Paradigm Shift (n): 1. afundamental change in approach or assumptions. 2. Acceptance by the majority of a changed belief, attitude, or way of doing things.
(Webster's New Millenium Dictionary of English, v 0.9.7, 2008)
Disclaimer: Although many of the ideas in this story are mine, Sai and Hikaru, unfortunately, are not: they belong to Yumi Hotta, Takeshi Obata, and Studio Pierrot.
Author's Note: Oh no! I realized that I made a tactical error in the prologue. Hikaru is actually playing some other opponent in the actual episode, not Touya. I've changed the prologue to reflect this.
Chapter One: You What?! In Which Much Is Revealed (Or Maybe Not)
"I have nothing," Hikaru's opponent said, head bent low. Hikaru stared at him, his mind still caught up in the game that had just ended. Sai had dominated, of course, and even though black hadn't been strong enough to challenge him, the game had still been tense.
Mostly because, after the first twenty minutes, Touya had been silently watching. How had he finished his game that fast, anyway?
"Thank you for the game," Hikaru answered. Good game, he thought to Sai as they began clearing the board.
Sai beamed. "Thank you for letting me play, Hikaru!"
No problem. I mean, you're welcome.
"Is it really okay for me to play, though?" Sai asked. "It was your first ooteai match; didn't you want to play?"
It was better this way. Hikaru thought. But actually, I'm sort of worried about the fact that Touya was watching.
They had finished clearing the board, and Hikaru's opponent (what was his name, anyway?) got up and left. Before he could stand up, though, Touya shifted. Hikaru looked sideways and jumped: the way Touya was glaring at him, it almost looked like his eyes were glowing. Scary.
"Heh heh heh... did you want to discuss the game, Touya?" Hikaru stammered.
"No," Touya hissed. Hissed, like a snake! "I want an explanation. You're Sai, aren't you."
It wasn't a question, so Hikaru felt justified in not answering it. He was confident that here, at least--with other games still going on around them--Touya wouldn't start a scene.
"Shindou!" Touya said fiercely. "Say something!"
"What do you want me to say?" Hikaru asked. Then he got up, turned in the results of the game, and walked out the door.
"Um, he's following us, Hikaru," Sai said nervously as Hikaru put on his shoes. "And he looks really mad!"
I know, Hikaru thought. He knew he should probably be worried, but he somehow couldn't manage it. He had been chasing Touya, and Touya had been chasing Sai, for so long; this confrontation had been coming for a long time. After the terror of loosing Sai, nothing else seemed quite as frightening anymore.
That didn't mean putting it off wasn't a good idea, though. Let's run, Sai! Hikaru shouted.
They burst into the lobby, hit the door at a run, and blasted out onto the street at full pelt. Hikaru felt a laugh bubbling up and didn't try to stop it.
He's still following us, Sai gasped. The ghost was too out of breath to talk-- though how a ghost could get out of breath Hikaru didn't know.
I know! Hikaru couldn't talk either, but that was because he was laughing so hard. And it was the laughing that was their downfall, as Touya wasn't laughing and therefore had no trouble whatsoever catching up. The other boy caught Hikaru by the wrist, swinging him around and pulling him to a halt. Hikaru bent over, hands on his knees, laughing and gasping for breath.
"What the hell is going on?!" Touya yelled, hands clenched into fists at his sides, whole body radiating fury. "What was that in there? You were playing like Sai! What do you think you're playing at?!"
"What'd it look like I was doing? I was playing Go! You got a problem with that?" Hikaru yelled back. It felt good to let loose, to let out all the tension of the last few days by yelling at Touya.
"Yes, I have a problem with that! You said you aren't Sai, but you were playing just like him in there! Play a game with me, right now!"
Hikaru hesitated, then glanced around. The street they were on was busy and lined with stores. "Are you sure you want to talk about this here? People are starting to stare." It was true, too: the crowds were edging away from them, and Hikaru saw at least one mother pulling her children away. When Touya only gaped at him, Hikaru sighed and made a decision. "Come on, then."
"You don't really want a game, you want an explanation, right? Well, it's complicated, and you're not going to believe me. It's way too much trouble to go into here. Let's go to my house, and then I'll explain."
