A/N: Sorry, I forgot to make this note earlier... (especially to those who had read this chapter right after I've posted it) I made some changes to Chapter 17, on the game between Hikaru and Touya Meijin.
'Not again…' Hikaru groaned as he found himself within the exact same dream he had been having for the past months. He was seated in front of some men wearing robes that were from the Heian period, giving lectures and playing teaching games. He felt the usual surge of happiness as his fingers placed the sleek white stone upon the board, his fan hiding the smile that escaped on his lips. After the opponent made his move, his hand moved the fan and pointed to an area which should have been a better hand to play in defence of his territory. Even though he was playing a game, as before, Hikaru felt more like an observer. As if he was a mere spirit being driven into the flow of events of a man's life, to witness his joy, his laughter, his grief, and his death. The image then switched and in front of him was the man who accused him being a cheater, the point wherein he knew his life as Fujiwara Sai ended. Grief had led him to take his own life by drowning himself within the dark depths of a lake. But unlike the first occurrences of the dream, he was so used to it that he no longer wake up upon drowning. He knew that after the drowning part, he would be carried to another lifetime. A lifetime he knew well compared to the first since he was able to research the details of it from the internet. His life as Honinbo Shusaku. He found himself following pieces of the famous go player's life until the widespread epidemic that had cost him his life.
That should have been the end of the dream and he knew that he would wake up any moment now. But instead of waking up on his bed as was usual after his dream, he found himself floating in an empty space. He began to wonder where he was and what was happening.
'Now, don't tell me I finally died,' Hikaru wondered, slightly panicking. In some way, he knew it was still part of his dream. But it was a new addition, just like what happened during his first set of dreams. It started only with him as Fujiwara Sai; then the next dream included Honinbo Shusaku. The subsequent dreams followed almost the same sequence with only small variances between them. But it was the first time he was drawn into a world which seemed different from the usual. It was empty, an endless void that threatened to swallow his sanity. He felt the cold mist brush against his face and when he looked up, he saw a beautiful woman with long lavender hair tied at the near end of its locks that almost reached onto the floor emerging from the white mist. Hikaru blinked as he gazed in wonder at the ethereal creature, only to realize that the figure wasn't a woman, but a man, based on the clothing he wore. He wore a set of long white robes over purple silk pants, and a tall hat adorned his head; an assuredly male attire during the Heian period.
The man smiled at Hikaru, then took a fan from within the folds of his robe and handed it to him. Hikaru looked at the hand in bewilderment and tried to reach for the fan, but the figure only passed through him. He turned around, but the figure was gone. But another figure stood in his place. A man wearing a different set of clothing from a hundred years. If the girly guy didn't look a bit familiar, this one he definitely recognized. He had only seen him on the internet, in pictures of old paintings. But he knew it was him… Honinbo Shusaku.
Like the first man, Shusaku smiled at him. Hikaru's eyes drifted towards the man's hand which held the same fan. Shusaku drew close towards him and lifted the fan to him.
Hikaru frowned as he looked at the fan. "Is this some kind of a tag game you're playing?" he asked as he lifted his eyes to look at Shusaku's face. The smile on the go master's face faded and a sad look crossed his eyes. His hand lowered, still holding the fan. He shook his head and turned around to leave.
Hikaru panicked, knowing that he had done something wrong. He knew he was rude but for Pete's sake, he didn't know that a ghost can be so sensitive!
"Wait!" Hikaru called out, running towards him to stop him from leaving. "Honinbo Shusaku!" But the man continued walking away. "Torajiro!" He panted in relief when he noticed that Shusaku paused. "Please wait!" he called again. "What's going on? Why are you appearing on my dreams? Who was that other guy? Who was Fujiwara Sai? How did I learn to play go in an instant? What the hell is happening to me?!" he shouted, all the confusion and frustration consuming him.
Shusaku turned around, but he was looking at his side as if expecting something or someone to appear. The long haired guy then emerged from the mist beside him, a laughing smile playing on his lips, as he looked back at Shusaku.
Hikaru was surprised when the two ghostly figures walked towards each other and the mist swallowed them both. Their shadows seemed to have merged into one and another figure appeared; this time rendering Hikaru speechless with shock as he found himself facing an exact replica of himself. The other him was holding the fan in his left hand, while his right idly tossed a go stone. His other self mockingly lifted his brows at him, and flicked the black stone at Hikaru, hitting him on the head.
"Hey!" Hikaru yelled as he rubbed his forehead. He bent down to pick the stone and glared at his other self. "Why did you do that?!"
His clone just toyed with the fan and smirked at him. "You figure it out, idiot."
