chapter 10: Little steps
The sound of the stones was almost the only sound in the crowded room, to anyone interested in Go, the scene in front of them would be a familiar one, a bunch of people around a goban nodding and talking to themselves while a game was in progress; however, this was not a typical game.
"And then here…"
For instance there was only one person playing at the board, and it was a child.
"And then he just cut him there"
He was an insei, surrounded by professional players, recreating a game he had only seen into a screen. Waya deposited the last stone and a low murmur rose from the people around him.
"It was a real massacre"
"It is strange, you know? He looks too good to be real; perhaps it's a computer playing!"
"Don't be daft! There isn't a computer capable of playing Go at this level!!"
"What is going on here?!!"
Morishita-san was a formidable man, in a good day, but his pupils usually referred to him as a "nice demon". So it was no surprise that when he entered the room everybody left room for him.
"What's this?" He asked eyeing the board with a curious frown. "Who got beaten like this? I hope it wasn't you Waya!!"
"Ah?!! No!!" Said the boy huffing in indignation. "I saw this game on the net last night and well… it was good, white was very good!"
"Yes, yes I can see it, but who is this?"
The boy opened his mouth and frowned "He's been around for three months, I think… and well he is supposedly Japanese but nobody knows this person."
"No one? Waya this is not a mere amateur…" Said one of the pros eyeing the board with almost fear. "He humiliated a 4-dan; this is not a mere player."
"4-dan?" Asked Morishita-sensei touching lightly the pattern of the board, as if trying to get the thoughts of the players trough his own fingers.
"Yes!! And he did it in almost half an hour, it was creepy it was like seeing a super-fuku!!"
"A super fuku? Are you talking about that insei that always beats you?" Waya blushed and glared at the man. "I just don't like speed go… it was dizzying. I couldn't even blink, he was so fast and he took no time to think!!"
"We understand Waya… However this super fuku must have a name?"
"He calls himself Sai"
Hikaru bowed to his opponent and then he did a fancy dance of victory with two pirouettes included, Mitani glared at him with renewed force and stomped out of the room in a dramatic exit.
"Remember you have to pay!!" Yelled Tsutsui who was explaining some strategies to Akari.
"Shut up!!! I know!!!" Mitani yelled back, glaring at the still dancing Hikaru.
"I still can't believe that he is unable to defeat you, I mean he is strong!" Said Akari, and Tsutsui nodded.
"Yes, I think that Shindo's Go is getting better and better."
Hikaru stopped dancing and seated himself on the floor yawning widely and rubbing his eyes.
"Uhm… Shindo, I know that you study a lot but I think that getting enough rest is also important." Said Tsutsui while eyeing the bags under the other boy eyes. "I will help you with science if you still have problems, you know?
Hikaru smiled lazily and rested his head on his hands. Tsutsui nodded and continued with his explanation. Akari on the other hand still kept glancing at Hikaru, ever since the reencounter she had taken on herself to help the boy on anything she could, even if Hikaru didn't remember their former friendship she did, and she also remembered that his mother used to be very kind to her.
"AH? Sorry Tsutsui-sempai I got distracted!" She apologized. But the other boy smiled at her. "It's okay. How are you Go classes going?"
"Ah well, fine!! The instructor is very good and he explains things in a simple manner, just wait in no time I will defeat you sempai!!"
Tsutsui laughed and nodded. She was really starting to like playing Go, and she seemed to have some ability for the game, she was a bright kid with a very good memory. If a bit unsure of herself.
A large… thing came wailing to the science room waving large furry arms and scaring the hell out of the two students.
The door opened once more and Mitani stared at the mess inside, Fujisaki was throwing stones to a… thing and Tsutsui was… dead?. The thing was tall and green and furry… just like the costume of the parrot from the theater club.
"Oh come on! It's just Kaga!!"
Akari stopped in mid attack and stared at the green monster who was now chuckling openly.
"Kaga-sempai?" She asked and from the deeps of the monster emerged the head of the teen who started to laugh openly.
"Oh God! Your faces!!!" He said while doubling in laughter. Akari stared at him and the saw Tsutsui fallen form and went to help him. Mitani sighed and seated himself in front of his lost game glaring at the teen.
"When are you going to stop doing this?! It's been MONTHS!!! For God's sake!! He-can't-talk!!"
Kaga glared at him and divested himself from the dusty costume and opened his almighty fan "Never, I made a promise and a man like me never desists!!"·
"Look, yes he may have uttered a SOUND, So? And look he didn't even notice you this time!"
"Uh?" Indeed, the main victim was fast sleep on the floor, a small pool of drool forming on his jacket. While a ghost was still recovering from a hearth attack. Kaga poked the sleeping boy, but he got no response. "He is a heavy sleeper isn't?"