"Your house?" Touya managed. "But--"
"It's about time you met my mom, anyway," Hikaru interrupted. Then he turned around and started walking. "Well, are you coming?"
"Hey, wait!" Touya quickly caught up with him and resumed glaring. "What if I had something to do right now? I could have had plans."
"You don't have any plans," Hikaru said serenely. "You just demanded that I play you. Besides, you don't wanna miss this. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I hate explaining, too, so you'd better be grateful. What are you just standing around for? C'mon, it's this way."
"Are you really going to explain, Hikaru?" Sai asked. "I want to know what's going on, too! Why are you letting me play? What are you going to tell Akira-kun? I'm so confused!"
Are those all the questions you've got? Hikaru asked with amusement.
"No, I've got more!" Sai assured him. "But those will do for now."
I'm not sure a busy street is really the place to explain, Hikaru said, just to annoy Sai.
"I'm tired of waiting!"
But Touya is here and everything...
"Akira-kun can keep walking," Sai assured him. "Now: explain!"
Hikaru sobered. He glanced at Touya out of the corner of his eye, but it looked like Touya was ignoring him. You remember what I said last night, right? About not asking to play again? Sai nodded eagerly. Well, that's when you came back. I said, "I won't ask to play again," and you appeared. I don't know why you had to leave, but I think that's why you came back. As long as I don't play anymore, you can stay. So from now on, you play.
Actually, Hikaru had a few ideas about why Sai left, even if he wasn't sure which of them was right. He would just have to act as if they were all true. There was no point in taking chances, after all.
"Oh!" Sai gasped. "I get to play? Really?"
All the games, Hikaru replied. Every single one of them. They're all yours.
They'd reached the subway station, and Sai was quiet as they got on the train. Hikaru looked at him, a little worried; Sai was rarely quiet for long unless he was playing Go. Sai's pale face was glowing, a happy grin on his lips, and Hikaru felt like he must be glowing himself. This was what was important: making Sai happy.
"But..." Sai finally said when they were almost at their stop, "are you sure that's okay? Won't you miss playing Go?"
No, Hikaru replied with certainty. It's more important that you stay with me. Anything is okay as long as you're here.
"Oh," Sai said. "I love you too, Hikaru."
"I'm home!" Hikaru called loudly, sort-of hoping his mom was home and sort-of hoping she wasn't.
"Welcome back, Hikaru!" Mitsuko answered from the kitchen.
"Please excuse me for intruding," Touya said politely as he toed off his shoes. Hikaru rolled his eyes--Touya was always so formal, it was kinda ridiculous.
"Oh! A guest!" Mitsuko emerged from the kitchen, wiping her hands hastily on a dishrag. "Please, come in." She glared at Hikaru, who hastily remembered his manners.
"Mom, this is Touya Akira, another Go pro. Touya, this is my Mom," Hikaru mumbled quickly.
"It's very nice to meet you, Touya-kun," Mitsuko said, bowing. "Please, come in. I'm afraid it's not very tidy, but..."
"No, really, the pleasure is all mine," Touya said, bowing in return.
"Hikaru, be polite," Sai chastised when Hikaru rolled his eyes. Hikaru thought that Touya and his mom were doing enough of that on their own already, what with all the bowing and apologizing they were doing. Best move things along a little.
"Mom, Touya was just coming over to play a quick game. We'll go up to my room, okay?"
Mitsuko tsked and shook her head. "Now, Hikaru, I certainly can't let a guest go without refreshment. Please, Touya-kun, come in to the kitchen for some tea."
"No arguing, Hikaru. Please, Touya-kun, do come in."
So Hikaru had to endure sitting there as they made polite conversation while the tea brewed, then drinking the tea--and green tea was far from his favorite drink, he'd much rather have a nice cold can of soda, the things he put up with--and finally more polite conversation. He tuned most of it out. Sai was examining the kitchen appliances again, which was amusing no matter how many times he did it.
"So you're a Go pro, too?" Mitsuko was asking.
"Yes, I passed the exam last year," Touya said. Duh. Hadn't he told his mom that?
"What does a pro do, exactly?" His mom asked next. "Hikaru never really explained, he just talked on and on about how he was going to win, just you wait and see..." She trailed off, smiling fondly at her son, who blushed. "But now he says he wants to drop out of school. How will he support himself if he doesn't finish school? That can't be normal, even for pros, can it?"