Hikaru's eyes widened and looked from the stone to the doppelganger standing in front of him, but he disappeared into the mist. "What the hell?! Wait!" he shouted, running towards the disappearing image. "Wait!"
Hikaru opened his eyes as he gasped for breathe. He looked up and saw his mom hovering worriedly at him. "M-mom?"
"Are you alright?" Mitsuko asked, touching his forehead. "Did you have another nightmare?"
Hikaru just shook his head and tried to settle himself on a sitting position. "It's okay, Mom."
Mitsuko studied her son while he stared ahead as if in deep thought. "I'm getting worried Hikaru," she said. "I know you have these nightmares. Why won't you tell…"
But Hikaru cut her off. "It's not exactly a nightmare, Mom. Just dreams." He lay back on his bed and closed his eyes.
"Why don't we go to a doctor? Or a psychologist?" Mitsuko continued worriedly. "It must have something to do with what happened before. Hikaru, did you happen to go near a Go board? That must be it. Your allergies must be up again."
Getting annoyed, Hikaru turned his back on her. "No! I've gotten over that, Mom! And there's no such thing as anallergy to Go! Nothing's wrong with me!"
"Just let me sleep. Please… I'm okay now," he said in a calmer voice. He heard a sigh from his mother, then her soft footsteps walking towards the door, and closing it behind her. Hikaru turned to lie on his back and stared at the ceiling. "You figure it out?" he whispered in disgust as he remembered his dream. "If you're trying to leave a message, why can't you just say it clearly?" He sighed and placed his hands behind his head, when he felt something on the pillow. He rolled to his side and was surprised to see a black go stone on his pillow. He picked it up and laid back, examining the stone against the dim light of his lamp.
'What a coincidence,' he thought dryly. He had picked up that stone on the floor during the tournament after that confrontation with Touya. He was a bit dazed and had accidentally pocketed the go stone instead of returning it. Since it already happened, he would have to remind himself to avoid placing any go-related item near him before he went to sleep.
Three days had passed since the tournament and that strange dream. He had skipped soccer practice, giving the excuse that he had to go somewhere important. But in reality all he needed was to be alone for a while to think about all the things that had been going on in his life as of late.
He was quite surprised when he found himself in front of the Japanese Go Institute. He had been here once when he tried to apologize to Waya but met with Touya Meijin instead. He sighed as he looked up the huge sign. It only reminded him of his dream and what everyone had been telling him. To take Go seriously and join the pros. He didn't want to admit it but the idea seemed to fascinate him the more he thought of it. But it would just complicate his life more.
Maybe, he should inquire. There was nothing wrong with it. He went inside the building and found the reception area. There were only a few people around, and one was just leaning over the counter.
He walked towards the counter, still quite unsure how to proceed. When he noticed the man beside him looking at him curiously, he gulped and turned his attention to the staff.
"Uhm… excuse me," he started.
The man inside the office looked up from the paper he was holding. "Yes?"
Hikaru shifted his left uncomfortably. "I'm just wondering about the pro exams…"
"Ah, it will be held three weeks from now."
"Well… ah… can I still apply?"
The man looked at him weirdly. "Boy, the registrations already ended more than a month ago."
That surprised Hikaru. "Ehh?!" He forgot all his manners and leaned forward on the counter. "But there's still almost a month, ojisan!"
"O-ojisan?!" The man obviously got annoyed at the disrespectful way the boy had addressed him. He cleared his throat and glared back at Hikaru, but still tried to be as professional as possible when he replied to the teenager. "Look young man, the registrations had already ended. There's nothing more we can do. You could try next year, but make sure you apply early. Good day." He nodded his head at the person beside Hikaru and proceeded to walk ahead.
Seeing there was nothing more he can do, he sighed as he leaned his back against counter. "Well that's it. I tried you know," he muttered to himself.
"Usually, people who want to take the pro exams register early. Don't tell me you have just decided?"
Hikaru turned to his left and saw a man with glasses and wearing a white suit. He then straightened and slung his backpack on his shoulder. "I was only advised to take the exams."
Seemingly unconvinced, the man just gave him an amused smile. "Really? Whoever advised you to take the pro exams must be pretty confident in your skills. Are you that strong?" he asked.
"Strong is a relative word," Hikaru answered, shrugging his shoulders. "But if you're asking if I could pass the exam, I believe I could get a pretty decent score… unless all the players are at Touya Meijin's level."
The man chuckled at his answer. "Pretty cocky, aren't you? You're comparing yourself to Touya-sensei?" He blew a smoke. "I think you should aim at his son first."
Hikaru glanced at him. "You mean Touya Akira?"
