Title: affaire de coeur
Fandom: Hikaru no Go
Word count: 3,188
Summary: A love affair that starts and ends with Go. Touya Kouyo/Akiko, Touya Kouyo/Sai, hints of Hikaru/Akira.
Done for Blind Go.. Round four, I think?
Akiko didn't show up that much during the storyline. Because of that, she's something of a blank slate characterization-wise. This characterization is different from most of what I've seen about her, and even different from other things I've written, but I wanted to paint a different side of her, perhaps.
Thanks to my lovely beta who did this on short notice! You know who you are
He had met her through an omiai. Akiko was elegant and a little wry at times. Her hair was thick and short, he liked the sparkle of intelligence in her eyes, how she listened. There was a certain grace about her; how she walked, her carefully chosen words, her smiles that seemed to hide something and keep it entirely to herself; a joke untold.
She was a mild-mannered person, much like himself, and he felt comfortable with her. Their silence was warm, not awkward. It could span miles of distance between them, him with oolong tea and her with mineral water. They could enjoy each other's presence like a long summer's day, clouds floating lazily across the sky.
Later, he would find out about her temper and how long she could hold grudges as they fumbled through married life, their hands being their guide through the dark.
She did not understand his love of Go, how he passionately talked of moves and games played, but she tolerated it,
even admired his admiration.
And through their long marriage, he never regretted the decision. It was a calm life they built together. Stability and peace.
While many of his peers strayed, took on mistresses and lovers, he stayed true.
The only love affair he ever held was with Go, one she accepted, with joking ease.
"After all," she would say, "I was the one who stole you away from Lady Go, so I can hardly complain."
Kouyo had attempted to teach his wife the game on several occasions, but she always fell short.
She never held the stones right. She would mix up terms until he would have to tersely correct her.
Some of their biggest fights were Go-related.
Eventually, he had to give up sharing that side with her. Their lives settled back into peace.
Three years after they were married, Akira was born.
It seemed that from the first moment he held Akira in his arms, red, wrinkled, and bawling, that some unknown knowledge had been imparted to him, whispered in his ear. He stared down at his son, who looked almost inhuman, a changeling child, and felt a stirring in his chest.
And he thought that one day, he'd teach that love that Akiko could not find. All the terms, the moves, the strategies.
They'd play Go like some fathers played ball. He would induct Akira into the all-consuming love affair, just as his father had taught to him.
As soon as Akira could sit up, Kouyo placed him at the other end of his Goban.
Akiko worried that he'd ingest the stones, that he'd choke and that there'd be a nighttime emergency visit, but Akira would just watch, rapt, his tiny fingers in his lap.
Akira's first words weren't 'Dada' but 'Nigiri'
Truth be told, Akira was such a good child that it almost seemed as if he had been born a thirty-year old man.
He was unfailingly mature. Even at a young age he would sit quietly, was never anything but courteous, was good at homework, and rarely ignored his chores (unless he got so caught up in a game that he forgot himself, which was often. She never had the heart to scold him then).
Akira listened, and he almost always obeyed. While other mothers told horror stories of their own little beloved monsters, Akiko fumbled for what to say.
She loved him to a distraction, but Akira was in essence, a younger version of his father.
Akiko would search for parts of herself in his face, his mannerisms. Akira had inherited her leaner frame, her temper,
her hair, the shape of her face. But in everything else, he was Kouyo's son, through and through.
As soon as was physically possible, Kouyo began bringing his young son to the study group sessions, promising a future that one day, when he was little older, he would join in.
Ashiwara took to him immediately, guiding him along, gently instructing him, though he did have a tendency to hover and worry whenever it looked as if Akira might stumble and fall. Kouyo knew this affection was genuine, not a ploy to garner favor. He thought Ashiwara would be a great father.
"It can't go on like this," Akiko said one night.
Kouyo looked up from his newspaper.
"I clean the house and then turn on the TV and there's nothing but gameshows and daytime television."
There was a pause.
"I won't join a bookclub," She said adamantly.
She was college-educated and he had always admired her intelligence. She was staying at home with a child who was far older than his years. Her days were an exercise in drudgery, staring out at the world passing by too fast outside of her window.
He almost suggested a woman's Go study group, but thought better of it.
"I'm sure Ashiwara can look after Akira while you're out. Perhaps you can start working again."
Akiko smiled in gratitude. This was one thing she had always been grateful for--that he understood her, even if she never shared his enthusiasm for Go. They knew where each other's boundaries would lie, and respected that.
So, partly because of his mother, Touya joined the study group at a tender age, watching and waiting for the day when he too would be able to officially join their ranks, beyond the small practice matches afforded him when everyone else was finished.
Ashiwara took him under his wing almost immediately, becoming the teacher second only to Akira's father. Ogata watched on in amusement, the embers of his cigarette flaring before turning to ash.
