found to be baseless and were dropped. While I was allowed to see my son again this had a major mental effect on me and my inspiration was completely shot. A few months later expanded parenting time was negotiated including holidays and the agreement that I would get my son for overnights once he turned four. My ex refused to sign this agreement though so I was going to have to take her back to court. A week after Easter (after my son was conveniently sick and unable to come over for the holiday) I was contacted and told that I was once again being accused of sexually abusing my son. This time it only took a week to find the charges baseless, but it continued to attack me mentally.

Long story short we went back to court and I got the extended time and joint legal custody, and then in August I was accused again of sexual abuse. After this investigation Child Protective Services said they would refuse to accept any more accusations from her unless it was completely different. My ex has since stopped taking my son to the therapist that the court order specified and started taking him to another without my knowledge or permission, and now refuses to take him back to the other one or pay for it. Thus we are going back to court again shortly.

The fact is that I've been trying to work on this chapter for a long time but my motivation and inspiration were just lacking, and while it's starting to return there is a fair bit of rust and atrophy in my writing. The first paragraph was written before all this, which is why it mentions points on the board. I stopped it after because it's hard to write something so technical, especially well, and to get back in the groove of writing I just needed something easier. I do apologize for the long wait and will try to continue to post more when I can, which may not be until Christmas.

Terms:

Prodigy: In case you're wondering the dictionary defines a prodigy as: a prodigy is a child, typically younger than 18 years old, who is performing at the level of a highly trained adult in a very demanding field of endeavor.

Hikaru's Income: To get this I went back and found all the games Hikaru played in the previous year in the manga that were mentioned, speculated on his performance in tournaments that weren't mentioned, and then added in all the matches that he played that year within my story (of which I have every one written down, even if not shown here). This should be fairly accurate, although how much he got overall from teaching games and such is harder to tell, but since he was a 2 – Dan all that time the amount wouldn't have been all that much. The exact total of his earnings was closer to 5,670,000 Yen, but his mother rounded down. For those wondering that equates to about $74,000 give or take.

Kyu: Just a refresher, a Kyu is a rank designation below that of amateur dan level. Kyu traditionally ranks from 1-35 kyu, with 35 kyu being a complete beginner. Usually it's said that if you play Go a few times a week for a few months you can go from being a complete beginner to about 12 kyu, although this varies with the person. In practice one gains a kyu when they grow in strength by one stone, so a 10 kyu should be able to play evenly with a 12 kyu if the 12 kyu is given two stones. Before the above mentioned incident in my life (when I stopped playing Go for awhile) I was listed as a 2 kyu.

Now onto questions. Where do I find girls like that who spontaneously discuss Shakespeare? This actually brings up something that I've probably needed to say for awhile now, and that would be that this is a fanfiction following a manga. I know it was a fairly realistic manga and all, but there are times when manga-esque reactions, shallow or flat characters, and airhead moments do occur. Several times people have said that something isn't logical or girls don't really do that, but go to most mangas and you'll find something that doesn't fit reality. I agree that sometimes I play with likelihood in things, or come up with something that may not exactly mesh with the real world, but sometimes it's because I'm trying to make a point about something, or discuss a topic in the story without spending 6,000 extra words to properly set it up. So every so often I will stretch the realm of believability for the sake of the plot, just as manga and anime will do at times for the same reasons. If this answer does not satisfy you though, then I borrowed them from the Harry Potter and Twilight boards.

Note: While I'm a boy, I am capable of having a discussion on the romance of Romeo and Juliet for an hour on the spot if the conversation went that way. I know, I'm a freak.

It was Waya who guided Manou and the others to the Go Salon, and it was not Heart of Stone as I would have mentioned characters there by name if I had. This is likely the second place they went to, or another one that Waya and Isumi went to before they started taking Hikaru.

As stated previously there will not be any romance between Hikaru and Akira, although I will not rule out the possibility of Akira finding female companionship at some point (this is not license to start asking if he'll end up with Nase, Akari, Hirumi, Morishita's daughter, etc).

The Kisei League finals is over, Kurata won the title from Ichiryu. The matches were not shown in the story, but we were told what happened in the story.

I don't think it's a matter of male authors having more insight or a better perspective than female authors, I actually don't think sex or gender has anything to do with it. Rather I think it's the individual and how perceptive or insightful they may be about something. I don't claim to have a great insight into women, my love life seems to prove that, but sometimes I think it's not a matter of a character being male or female but rather just being human. Despite what some might say, men are deeper than sex, football and beer (ok, there are some exceptions) so perhaps it's just that the male writer isn't expected to have any deeper insights and when they do it just seems more impressive. Maybe not, I'm not an expert in such things.

Next chapter you ask? Well we will be heading to the Hokuto Cup of course. This doesn't mean the matches will begin, but we will be going there.

Again my apologies for the long wait in this chapter, and my deepest thanks to all of my fans who have persevered through that time. Your comments helped keep me going in choosing not to just abandon this story. R&R!