Dark brows rose, the man seemed to be enjoying the verbal banter. "Does the meijin have another son?"
"I honestly don't know," Hikaru replied. "But if you're referring to Touya Akira…well, he's definitely good, but…" he stopped, then sighed. "It doesn't matter anymore."
There were a few instances that an unknown person could catch the attention of Ogata Seiji, the current Gosei title holder. And normally, it only happened when someone managed to pull out an incredible game of Go against him. But there was something about this boy, or should he say, the manner he talked about the go prodigy Touya Akira, that made him look back to give him a second glance. The usual reaction that he would notice from youngsters and amateurs, or even some professionals towards the famed son of the meijin was awe. Not the nonchalant acceptance that this boy had just shown. Even he had acknowledged that, given more experience, Akira would be a force to reckon with in the future, a rival that he would have to face. He pushed back his glasses and focused his attention on the boy in front of him.
"Kid, you think you're stronger than Touya Akira?" he asked as he watched the boy starting to leave.
The bleached haired teen just gave him a glance but kept his silence. Ogata's eyes narrowed. Now that he had looked at him closely, the boy seemed awfully familiar. "Have I seen you before?"
Hikaru stared at the man in front of him, trying to recall if he had seen him somewhere. "As far as I know, this is the first time I've seen you," he replied, trying stubbornly to meet his stare.
Silence emerged between them as Ogata continued to scrutinize the teen. "What's your name, boy?' he finally asked.
Hikaru hesitated at first. But then, he thought that it wouldn't do him any good if he lie about his name. He already had a lot of trouble when he began using Sai as his nick in internet go. "Shindo Hikaru."
"Shindo…" Ogata repeated, not leaving his eyes from the teen. He wondered why it sounded so familiar. He knew he had heard that name before… His eyes widened when a flash of memory came back to him. The cigarette he was holding fell from his hand, but he was too absorbed at the discovery that he failed to notice it. "You…" He then grabbed the boy's shoulder. "Did you visit Touya Meijin before in his house?" he asked. "Are you his student? Did you play with him?"
Hikaru was surprised at the man's reaction, but managed to recover in an instant. He jerked off Ogata's hand and glared at the older man. "What do you think you're doing?!" Annoyance was quite evident in his tone. He didn't know where this conversation was leading. "Yeah, I went to Touya-sensei's house. No, I'm not his student. And yes, I played a game with him. So what?"
Ogata ignored the boy's irritated voice. "Who won?"
A snort came out from Hikaru before he could stop it. "Obviously, it was Touya-sensei. Look, I'm sorry if I wasted your time but it seems there's nothing left for me to do here." He began to walk ahead to leave.
"Wait, so you're no longer interested in taking the pro exams," Ogata stopped him.
A sigh escaped Hikaru's lips and turned at him. "You heard the man. The registration is over."
Ogata turned to call the same staff who Hikaru had talked to earlier. "Kushina-san, do you still have a copy of the application form for the pro exams? Can you please give me one?"
The staff named Kushina gave him a confused look but nevertheless followed his request. Ogata reached for the form handed by Kushina and wrote something at the back before giving it to Hikaru.
Hikaru took the form with a bewildered look on his face.
"The preliminaries will be three weeks from now. If you decide to enter it, just give me a call."
Hikaru only managed to stare at the man's back as he left. He looked at the paper and read the name written on it. "Ogata Seiji? Who's that?" he murmured.
Unfortunately, the staff heard him. "You don't know Ogata Gosei?!" he exclaimed. "And you're trying to enter the pros?!"
Hikaru winced at the staff's tone. 'Gosei? I thought his name was Seiji?' He just grinned sheepishly and thanked the man. He could still hear the man's mutterings about why would Ogata-sensei would help such a boy as him.
He exited the building and sat on a nearby bench, and read the contents of the application form. He still couldn't help but wonder if the man he just met was a pro or not. But considering the respectful way the staff was addressing him, he must be someone important.
He sighed as he looked at the form again. 'Just great. I thought I no longer have any reason to concern myself about taking the pro exams. Now, he just returned the problem back to me.'
He was about to leave when a group of teenagers walked from the exit. He found himself staring back at a pair of brown eyes.
"Ah Waya, it's you," Hikaru greeted back as he snuck the form inside his pocket.
Waya frowned as he noticed the secretive way his friend tried to hide the paper. "What are you doing here?" he asked suspiciously.
"Now, that's a bit rude for greeting your friend," Isumi smiled as he interrupted. "We meet again, Shindo-kun," he greeted while Ochi just gave him a polite nod.