Hikaru felt a pang of guilt. He really hadn't taken the time to explain much to his mom; she must have been worried about him.
Touya nodded. "Most pros do stop attending school, yes. We get paid for advancing in rank, tutoring, and attending Go Institute events. There are also big prizes for winning a title." He glanced pointedly at Hikaru as he said this, no doubt remember a long-ago boast to "win a title or two." Hikaru scowled back. "Being a pro is a career like any other, even though we usually start young than in other careers. Does that answer your question, Shindou-san?"
"I wonder how many times he's had to explain that? He's quite good at it." Sai asked thoughtfully. "Shindou-san must have been wanting to ask someone that for some time. It's a good thing Touya was here to explain it."
I get it, already, Hikaru pouted. You don't have to drill it into my head. I should have explained all that a while ago.
Sai laughed. "You can be a little dense sometimes, Hikaru."
Mitsuko was looking considerably more cheerful after Touya's explanation, and Hikaru promised himself that he do better in the future. It couldn't be that hard to keep his mom in the loop, right?
"I've taken up quite enough of your time, Touya-kun," Mitsuko said suddenly. "I apologize for delaying your game with Hikaru."
Touya stood up and bowed, and Hikaru hastily stood up as well. "Not at all, Shindou-san. The pleasure was mine. Thank you for the tea."
And then they were finally moving upstairs. "You're pretty smooth, eh, Touya?" Hikaru teased.
"Shut up, Shindou," Touya snapped. "Just because you don't know how to be polite doesn't mean that everyone is as boorish as you are."
"Okay, okay, I take it back. Geez, you're touchy," Hikaru added under his breath. He opened his door and did a quick check for any underwear (or other unmentionables) lying about. Amazingly, the room was pretty clean. "Come on in."
Touya looked around the room, and Hikaru wondered what he saw. His bed was made, his desk and bookshelf were overflowing with manga, and his curtains were blowing in the breeze from the open window. A normal teenage boy's room, Hikaru thought.
All Touya probably noticed was the goban in the middle of the floor. He crossed to it immediately and sat down, then stared at Hikaru.
"Um," Hikaru said. Why was Touya staring at him like that?
"Did you forget why we came here, Hikaru?" Sai was laughing at him now, and that just wasn't fair. "You promised Akira-kun an explanation, remember?"
I just lost my momentum, that's all. All that talking and bowing and stuff really takes it out of a guy.
Hikaru sat down, too, but facing away from the goban, not in front of it. "I'm still going to explain, but since you're not going to believe me, it'll be easier to do this first. Nigiri."
"What? You want to play blind Go?" Touya sounded kind of annoyed now.
"No, no. Well, sort of. We'll play, but don't tell me where you put your stones--just put them down. I'll tell you where to put mine. You don't have to say anything at all."
"But if you're not looking at the board..." Touya said, bewildered.
Hikaru grinned. This was going to be fun. "You wanted to play a game, right? Just trust me. It'll all make sense."
"Fine," Touya grunted. "You'd better not be wasting my time, Shindou."
"Don't worry, don't worry. You won't regret this."
Hikaru heard Touya take a handful of stones. His hands clenched into fists, and he forced them open again. This was weird. All of it was weird: having Touya here, in his room, about to play a game with Sai; hearing Touya and his mom chatting like old friends; and especially sitting with his back to the Go board. Because letting Sai play like this meant that he really was going to tell Touya everything.
Except that he didn't really have a choice. Not if Sai was going to keep playing. Touya was nosy, and smart; he would know what was up. Hell, he'd already noticed, and after only one game, too. Telling him now would save a lot of trouble later.
If he kept telling himself that, would he eventually believe it?
"Even," Sai said.
"Even," Hikaru repeated. There was a pause, and then Sai said, "3-4, komoku."
Hikaru found himself falling into a sort of trance as the game progressed, repeating what Sai said and letting the game take form in his mind. He didn't know exactly where Touya played, of course, but he could see it in the rhythm of Sai's responses. His connections here were a response to an attack there, and his extensions there were because of a weakness here. It was sort of fun, and Hikaru wondered if Touya would do it again sometime if he asked.