"He is exhausted…ouch my head!!" Moaned Tsutsui. "I told you about his father, he really don't want to return to Kaio, and that is what will happen if his notes are not good"
"Ah yes…old men stuff… Well, let him sleep. I must go, my club is waiting for me and they get lazy if I'm not there."
"Oh! By the way Tsutsui, I saw this the other day, here" Kaga gave the boy a folded piece of paper, announcing an inter school tournament.
"I will go to supervise you. So you better start training in earnest."
Tsutsui nodded absently while reading the pamphlet, with Akari and Mitani reading over his shoulder.
"It's next month… In… Kaio?" Said Mitani and three pairs of eyes rested on the sleeping boy.
"Well Touya Akira is not among the go. Club members, Kaga investigated, so I think that it should be fine…"
Mitani stared at the paper feeling a little excitement, he had heard a lot of stories about the Kaio Go club, and if he could defeat them then he would be closer to that man. He was stronger already, he would show him.
"Now Hikaru, Keima."
"What!!!" Asked the boy without taking his eyes from the computer screen. "Are you sure?"
Sai nodded while his eyes were on the screen, a shiver ran trough Hikaru, ever since they had started playing on the net he had seen Sai as a real Go player, and he was.. scary. He had no mercy on the board, he was precise and never double doubted his moves.
"Oh?! Keima! Yes! Sure, sorry!!" Stammered the boy and he winced when the other player effectively gained a large part of black's territory, however Sai only smirked and pointed a new move.
Ten minutes later he not only regained the territory but he managed to overcome his opponent in a beautiful contra strike. Hikaru stared at the screen. It was like seeing an eagle calmly soar trough strong winds... Sai had been always like this?
Hikaru closed the screen and turned of the computer. It had been a birthday present from his father, and he had never really used it before, only after learning about the net-go he had really paid attention to the machine.
"You should really rest more Hikaru" Said Sai while Hikaru yawned and rubbed his eyes three times in a row.
"I'm fine…" He said and smiled to the ghost. "Soo this is the victory number two hundred! Congratulations Mr all Mighty!"
Sai smiled proudly and followed the boy to the bathroom. Said boy almost collided against the door when he forgot to open it before trying to enter the bathroom.
"I'm meaning it Hikaru! You need more rest!"
"I told you already, I'm completely fine! I'm super, energetic!!! See?!!" He said giving a spin to make his point and then washed his face with cold water. Said glared at him and sighed when the boy took his toothbrush and a tube from the shelf.
"So why are you putting burn salve on your toothbrush?"
"Uh?" The boy stared at the pink salve that was definitely not the green toothpaste and sighed. "I'm fine I just need to resist until the exams and then I can rest a bit more…·
"I'm talking about Go, I don't need to play every night, and last night lasted till 4 am."
"Sai, I'm fine. You promised to play tonight to that guy from china, remember?"
"No!" Hikaru paused and looked at the ghost who was glaring at him, He washed the brush on the sink and frowned.
"Hikaru, I'm not mad at you, but I will no allow for you to get sick, the exams are next week. No Go till then."
"What!!! Are you crazy?!!"
"I mean it Hikaru, Look at yourself you are pale like a candle and have those creepy bags under your eyes and next time you get sleep on the bus you could en up on another city, lost hungry, in the middle of a storm, and…"
"Okay, okay, no net go till the exams are done… But."
Said stopped in the middle of his tragic tale and looked at the boy who was grinning. "But?"
"When I pass those horrible, dreadful exams you will show me how you did that thing the other night?"
The boy laughed at the too innocent expression of the man "The speed go! That combination, how did you got him all trapped so fast!!!"
Sai smiled and patted him in the head with his fan "Practice"
"Oh don't 'practice" me!! It was sooo great, I bet he was left with his head spinning!!"
"It really comes from practice and experience, but I can show you some fine points to the art, if you get enough sleep and pass those exams. Ok?"
"Are you sure about the tournament?"
"Yes, I can't ditch the team, we have no replacement and I really enjoyed the last one, well at least till the end…" He said with a hurt look, and Sai frowned.
"But! I won't hide anymore I told you!! The almighty will show them!! And it isn't as if that guy is on the team."
A heavy thunder resounded outside and Sai frowned at the black sky. He saw Hikaru shiver and he smiled encouragingly.
"Yes of course…Put on your pajama before you get a cold, I will help you with History tonight.
"No!!! Not History!! My head will hurt from all those names!!!"
"It is important!"
"Yeah, yeah…Okay just only important names ok? I don't really need to know the name of the servants!!"
"But, Minako-san was a very nice girl!!!…"
"I'm not hearing any more!!!"
Touya stared at the school in front of him, feeling suddenly very nervous. It had been really difficult to get the information, and some months but he had finally got the name of the school that Hikaru had transferred to, however in the plan he had never once thought what to say.
"Are you looking for something?" A girl asked him Touya stared at her, unsure for a moment.
