Disclaimer: I don't own Hikaru no Go.
So I basically just watched the entire series in a week and a half. Yeesh. First HnG fic, though god knows I'm already writing more.
Please review, I really want to know what people think of this one.
Five Scenes Over a Goban
Waya sometimes thinks Isumi's the only genuinely nice go pro he knows. Ashiwara doesn't count, because clearly he's got the mind of a strategically brilliant puppy, and Waya himself doesn't count, 'cause he knows he can be kind of a vindictive jealous ass at times. Ochi values strength, not kindness or common decency, and Touya thinks he's above everyone but Shindo (and is right, which is the shittiest part of it all).
And Shindo himself is the most ruthless, conniving son of a bitch in existence when he's playing, and an arrogant loudmouth the rest of the time. Okay, so after that stupid-ass string of forfeits, the guy came back a little more soft-spoken, a little less thoughtless, but if Waya hears him complain one more time about how easy most of his matches are these days, he's gonna have to do something drastic.
Isumi, though, Isumi likes people. He likes making them happy. He's an amazing player, but he can compartmentalize in a way a lot of other guys can't--he dominates during the game, but recognizes that superiority on a goban doesn't necessarily translate to superiority in any other aspect of life. Which is why Waya just doesn't get the way Shindo sometimes looks at Isumi, respect and wariness and gratitude all mixed into one. Shindo doesn't respect people openly, he isn't wary of them. It's not in him--he challenges, he mocks, he argues, he yells. That's just how Shindo operates.
He brings it up in a roundabout sort of way to Isumi one day as they're playing, not even sure if he's making any sense as he mangles the question. But Isumi seems to know what Waya's trying to say, and looks thoughtful and tells him, "I think I was very cruel to him once. But I also think it's one of the most necessary things I've ever done, both for him and for me."
"But what did you do?" Waya demands, frustrated, slapping down a stone a little too harshly.
Isumi is silent for a long, long moment, gazing at the goban and seeing something else entirely. "I made him play a game of go," is all he'll reveal, and that makes no sense at all.
Sometimes Waya thinks the more he learns about Shindo, the less he actually knows.
The infuriating thing, to Akira, is that he's almost always the first one to reach some milestone, to join the pros or make it into a tournament, to reach a league and win a title--but Shindo's just a step behind, and when he finally does the same thing days or months or years later, he somehow manages to make it look better. Akira wins first, but when Shindo wins, he does it with style.
People are in awe of Akira, he knows that, but at the same time, they're cheering Shindo on.
He doesn't mean to reveal his annoyance, of course, and if it were anyone else his irritation and petty envy would remain under lock and key for the rest of his life. But this is Shindo, and when they argue, it's never logical or sane or quiet, and things neither of them ever mean to say somehow get aired in front of complete strangers and twenty or so salon regulars. At least when he goes on his rant this time, it's near closing and there's just Ichikawa watching with wide eyes and a gaping mouth.
Shindo listens to him all the way through, one hand resting casually on the side of the goban between them, thumb stroking over the wood. And when Akira finally stops, chest heaving and throat a little sore from yelling, he rolls his eyes. Rolls his eyes.
"Well, yeah," he says, as if it's perfectly obvious. "Of course I make it look good, compared to you. I don't go around in pink sweater-vests and lavender suits." The 'you idiot' is silent but implied.
Ichikawa laughs until she chokes, and Akira suddenly understands why Shindo spends so much of his time yelling at people to stop hitting him already.
That old haunted goban is the cleanest thing in the shed, and probably always will be. Heihachi wonders, sometimes, what it means to his grandson, why it seems to be the real reason the boy began visiting so much more regularly once he stopped forfeiting games right and left and decided to get serious about being a pro.
Once or twice, he finds himself kneeling in the dust before it, barely noticing the pain in his knees and back as he searches for something he suspects only Hikaru can see. He doesn't understand how someone can hold something so dear, cherish it the way Hikaru cherishes that goban, and still refuse to keep it near. He's offered the board to his grandson more than once--a pro should have a goban like that, one made of kaya wood and history and legend.
He follows Hikaru into the shed one day, watches him clear the wood of dust with a gentleness he'd never have thought his grandson capable of feeling or showing, not so long ago. "You know," Hikaru says softly, with a strange, sad smile, "the first time I saw this thing, I was planning on stealing it and selling it off."
Heihachi doesn't mean it as anything other than a joke when he says, "No wonder you won't take it now. You finally know you don't deserve it, huh?"
He can't sleep at all that night, he's so busy trying not to think about the look his words put on Hikaru's face.
Touya Kouyo is occasionally grateful that there's some truth to the old wives' tale that if you maintain an expression long enough, your face freezes that way. It's the only reason he doesn't look like a complete fool the first time he walks into his salon during the tail end of one of Shindo and Akira's matches.
He barely has enough time to say to Ichikawa, "Oh, is Shindo-kun here often?" before the regulars clustered around the two young prodigies suddenly start moving quickly away, one of them shouting, "Retreat!" That entire side of the room is vacated in short order, the regulars dragging newer, confused customers away.
"You call that a proper defense?" Shindo snaps, and Kouyo frowns, because as steely as Akira is during his matches, his son is really very sensitive. Perhaps Shindo needs a reminder of proper manners.
"Says the idiot who thinks it's fun to sacrifice an entire eye just to make the game more interesting," Akira retorts loudly, and Kouyo blinks.
"Well, maybe I wouldn't have to spice things up if you didn't play so conservatively--"
"I'm winning, you fool!"
"Not if I do this!"
"Then I'll just attack you on the left!"
Kouyo decides to leave when they hit what is, Ichikawa assures him wearily, a fairly standard exchange of "Your stone placement here is unforgivably shoddy"--"Yeah, well so's your face"--"What does that even mean?"--"You wouldn't understand...just like you don't understand the obvious genius of my play at 16-17".
He invites Shindo to a study session the next week. Three hours into it, Akira starts pelting him with stones and Shindo's trying to whack them back at him with a half-empty pad of kifu paper, and their wit has devolved to "Well, you already said I was right"--"Only 'cause I was infected by your massive stupidity" and endless repetitions of "Is not"--"Is too"--"Like hell".
Kouyo sits back, smiles, and thinks he's going to treasure the look on Ogata's face for the rest of his life.
Ochi isn't sure why it's Shindo who makes him realize he's never going to be exceptional, never going to be the crest or the driving force of the new wave engulfing the world of go. When he watches Touya play, he can maintain a sense of his own strength and worth, think to himself, 'You're stronger than me, but only for now'.
Shindo, though, Shindo progresses at a rate that shouldn't be possible. Ochi's seen him rise a level or two as a player midgame, when he's up against someone like Touya or Kurata or Ogata. He wants to be able to sneer at Shindo's confusing, unpredictable style, wants to dismiss the fan as an empty affectation and his strength as limited.
But when he plays Shindo in the second round of preliminaries for the Meijin title and loses, Ochi doesn't take off for the bathroom, doesn't spend the next fifteen minutes tapping out sequences he could have played, going over the moves he shouldn't have made. There are no major misreads for him to berate himself for in the stall, no weaknesses he should have capitalized on that he ignored.
Instead, he stays where he is, cleans off the board, quietly declines Shindo's offer of a post-game discussion. There's no point in replaying a game he never had a chance of winning in the first place.