The sound of stones hitting the board stopped. Hikaru twisted around to see Touya sitting motionlessly, hand poised above the Go board. As Hikaru watched, he slowly returned the stone in his hand to the bowl, then looked up at Hikaru.
"How is this possible?" Touya asked. There was fear in his eyes, in his voice, and that was just wrong. No one should fear Sai.
"I think it's time to explain now," Sai said quietly, and Hikaru agreed. He settled comfortably cross-legged across from Touya, made sure Sai was sitting next to him, and searched for a place to begin.
"Before I start, I need you to promise me something," he said seriously.
"I won't promise until I know what I'm promising," Touya said, ever wary.
"You have to promise that you won't tell anyone what I'm about to tell you. Not even your dad, or Ogata, no matter how scary they are."
Touya gave him a look that clearly said I think you're crazy, but didn't protest. "Fine. I promise."
"Do you believe in ghosts, Touya?"
Touya jumped, looking almost like he'd seen a ghost right then. But he said nothing. Best to start at the beginning, then. Hikaru took a deep breath and started talking.
Touya sat silently through Hikaru's explanation of how he'd dragged Akari to his grandpa's attic looking for something to sell, right through to where Sai first talked to him in class. "He said his name was Fujiwara no Sai--"
"Sai?!" Touya exclaimed, but Hikaru glared him into silence. Touya kept silent right through to where they met in Touya-meijin's Go parlor, then interrupted with, "so that was Sai, that first game?"
Hikaru nodded. "And the second one, too."
"So when you couldn't hold the stones properly..."
"I really hadn't ever held them before. You can't possibly blame me! I had no idea what I was doing. I just had this whiny, Go-obsessed ghost who wouldn't go away." Hikaru grinned happily at Sai. Sai grinned back, equally happy.
"Wait." Touya suddenly said. "Is he here, right now?"
"Who, Sai? Yep, right there." Hikaru pointed at Sai.
Touya let out a startled sort of eep, then blushed bright red. Hikaru laughed. "Do you believe me, then?"
"You haven't really left me any choice," Touya said almost sullenly. "And you didn't say he was listening to us!"
Hikaru raised his eyebrows. "He's a ghost who's haunting me. He's always right here." Except for when he wasn't, but Hikaru wasn't going to think about that right now.
Touya looked intimidated at that, so Hikaru plunged on with his story. He told Touya about getting interested in Go himself, and about the classes he'd attended. He didn't tell Touya why he'd gotten interested–knowing that Hikaru had been chasing him all along would just give him a big head. He told Touya about playing NetGo with Sai at the internet cafe where Mitani's sister worked. "That time you caught me, I really had been playing as Sai," he told Touya, just to save the other boy the trouble of asking.
He made sure to say that getting into the insei program, and passing the pro exam, had been all on his own.
"Sai played that beginner pro game with your dad," Hikaru admitted. "He's wanted to play Touya-meijin for forever. But if he played normally everyone would start thinking I was him again, and I was so tired of that. So I made him play under this really big handicap. It wasn't really fair, though."
"Yes, the game we played over the box was so much better," Sai put in. "I would love to play Touya-sensei again."
"He'll probably have a lot more time now that he's retired," Hikaru replied. "Touya could help us arrange it, right, Touya?" Hikaru looked at Touya for confirmation.
"Huh?" Touya asked. He looked a bit like he had a headache.
"Oops. Did I say that out loud? Sorry, Touya. Sai was just saying how he'd like to play Touya-meijin again sometime, in an even game."
Touya still looked sort of stunned. "I'm sure he'd like to as well."
Hikaru felt guilty. This was probably too much for Touya to handle all at once. It was probably too much for anyone to handle at once, let alone someone as occasionally stuffy as Touya was. Any more and he'd likely explode.
"Look, it's getting late. You should probably go home soon," Hikaru said. Touya didn't answer, so he tried again. "We can meet up again tomorrow, if you want. I have school, but maybe afterward?"
Still no response. Hikaru stifled a sigh. He looked at Sai, but Sai just looked back at him helplessly. Maybe they should slap him?
"I think slapping him would be a bad idea," Sai whispered.
But it'd be so much fun, Hikaru pleaded. Why was Sai whispering, anyway? It wasn't like Touya could hear him.