Thus Lady Go claimed Akiko's child as well as her husband, but Akiko took this defeat well. She didn't mind Lady Go's presence, just as long as she'd share.
It all began around the time Akira came home one night, so dejected from being beaten by a child his own age, so enigmatic that he was silent for days. Kouyo knew that he was replaying that match over and over, in his head furiously struggling with his moves and those of his opponent.
In truth, Kouyo was glad to see fire in his son's eyes. Rivalry, passion for the sport...those were what truly made a game, and were something that he had never found along the way. Yes, there were challenges, but not the heated progress, the heart-thrumming sense of awareness of meeting someone of equal power, someone who pushed your skills to the utter limit. Someone who made you fall in love with the game all over again.
This was when the dreams started.
His eyes opened to an empty space. At first Koyuo was simply aware of breathing. He sat at the Go-ban, poised with anticipation, waiting for the first move. From beyond the mists sat someone, something, awaiting his challenge. He saw the stones, forming what must be some message. He made his move.
Each hand was new, unexpected. He could not remember having a game that had thrilled him to such an extent. It is the first time in his life that he has felt so challenged.
Kouyo wakes when the game has barely just begun. The next day is spent contemplating his next move.
That summer a net Go player emerged, a dragon from the mists. Unknown, showing a prowess beyond what many had dreamed of. No one knew his face. His Go was old, seeming to span several centuries of time. Each stone cast was set seriously, a war cry, as if lives were at stake. Despite many questions, he never spoke.
His name was Sai.
There is an understated sensuality to Go. Few people understood this, but it was one thing both Touya Kouyo and his son knew with all their hearts. Akira's was the fiery passion of youth, while Touya Kouyo's was a lifelong love affair, a couple wed and reaching advancing age, nearing their Golden anniversary.
He can never quite see the figure beyond the mists, in a cloak of shadows. He can only just make out the lower half of his face, eyes hidden in the dark. There is a grace to the dream player, wrapped in silks of a bygone era. He lays out the stones with a love Touya Kouyo never thought he'd see in another person. The place they are seated in is beyond dreams, in a plane that is liquid and solid, contradictions forming and unformed. It is an empty space, the universe and stars circling around them at a frantic pace, but this one bubble, this abode is still.
Like an object in the distance, with each dream, each continuation of the game, the figure becomes clearer. Less blurred; he can make out more and more with each hand. The dream player's style is ancient, going back centuries.
One day, Touya Kouyo loses a study match because his mind is still back in his dreams.
Touya Kouyo never knew the obsessive pangs of passion until now. His love for everything in his life, his wife, his son, even Go had always had a steady yet calm course, like a mountain stream. But with those dreams, that trickle flowed into a rush, carving out for him a burn and ache he'd never thought possible.
His whole life was smoldering, the kind of passion that never burns over. A safe fire, one that would not leap to the dry tinder of his life.
Their hands had never touched, the dream-player and his, they were always bound by some distance which could never be breached.
He wondered if it was possible to have an affair with a ghost.
Kouyo watched as his boy fell into the same spell he had. Even as Akira rose, more brilliantly than ever before,
Kouyo knew there was something on his mind.
"What is it, Akira?"
Akira looked up from the pile of Kifus he was studying.
"That boy..?" Touya Kouyo said.
"No." Akira said, with a surprising amount of bitterness. His chin rose defiantly, and he tossed his hair proudly.
"I would never spend my time thinking about him."
But each action showed otherwise, and Kouyo couldn't help but see that every step taken forward had Hikaru's signature engraved in it, every won tournament or title gained had ghostly fingerprints all belonging to that one boy to whom Akira was inexorably bound to. They twisted and turned together. their rivalry like a hidden gravity; neither letting up, neither able to escape the pull.
Akira really did have his mother's temper, Kouyo thought with amusement.
"You've been distant lately," she said.
"Have I?" He said.
"Kouyo, you have to tell me." She looked at him, not quite pleading. "Is there someone else?"
He thought back to the dreams, the lovely shape of each hand, moves so genius that he wanted to stroke them in admiration. The body that was revealed with every return to that room.
"Soon, I will retire," he finally said by way of reply.
"So it's Lady Go all over again, is it?"
"Yes," he said.
He didn't know how to say just how close she had come.
"Who are you?" He said to the darkness.
The figure smiled, but did not reply.
"Are you a god?"
The first words he had ever heard from the dream player surprise him. The dream player had a musical voice, the trace of an accent, one he couldn't place.
"Why do you visit me?"
"I wanted to reach...the Hand of God. I simply wanted to keep playing. I thought I could surely find it with you.
..Surely, you understand."
Because we're the same, you and I...
There was no history of heart trouble in his family, and he had lived a saintly life, the cuisine of a Buddhist monk all carefully set out by his wife.
Kouyo thought perhaps it was the shock-- his age. Something inside him must have rusted. Passion was for the young; the old could never withstand being thrust into its burning flame and then being yanked from it again.