Hikaru smiled awkwardly. "I just happened to pass by." He then bowed and tried to excuse himself. "I guess you have somewhere to go to. I'll be leaving now." He took a step when Waya's voice stopped him.
"We're going to eat some ramen. I'm sure you're not going to pass that up."
Isumi gave him a surprised look. "I thought you said you want sushi…"
"Tch. I want ramen now."
"Do I have to recount every thing that happened?" Hikaru complained as he slurped on his ramen. Waya finally got him alone after Isumi excused himself to take a phone call. Ochi had already left, saying that he didn't want to eat ramen.
Waya rolled his eyes as he made face at the ramen in front of him. They had already planned to eat sushi but he needed to talk with the ramen-loving boy. "I was just asking for more details," he pointed out.
"Geez," Hikaru muttered. "Well, so what if he already knows I'm Sai? It's not like it would do anything to me," he continued while flaying his arms.
"Idiot," Waya countered. "You underestimate Sai's popularity if that's the case. Many go players would flock over you if they know you're Sai. You'll be bombarded with questions how you got to be that strong and whatever. And you'll be forced to become a pro."
Hikaru smiled cheekily. "Heh, I didn't know I'm that popular." Waya just snorted in response. Turning his attention back to his ramen, Hikaru shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well even if I did thought of joining the pros, it's a little too late now. The deadline for the registration already ended so that means I still have to wait for another year."
Waya's dark brown eyes snapped open as he stared in dumb surprise at his friend. "Y-you… you checked the pro exam registrations?" he asked in disbelief. "You tried to register, didn't you? Is that the application form you were hiding?"
The blond banged boy just turned his head away trying to ignore Waya's accusation. "I just checked. It's not like I'm going to join or whatsoever."
A slow smirk crept on Waya's mouth. "Hah, so Touya was able to do something good, eh?"
"What has Touya got to do with this?" Hikaru retorted, obviously trying to deny.
"His words must have hit homerun," Waya continued. Then he sighed when he remembered what was important. "But yeah, you're too late." He then glared at his friend. "You should have decided months ago."
Hikaru kept silent for a moment while staring blankly at his ramen. Then he reached back to pull the rolled paper from his back pocket and handed it to Waya. "Ogata whoever-his-name-was said I'll just have to contact him if I decide to join," he said quietly.
A surprised breath escaped Waya while drinking his soda which led him to choke. He was still coughing when Hikaru handed him a glass of water. "Geez, you're disgusting," Hikaru said as a made a face.
"Shut up!" Waya growled back. He grabbed the paper and stared at the name written at the back of the form. "Y-you…! You told Ogata?!" he exclaimed.
"That you're Sai!"
"Why would I tell that to that old geezer?" Hikaru snapped back. "Who the hell was he anyway?"
Waya slap his hand over his own head in frustration. "Oh kami! How many times I've discussed with you the names of the current title holders with you? Ogata-sensei is the current Gosei!"
'Oh… that's why that guy called him Ogata Gosei…' Hikaru thought, suddenly feeling stupid. "Well sorry, I didn't know that," he grumbled. He began to explain to Waya what happened inside the Go Institute building.
"So, that's what happened…" Waya murmured. He made a face while playing with his drink. "I don't exactly like Ogata-sensei. He's a bit creepy, you know. Just like Kuwabara-sensei. But why don't you go for it? I mean, you've been given a chance."
Hikaru nodded. "I'm still thinking about it."
The door opened and Waya saw Isumi coming back, still talking on his phone. He quickly turned to Hikaru. "By the way, I received the message from Yashiro. You're coming?"
"Did you check your phone today?"
He got a lot of things in mind that day that it never entered his mind to check his mails. He took the phone from his bag and winced when he noticed that there were 5 missed calls, all from Yashiro. He checked his inbox, and as Waya mentioned, Yashiro was inviting them on a go convention that will be held in Kansai during the weekends.
"Well?" Waya looked at him expectantly.
Hikaru sighed. Maybe this trip would help him clear his mind. "Okay. But I need to ask my mom first."
Isumi slid back to his seat and gave them an apologetic look. "I'm really sorry. That was my friend back in the Nine Star club. He was just asking if I could come during the next discussion. I hope I didn't miss anything."
Hikaru just smiled. "No. Nothing at all."
He thought he could rest and clear his mind during the travel. But it turned out to be an exhausting one. First, he had to wake up very early that he felt like a headache is coming up. And the problem with travelling with a go professional was that he would likely think of nothing but go. So instead of being able to rest during the entire travel, Waya asked, no… insisted on playing go while travelling in the train. And for hours, they played. He already knew the results, and he had to ensure Waya's grumbling and complaining on his loss. After they reached the stop for Kansai, they got lost on their way to Yashiro's house. Again, he had to endure Waya complaining on his bad sense of direction. He was relieved when they finally reached Yashiro's house. And guess what Yashiro's greeting was after their supposedly happy reunion…
"Shindo! It's been a while since I played against you. I'm really gonna beat you this time."