"Maybe you should just... politely show him out the door? The walk to the subway might wake him up."
But what if it doesn't, and he falls down or gets mugged or lost of something? It's be all my fault.
Hikaru sighed, waited for all of ten seconds, and then stood up. "I think you'd better go home, Touya," he announced loudly. Touya got up, thanked him for the game, and followed Hikaru out of the bedroom and down the stairs. At the kitchen he stopped and thanked Hikaru's mom one more time for the tea. He put his shoes back on, called out "I'm going!", and then left.
Hikaru and Sai stared after him. "Do you think he'll be okay?" Hikaru asked.
Sai shrugged. "I have no idea."
"Maybe we'd better stop by the Go parlor tomorrow, or call him or something."
Sai nodded seriously. They looked at each other. Hikaru's stomach broke the silence with a loud grumble.
"I think it's dinner time," Hikaru said. "Last one to the table has to clean up the Go stones!"
"But I can't do that, Hikaru! That's not fair!" Sai wailed as he tried desperately to catch up.
Hikaru woke up with the pleasant feeling that all was right in the world. The sun shining through the window was bright against his eyelids, and he felt toasty-warm right down to the tips of his toes. He opened one eye halfway: there was Sai, perched at the foot of his bed, looking out the window.
"Good morning, Hikaru!"
"What are we going to do today? Are we going to go to a Go parlor, or play NetGo, or what? Well? Say something!"
"Shh," Hikaru said peacefully. "I'm sleeping." He rolled his head enough to look at his clock. Three more minutes.
"No, you're not, you just said something!"
Hikaru wiggled his toes. "Am too."
"You're faking!" Sai cried indignantly. "And I saw your feet move!"
Hikaru sat bolt upright and slammed his hand down, cutting off the alarm.
"Are we late?" Sai asked fearfully.
"Yup!" Hikaru laughed with the sheer joy of such a normal, normal morning. "We'd better run!"
Hikaru's average time between his alarm going off and running out the door was thirteen and a half minutes.
Today they made it in six.
"Hey, I need one less handicap stone against Kaneko-san now," Akari said. "Play me again when you have time."
They were walking through the crowded school hallway. School was finally out, and the student body was buzzing with the excitement of finally being free on a beautiful day.
Hikaru scoffed. "You weren't that good to begin with; it wouldn't take much to get better. I mean–" he changed course hastily at Akari's glare– "Sure, I'd love to play sometime. Sounds like fun!"
Akari lowered her bookbag back to her side, and Hikaru and Sai sighed with relief. "How about today? You could come to the Go Club and see how much we've all improved! We'll have enough to enter the tournament this year for sure!"
What do you think, Sai? Hikaru asked. Up for a tutoring game or three?
Sai nodded enthusiastically. "I'd love to! Akari-chan was a lot of fun to play last time!"
And they aren't good enough to tell if it's you or me doing the tutoring, Hikaru added. Then he remembered.
"Oh yeah! Sorry, Akari, but I have something else I have to do today. Maybe tomorrow."
Akari shrugged. "Tomorrow's fine. As long as you don't back out! Remember, you promised!"
"I won't back out!" Hikaru called after her as she disappeared into the crowd. "It's not like I'd dare to, she'd probably bash my head in with her bag or something. I swear, that thing is lethal. And when did I promise, anyway? What did I promise? I don't remember promising anything…"
"What is it that we have to do today?" Sai asked, trying to distract Hikaru from his muttering. It worked. Hikaru glanced at him before turning around and plowing back through the crowd to his locker.
We have to go track down Touya, remember? He looked so shocked yesterday, who knows what he'll do today.
"But how will we find him? Do you know where he lives?"
"Huh." Hikaru hadn't thought of that. Well, I guess first we should check Kaio, and then Touya-meijin's Go Salon.
"Good idea!" Sai cried. "Onward, Hikaru! To Akira-kun's school!"
"Yeah!" Hikaru cheered. He shoved on his street shoes, slammed his locker shut, and ran for the subway.
Except that Touya wasn't at Kaio– hadn't even shown up for classes that day. Back to the subway, then to the Go Salon. Except that he wasn't there either, and Hikaru didn't think to ask Ichikawa for his address until they were already outside again, and then he felt too stupid to go back in.
"What now, Sai?" Hikaru asked wearily.