"I'm looking for a student, sixth grade…uhm…"
"And, you know his class? A name?"
"Shindo, Shindo Hikaru." The girl frowned. "Ah you're a lucky one, I know him, and we are in the same club"
"Ah, yes thank you." Akira frowned, club?. "Excuse me but, what kind of club are you in?"
"Mmmm I'm normally on the volleyball club, but I'm helping with the go club just for now."
"Oh, I see…" Touya felt his hearth speed at her words, Shindo was playing in a Go club?!! Where they that good? .
"NO!!!!! I WILL KILL YOU!!!!"
"No Mitanni!!!! Wait you can kill him after the tournament!!!!"
The chaotic noise was coming from an open window and he approached slowly, taking a peek inside. There where four people and several boards, Go-boards!!
"One more time!!!" Screamed an orange haired boy, while erasing a previous game, Touya gasped when he recognized his opponent being no one but Shindo. Said boy was smiling in a condescending and mocking way while seeing his fingernails, which only served to enrage more his opponent. He had never seen Shindo smile before.
"Uhm… Mitani sempai he has defeated you five times today…" Said a girl in a slow hushing sound which only earned her a glare.
"Oi! Just give up Mitani, you're not going to defeat him!"
"Kaneko-san, you came!!!"
The girl, Kaneko, smiled at the girl and waved a lazy greeting to everybody. "Yes, well I can't leave here with this loud guy winning me!"
"I'm not loud!"
"Yes you are!!" She said and then signaled at the still unnoticed boy behind her. "I found this boy outside, he is searching for Shindo-kun.
All the eyes went to him, but he locked his on one person, who was looking suddenly very annoyed.
"Ah…Toya Akira isn't?" Said Tutsi looking between the two kids. "Excuse me, but, why are you here?"
Said boy looked a bit nervous for a while but he bowed deeply the next. "I have come to apologize for my behavior, I'm truly sorry."
Hikaru stared at the boy and everyone else stared at the pair.
"Hikaru, I think he is being sincere."Said the ghost while staring at the ceiling.
"Yes, and he might be preparing to go on hysterics again!"Answered the boy who was starting top plan a escape.
"Don't even think about it!! I'm getting to old for those races" Amonished Sai pointing the boy with his fan.
" You're death, you can't get older!"
" Don't be a brat. Now! You will graciously accept that it wasn't his entire fault!"
"It was his fault!!! That noisy, pest.."
"Stop before you sprout a frog from your mouth!" Said the ghost while shivering at thought of the amphibian. "At least accept his apology."
Meanwhile the room seemed to have been frozen in an uncomfortable silence. Hikaru gave the other boy a forced smile and nodded. The eyes of Akira were on the board in front of Hikaru, a small glint of something was starting to grow in his eyes.
Touya Akira had grow among some of the best players in Japan, he had seen hundreds of games between them, he had first learned how to properly grab a stone before walking, he learned to spot small details and to understand its meaning, this was definitely not a room for playing Go, the boards were old and so were the stones, he could see two games, one was terribly bad and the other seemed to be a session of shidougo more than a real match.
His eyes went to the face of the other kid. Why was he waisting time here? He had a real talent! He was...
"Shindo... Why are you here?" He asked with a frown, while eyeing the room. "Why are you waisting your time here?"
"Hey!!" Exclaimed Mitani "He can be anyplace he wants"
"Shindo" He continued while ignoring the other boy. "Your Go is beyond this. You know it don't you?"
Hikaru was now glaring at him.
"And just who are you?!! What is it with you if he wants to play here?!!" Said Mitani in a loud voice.
"Are you satisfied?! This is what you want?!" Said Touya while staring directly to Hikaru.
Hikaru stared back. He wanted to said yes, but he couldn't nod while Touya was staring him like that, he couldn't lie at those eyes...
Sai glanced at Hikaru and smiled at him, he had been trying to insinuate the same to him for months and this boy did it in a few minutes. He eyed the Touya boy, he liked his eyes, determined, stubborn, he was calling for Hikaru and he seemed determined to drag him if needed.
This determination, this absolute will to make things happen, it was what Hikaru was lacking...
"yes!! This is what he wants!! He wants to be on this team and he wants to compete on the tournament! Don't you Shindo?!!" Asked Mitani, glaring at the boy. Hikaru looked between the two, he seemed like a cornered rabbit between two hunting dogs.
He finally hung his head and started playing with the stones, Sai frowned at him.
"See?, he wants to stay, now please leave him alone"
Touya was still staring at Shindo, he clenched his fist and smiled "No, he don't want his." He whispered and with a small bow of his head he left the room.
He walked calmly trough the streets almost feeling cheerful, he had seem the yearning in the eyes of the 0other boy, he was asking for a challenge. But he seemed afraid. Of what, Akira didn't know.
"I will show you Shindo"