Author's Note: HORRAY UPDATE! Firstly, thank you all so much for your reviews! I'm completely shocked and humbled by the support this story has received so far and I'm truly grateful for all of you who have taken the time to read my story (and doubly grateful for those who've reviewed!). Tragically, like always, I must again apologize for the delayed update. Since the last chapter, I've added to my work/school juggling act a bit of wedding planning (omg excited!), which is keeping me ridiculously busy. Still, with this post, I am also updating my other Hikaru no Go fic (Unforeseen Circumstances) and posting the first chapter (with a whopping 5,000+ word count) of an Ouran High School Host Club fic titled Profiles. (Slash warning on that one!)
At the end of the day as all the insei wrapped up their games, they were led to the main study room. Hikaru could hear the same professor who had greeted him this morning yelling for everyone to settle down. Aspiring Go pros or not, a room full of young teens was undoubtedly somewhat unruly. Hikaru put his walking stick away and sat down by a wall, wanting to stay out of the way for everyone else.
"Quiet! Now, before you all stampede out of here, I just want to take a quick moment to formally welcome the new insei before the rest of their classmates. You all played well today, so congratulations." He stopped and made some shuffling noises, and Hikaru wondered what he was doing. "In this corner, as you all can see here, is the score book. Every game you play as an insei will be recorded to mark your progress with regards to your peers. Today's results were already added by your opponents. In the future, you may be called to record your results, so please get acquainted with the system" Hikaru snorted, knowing that was one part of insei life he would not have to worry about. Being blind wasn't entirely without perks.
"A few of you might soon be candidates to rise in rank within the insei class given today results. Please keep in mind though that, while you have performed well today, the journey towards becoming a pro is a long and often unforgiving one. Dismissed." Hikaru could help but smirk. From what Fuku had explained, beating the Prince of Speed Go had effectively sent him on a fast track pass to quickly rise in the insei class. His success had clearly annoyed the professor who hadn't expected the cocky kid who'd bothered him about the pro exams to perform well on his first day.
You shouldn't get too confident, warned Sai playfully. Let's see how confident you still are after we play tonight. And we're playing slowly from now on- make sure you build up your concentration.Before Hikaru could come up with a retort, he heard the voice of Isumi.
"Hey Waya, want to go through Touya Akira's new dan game?" he heard Isumi ask. At the mention of his rival's name, Hikaru's snapped to attention.
"Sure. Here, let's wait for everyone to clear out and we'll set up a goban in the back". Replied another voice.
"Wait, Isumi" said Hikaru, standing up quickly and moving towards the voices. Almost instantly he bumped into someone in front of him and, embarrassed, mumbled a quick excuse before continuing.
"Hey Shindou, let me introduce you to a friend of mine" said Isumi once he had reached them. It took all of Hikaru's willpower to stop blushing, still embarrassed over his trip. "This is Waya Yoshitaka. He's in the A group with me."
"So you're the blind kid who almost beat Isumi on his first day?" said Waya, who had about as little tact as Hikaru, a sure guarantee that the two would become fast friends.
"I still beat you most of the time Waya, so stop it, besides that was rude of you." retorted Isumi, trying to cover up his friend's outburst. Hikaru couldn't help but smile.
"Mind if I join you guys? Overheard you were gonna discuss Touya's game"
"The kifu arrived during the insei class so we haven't had much of a chance to look at it" explained Isumi. Hikaru tried to remember what Akari had been explaining on the new dan games.
The games were new pros play high level pros, reminded Sai, Really Hikaru, for having such a great memory for Go games, you can sure forget everything else.
Shush!... Wait! That game was today? Why didn't Akira tell me?
Probably didn't want you to worry since it coincided with your insei class.
Hikaru grumbled under his breath something about know-it-all-ghosts.
It took a few minutes for the room to clear out and for Isumi and Waya to set up a Go board. Hikaru fidgetted from foot to foot as he waited, annoyed that he didn't know enough of the room's layout to be of much help. Soon enough, all three sat by a goban, Waya setting up the stones as Isumi called out the moves in the kifu. Hikaru sat with his eyes closed, head bowed, as he tried to imagine his rival.
Yea, that's Akira alright. He concluded, feeling the power beneath the stones. He hadn't chosen his rival lightly.
I think the older pro was intimidated by him. decided Sai, noting how Zama had become unforgivingly aggressive.
So much for a friendly game of Go. Agreed Hikaru, bitting his lip as he 'saw' and heard the moves as his rival faltered.
"They didn't even reach yose..." said Waya as he placed the final stone and stared at the go board before him. "I mean, Zama-sensei really went all out... but still... for Touya Akira to lose like this..."
"I wonder if he's alright" added Isumi. "I mean, was this really necessary? It's almost as if they were trying to shatter his confidence." After a long pause, Hikaru spoke.
"He's fine" said Hikaru, his voice strong, louder than he'd intended. His firsts were clenched and he struggle to hold back his anger. How dare that player try to break his rival. "It's gonna take more than some stupid old geezer to break Touya Akira's confidence. Besides, he knows the moment he takes a step back I'll catch up to him, so he won't let this affect him. That's why Zama played as he did... because he knew that Touya was gonna topple the Go world on itself."
"Touya Akira might be good, but I doubt he would intimidate someone like Zama-sensei. He's in a different league! And don't even try to equate yourself to him. Personally can't stand that bugger Touya at all, but he pass the Pro Examination undefeated, so I wouldn't take his skill lightly" retorted Waya, slightly scandalized at Hikaru's suggestion.
"Just look at the board." insisted Hikaru, wondering if perhaps they had a vision problem. "Touya was strong, bold in a way few new players would dare. And Zama fumbled... just look at the right corner. He wasn't expecting this sort of a challenge. It was only then that he started playing to kill." Hikaru paused, mentally moving the stones in his head while he absentmindedly brushed his bangs out of his face. "Too bad Touya missed that opening on 13-7. It would have been a doozie." He stood up, stretching a bit. "Anyway, anyone up for some ramen?" Just like that, the tension was broken, and Waya dragged Hikaru by the arm insisting on a sushi place next door. Only Isumi lagged, staring at the goban.
"13-7 opening, huh?" he said to himself. "I never would have seen it".
By the time Hikaru arrived home, Akira was already waiting before the Goban. Instantly, Hikaru sat before his rival, eager to play a game.
"Seems you scared that old geezer a little" he began, as he waited for his rival to nigiri for him.
"I lost" said Akira, and Hikaru could hear his hands trembling as he picked up the stones. "I had convinced myself that I could win... but then he went all out... and..."
"And I can beat you every other day as well" interrupted Hikaru cockily, pushing asides thoughts of his recent loss. Now was not the time for doubts - his rival needed him. "Your father can also beat ya, and so can most of the high dans. You scared that man not because of how you were playing today, but because of how he could see you will be playing in the future. Next time, that geezer won't be so lucky."
Not for the first time, Akira wished his rival wasn't blind if only so he could see him smiling in gratitude..
"Hurry up and catch up Shindou" he finally managed, placing his first stone down. It was only a matter of time before Shindou joined him in the pro world. And when he did, they would take the world down by storm.
Author's Note: Hope you guys enjoyed the chapter! I know I'm messing with the chronology in the canon, but heck, I made him blind so I should hardly care now about being faithful to the original. Anyway, again, thank you all and, if you can, please review!