Sai sighed. "Maybe the Go Institute?"
"Maybe…" And they trudged back to the subway. "You don't think he's avoiding us, do you?"
"Maybe he's just sick?"
Hikaru blanched. "Oh no! What if we made him get sick?"
"I'm sure he's just avoiding us!"
"That's no good either!"
Touya wasn't at the Go Institute. Hikaru slumped down on a bench outside the entrance dispiritedly. "It's no good, Sai. I give up."
Sai hovered over him, worried and not ashamed to show it. "You can't give up, Hikaru! Never give up! Never surrender! I know what you need…" he paused dramatically, "a ramen break!"
Hikaru perked up. "Right! Never surrender! Ramen break!"
After three bowls of ramen– all this running around was hard work, after all– they returned to the Go Institute and got Touya's address and phone number from the receptionist.
"That was too easy," Hikaru said doubtfully once they were back on the street. "She just gave it to me! I could have been a mugger or a stalker or yakuza or something!"
"I'm sure she just gave it to you because you're a pro now, too," Sai pointed out. "She knows you're not any of those things."
"Hm." Hikaru pondered the scrap of paper in his hand. "Do you think we should go there? Touya-meijin might be there; that'd be weird." Finding Touya had turned into way too much work, and Hikaru was seriously tempted to just give up and go home. He could find Touya tomorrow, right? They still had time to play a game or two in a Go parlor if they hurried.
"Hikaru!" Sai shouted, interrupting Hikaru's train of thought. Hikaru jumped. "Be determined! We have to go check on Akira-kun: we said we would. A Go player should never break his promises!"
"You're right," Hikaru said firmly. "And speaking of promises, I wanna make sure Touya doesn't forget about his."
"Oh! You're Shindou-san, right?" Touya Akiko asked after opening the door. "Are you looking for Kouyou?"
"I'm sorry for bothering you," Hikaru said. "Actually, is Touya—um, Akira—here?"
"I'm afraid he's not feeling well today. Would you like me to give him a message?"
Hikaru scratched the back of his head. What d'you think, Sai?
"Um..." Sai said. "Why don't you just leave your regards."
Hikaru rolled his eyes. Right. "Can you tell him I came looking for him? And I guess I'll see him soon." That should be enough to remind him that he promised not to say anything about you, Sai.
"Hey hey hey! Hikaru! Is Touya-sensei here? Can we play a game with him?"
Hikaru rolled his eyes, but asked anyway. "Is Touya-sensei home, Touya-san? If he is, can I come in and play a game with him?"
Akiko smiled but shook her head. "A lot of pros have been coming to play him since he retired, so I shouldn't be surprised that you want to as well. No, I'm afraid Kouyou isn't home right now."
"Can I leave him a message, too?" Then Hikaru had a sudden thought. "Do you have something I can write on?"
"I'm being so rude! Please, Shindou-kun, come in while I find some paper."
Hikaru bowed politely. "I'm sorry for intruding." He looked around the foyer curiously. The Touya home was more traditional than his was—no surprise, seeing how Touya-sensei dressed—but modern nevertheless. Hikaru had to suppress the urge to sneak upstairs and look for Touya.
"Here you go," Akiko handed him a pad of paper and a pencil.
Hikaru thought for a moment, then scribbled on the pad. What d'you think, Sai?
Sai peered over his shoulder. "'Want to play another game with Sai? NetGo this Saturday at 10am.' Isn't that when the Young Lion's Tournament is?"
Oh, right! Well, until we get a computer there's not enough time after school for a whole game, so it'll have to be the Saturday after that. Hikaru crossed out "this" and wrote "next." That should be fine, right? Can you wait that long, Sai?
Sai brought his fan up to hide his face. "I thought I'd never get to play Touya-sensei again. For another chance to play him, I can easily wait two weeks."
Still, Hikaru felt guilty. He'd promised himself to let Sai play anyone, anytime he wanted. We'll get a computer soon, he promised.
"Can you please give this to Touya-sensei?" Hikaru asked, handing Akiko the pad and pencil.
"No problem. Would you like to write a message for Akira-san, too?"
"Nah, that's fine. Thanks for helping me."