Such a warm welcome. So he ended up more exhausted than ever since he couldn't refuse his host's request to play against him. So he ended up playing with both Waya and Yashiro before they leave for the Go convention. It was lucky that Yashiro's schedule was in the afternoon so they had time for some games.
The event seemed uneventful for him since he only tagged along with his pro friends. Yashiro made effort to introduce them to some people and since Waya was a pro also, he was included in most of the conversations. Hikaru, on the other hand, could not follow through the conversations which were more focused on games of some people he had no idea of. He excused himself and said that he want to tour around the area alone, despite his friends' protests. He passed through a hall wherein a tournament for kids was being held. Looking at the children's serious expressions, he couldn't help but admire them. They looked so determined, dedicated, and… happy? He shook his head. Some were happy because they won, but he could see the fallen faces of some of the children, probably because they lost. He saw one father comforting his son, and after some few words, the small child smiled and cheered that he'll win the next game.
Hikaru couldn't help but feel down. After all, despite his so-called strength, he could do nothing but hide it. His skill wasn't earned, it was ridiculously inherited. Which was the reason why he couldn't show it to anyone. He played as Sai but he felt that all those games he played didn't belong to him… but to Fujiwara Sai or Honinbo Shusaku. The only time he tried to play a hand, a real move on his part, he lost. He remembered that game with Touya-sensei. If he had stuck on the moves he should have made, the hands that Shusaku would have made, he would have won that game. He had never felt such frustration before.
A beep from his phone woke him from his musings and Hikaru checked his message. Waya said that he was asked to assist on a tutoring session and that it would be over in about half an hour. Hikaru glanced around and saw a pile of computers set up for internet go. Knowing that he would be bored out of his wits in a short while, he replied back that he'll be waiting in the Internet Go area.
After placing his phone back in his pocket, he went towards the computers and tried to watch. One of the players seemed to have finished his game and logged off.
"Do you want to try also?" he asked.
Hikaru glanced around and noticed that there were only a few people. Without giving much thought, he decided that he'll just watch some games in the internet. He logged on using his usual username and began scanning for some interesting games to watch. He didn't have any plan to play, not when he was in the middle of go crazy people.
"Yes! I won!"
Hikaru glanced at the guy facing the computer next to him. One of the guy's friends approached him and they began to laugh over the stupid move that his opponent seemed to have made. Hikaru just shook his head and turned his attention back to the computer screen and clicked one of the games that seemed to have many observers.
"I think I'm doing great now," the same guy said loudly. "Hey Yuu, help me find a worthwhile opponent." His friend began pointing some of the names on the screen. "Joker2000 is good. I have never defeated him. Ah, but I think GetCrushed is better. I saw him creamed Joker2000 once. Hmm…" Yuu scrolled the screen down further. "Hey, there's LL. I heard he's a Chinese international amateur player. He's…" His eyes suddenly widened when he saw one of the names on the screen. "Sai!" he exclaimed.
Hikaru stiffened in surprise at the outburst. Unfortunately, there were other people who seemed to have heard.
"Did he say Sai?" he heard another guy asked and approached the two guys beside him.
"He's on the net? I haven't seen him for quite some time," another one said.
"He doesn't have a game. Challenge him quickly," Yuu told his friend.
Hikaru panicked at that. 'Dammit! I knew this wasn't a good idea,' he groaned inwardly. He quickly moved his mouse to log off when a message prompt appeared. 'Shit!' he cursed as he rejected it. Challenges began prompting on his screen one after another. What was worse was that he couldn't log off without rejecting the messages first.
"Wow, you sure have a lot of challenges."
Hikaru stiffened at the voice behind him. 'Damn! Now, how do I get out of this?!'
Wow… it took me months to come up with this chapter. Sorry for the delay. It's not that I'm giving up this fic. I just couldn't seem to sort out what to do with the plot. Having an overly skilled Shindo Hikaru is quite hard. Anyway, hope this chapter is still okay.
Many thanks to all your wonderful reviews. Also, thanks to Israfel for editing this and for being patient. I left him hanging for weeks after I've given him the first part of the chapter. Sorry...
Thanks also to Strawberry Clover for giving me some ideas in order to continue this fic. It was her idea to let Yashiro invite Hikaru to Kansai.
Please read and review! :)