The walls in the room were almost as bright as the light filtering through the blinds. It burned under his eyelids,
forcing his eyes open, chasing him to consciousness.
It was all so sterile, as if the air was trapped under glass. There were piles of machinery surrounding him, all making a cacophony of sounds.
There had been many arrivals since then, but the most interesting one was his son's rival.
Hair mussed and clothes looking more than a little disheveled, he bent over to catch his breath.
"Must've ran all the way here," Akiko said, amused.
"Is it true? The rumors?" Shindou asked, when he finally looked up.
"That I will retire? Yes. It was recommended, and I believe it the best course of action."
The boy, his son's rival looked panicked.
"You can't retire! Not yet!"
"I've had a long career. This is the end of the path for me," Kouyo replied.
"But, but, you have to play one more match! Just- against one more person," Shindou said. With each word his voice grew louder, until a nurse attending frowned in his direction, though he paid no notice.
⌠He's been waiting to play you..." The boy mumbled. "You've gotta play him, even if it's just once."
He watched Shindou and remembered wondering what his son had seen in him that had caused such a reaction. But now Kouyo thought he saw. The sum of their differences... he saw his son's future and the future of Go itself. The Go-ban was spread out for them, waiting for them to discover its secrets, find moves that no other in history had thought of before.
"This person...it's 'Sai', isn't it?"
Hikaru gulped, and looked away, fidgeting for a few moments before finally giving him a slow nod.
"But you can't tell anyone...Sai's really um, reclusive and...um, he shouldn't be made a spectacle of."
Shindou shuffled his feet and looked down, but only for a moment, as he bounced back, clenching his hand to a fist and yelling out, "He can't come to you directly, but he can still play!"
Kouyo closed his eyes, already knowing the answer.
"So it's Netgo?"
Already Kouyo waited with anticipation. Later, when Akira came to check on him, he watched his reaction to Shindou with amusement. His son resembled an irritated cat, hair on end, tail lashing in irritation, his voice more like a growl.
They were the future of Go, and the future was bright.
Kouyo waged it all. This was his magnum opus. The swan song for his career as a pro. He thought of what it would entail, a life without the constant presence of Go, without tournaments and the public eye. Soon, he would fade away,
remembered only in history books and old magazines. Another would come take his place. That was life.
He recognized the moves as soon as the player entered. The laptop felt hot on his lap, but he barely noticed it, his attention held tight by Sai's hold.
Kouyo loses by a half moku.
The game draws to a close. They count territory, speaking soft words as they remember moves like lost soldiers,
captured stones like corpses.
"I'm sorry to be a burden," the ghost says.
Kouyo shakes his head. "No, you never were..."
He can see the figure before him clearly now. For the past few times, as their games neared their ends, the vagueness had parted. No longer were there muted greys and pastels hidden by fog, but from them emerged one of the most beautiful creatures he had ever seen. He thought that this was how myths of spirits and beautiful half-human lovers came about. The man seemed almost too lovely to be real, a painting sprung to life.
"You're Sai...aren't you?"
They looked at each other, silence spreading like an ache.
"If only I had been reborn in this era, perhaps I could've been happier," Sai said at last. "If only I had been younger,
we could have been rivals. Like your son and Hikaru."
Kouyo could see it so clearly, the past they never had. Days of summer spent hiding from the heat, loose shorts and t-
shirts, their legs touching underneath the booth. Go salons and then on further, lazy games and sly touches. He saw the interwoven pattern of the life that never was. He felt wistful, nostalgic, if only, if only...
"I never meant to steal you from her. It was selfish of me."
"I don't regret it, though, even if it was selfish."
Sai came closer to him, and it took Kouyo by surprise. The touch against him was soft, so much so that he could barely feel it; a feather against his skin, a whisper of silk.
"I wanted to play more Go..."
I wanted to play more against you. More, more, so much more...
Sai became transparent, the flowers and twirling cranes of his silks fading into the mists around him.
"Wait!" Touya Kouyo said.
I was happy playing against you.
Touya Kouyo woke to bright sunlight in an empty room.
The second heart attack was worse than the first. It felt as if something was being physically ripped from him, jagged pieces of rib cage splintering, a hot coal in the inner ventricle lining.
It was the beginning of May, kites flying in gloriously bright colors, spring coming like a new love.
And yet, he felt an overwhelming sense of sadness. He saw glimpses of Sai in stores, and in parks, and in other women. He wondered how one should mourn for someone who was never really there at all.
The Go-ban was set, and his son and wife had long since gone to dream. Touya Kouyo waited. The stars were bright shapes, and the night hung like a mist that concealed the shadows of flowers and birds, ancient silks.
The winds shuddered, the curtains--so ghostlike and filmy, he thought it might be a sign, but the winds stilled.
He sighed, and got up. The ghost had finally gone.