We're gonna get in trouble for getting home so late, Hikaru thought glumly once they were on the subway. It was getting dark outside, and his emergency ramen snack was wearing off. Mom's gonna be mad. After the way I disappeared to Hiroshima, I wouldn't be surprised if she decides to ground me. Then we'll never be able to buy a computer.
"Uh-huh." Sai obviously wasn't listening. Then he said, "why don't you call her on your cell-thingy and tell her you're on your way home? I don't want to be grounded, either."
That's a great idea! Sai, you're a genius!
"I'm sorry for causing you trouble," Sai said seriously. "If I hadn't come back, you wouldn't have had to explain about us to Akira-kun, and spend all afternoon looking for him, and now you wouldn't be in trouble with Shindou-san."
"It's fine, it's fine!" Hikaru wished that he could pat Sai on the back, or give him a hug, or something. But he couldn't, so words would have to do. I'm more glad that you're back here with me than anything else. I can take anything as long as you're here with me. So don't go anywhere, okay?
"I'll try not to. But sometimes we can't control our destiny, Hikaru. G-d moves in mysterious ways."
I'll make sure you don't! So don't go getting any ideas!
As Hikaru pulled out his phone to call his mom, he was more determined than ever. Come what may, Sai would not disappear again.
"You'll never believe who came over today," Akiko told Kouyou over dinner that night.
"Oh? Who?" Kouyou knew her well enough by now to play along with her games.
"You'll never guess," Akiko teased.
"Was it Ogata-san? No? Not Kurata-san again? Hm, in that case I give up."
"It was Shindou-kun, that nice boy who visited you in the hospital once!" Akiko felt vindicated in drawing out the suspense when she saw how surprised Kouyou was.
"Did he happen to leave a message?" Kouyou asked, trying for casual and failing.
Akiko pulled the paper out of her apron pocket and passed it over the table to him. "As a matter of fact, he did. He wanted me to tell Akira-san hello, too."
Kouyou read the paper silently, eyes brightening. "It looks like I have a NetGo game next weekend."
"You and your NetGo!" Akiko laughed. "It's too bad Akira-san asked specifically not to let anyone up. Shindou-kun looked really upset that he couldn't see him. "
"Has he come out of his room yet?" Kouyou asked.
Akiko sighed. "He hasn't. And the strangest sounds keep coming out of there—I'm not sure if it's laughing, or crying, or both. Or something else entirely."
"If he doesn't come out by tomorrow morning I'll go up and talk to him."
"I'd appreciate that. I've tried, but whatever it is, he doesn't want to tell me. Maybe you can get him out for a game of Go and get him talking that way." They both paused as noise drifted down the stairs from Akira's room. Akiko was right, Kouyou thought. It was strange.
Maybe it has to do with Shindou, Kouyou thought but didn't say. These days, it seemed like most things did.
Author's Note: Wow, that took a lot longer than I thought it would. Let's see, how'd we live up to our advertisement? Well, there were a some revelations and at least one fight, but I may have dropped the ball with the pinch of angst. Akira is busy freaking out right now, but I'm pretty sure we can count on Hikaru for at least a dash of angst sometime soon, so all not is lost.
Many, many thanks to all who reviewed! You made me very happy. ^_^
"Never give up! Never surrender!" is a quote from the movie Galaxy Quest. It's one of my favorite lines.
On the use of "G-d:" I'm Jewish. As a child, I was taught to never write down the name of G-d, as it is holy and can never be thrown away. If you did write it down, you had to bury it. (There's a really funny story on "This American Life" (an NPR show) about an orthodox Jew whose name included one of the names of G-d. His name was Daniel. Poor bastard. I'm not orthodox, but still.) I know deleting is not the same as the trash, but I couldn't break the habit. I hope it's not too jarring.
Yes, I'm still looking for a beta. Maybe my Private Messanging thing is broken? If anyone out there is interested, please email me/leave a comment!
Have somewhere you think this story should go? Disappointed that something didn't happen? Leave a comment! If you read the note at the top you'll see that I do go back and edit already completed chapters, so it's never too late. My goal is the best story possible.
Next time, look forward to: Hikaru and Sai worrying about Go (and the consequences thereof), Sai being sneaky, and Hikaru's master plan for conquering the known Go universe, in Chapter Two: The Young Lion's Tournament? Start Getting Worried!