Title: The World Between Awake And Asleep
Warnings: Direct quotes from the end of the manga. AU, in a weird way, lol
Disclaimer: Hikaru no Go was created by Hotta and Obata and distributed by Viz, Shogakuen and Shonen Jump.
Notes: Inspired by the final episode of Roseanne and totally dedicated to Bookshop. This is mostly your fault, you and your amazing Hikago posts, complete with manga scans and all. This is also dedicated to SVZ Insanity for her helpfully being a soundboard… and completely changing the way this fic was going to be written. Also, damn my muse for not letting me end this when I had planned. Damn you muse, damn you!
My computer crashed years ago, and I thought this was lost forever. I think I even cried for this story, as I loved the concept. Upon searching through my sent mail, I found what is at least most of what I had, sent to a friend right before the crash. Let me know what you think...
The World Between Awake And Asleep
"Let's go Shindou.
"This isn't the end – There is no end."
To link the far past and the far future; that's why I am here.
I am… everyone else, too.
"…..Can you hear? Can you hear…
A cold chill crept over his body, turning his skin to ice. He rolled over, not yet fully awake, and blindly groped for his blanket. When his hand met nothing but sheets, he grudgingly cracked opened his eyes and tugged the window closed.
The air stilled and an eerie silence fell over the room as Shindou Hikaru rubbed his face with the palm of his hands. Something felt… off, but it wasn't until he woke up all the way that he started to notice.
First, he reached for his cell phone to check the time, but it wasn't there. He glanced over, but he couldn't see it anywhere by his bed. He sat up and stretched. He picked his blanket up off the floor and put it back on the mattress, noticing his old alarm clock in the process. He ran his fingers over it, wondering if his mom had pulled it out of his drawer.
Then he noticed something truly strange. His hands… they were so small.
He looked around the room, confused. It was the same room he had grown up in, but it was… different. He could see the subtle changes; his kifu was missing, all of his Weekly Go newspapers, and most discomforting, his Goban.
He went to the door and called down the stairs. "Mom? Where's my stuff?"
"What stuff, dear?" she called back merrily.
"My Go stuff! Did you take it?"
"Go stuff? Hikaru? You play Go?"
"What? Of course I do! Whatever, nevermind." And he slammed the door, leaving his mother thoroughly confused.
He continued looking through his stuff. There wasn't one scrap of kifu, not a solitary page from Weekly Go, not even a hint of a Go stone. There was nothing.
He ran his fingers through his hair and headed for the bathroom. He wondered if he had gotten a haircut, as it was shorter than he remembered.
One glance in the bathroom mirror and he understood.
The face staring back at him wasn't the face of a fifteen year old Go Pro. His eyes were not the sharp intensity of a high level Go player. They were still wide and round, his fingers gripping the sink not yet calloused from constant play.
It had been a dream.
The cold that came over him then had nothing to do with the air.
Hikaru was slipping on his shoes when his mother approached him. "Where are you going so early?"
"The Go Institute." He said quickly, stomping his foot impatiently to force the shoe on.
"The Go Institute? Hikaru, why are you going there?"
"I'm looking for something." It brought back the memory – or was it really a dream? – of looking for Sai, but he pushed back the melancholy feelings and ran out the door.
He could hear his mother calling after him, "Looking for what? Hikaru?"
His feet knew the way by instinct, and the fact that it was actually where he remembered it to be steeled his resolve to ask the questions he knew he needed to ask.
He flew through the doors, looking left and right for any sign of a face he recognized, but there were none.
"Hello, welcome to the Go Institute. Can I help you?" The clerk chirped happily, and Hikaru leaned on the counter, out of breath.
"Can you tell me where I could find Touya Akira?"
The clerk was taken aback. "Touya Akira? Is he a pro?"
"Don't you know him?"
"What about Touya Kouyou? Ogata Seiji? Waya Yoshitaka? Isumi Shinichirou?"
The startled man shook his head. "I'm sorry, maybe you're in the wrong place? I don't know any of those people…"
Hikaru slammed his fist down on the counter and the clerk jumped, nervously looking to the phone. "Are you alright? Should I call someone..?"
The blond-banged boy shook his head, turning to walk out of the building.
He wasn't yet ready to accept the facts, and so he headed to the one other place he thought he might find what he was looking for – The Touya Go Salon.
But fifteen minutes of running proved that the Go Salon didn't exist. The place that he had spent hours upon hours, the place where he had first learned what it meant to be serious, the place where he met the rival who changed his life so drastically was nothing more than an empty room for rent.
His fingers touched the glass lightly; his eyes disbelieving.
And he cried.
When his grandfather asked him what he was doing, he just walked past him without replying. He had to see for himself whether it was there nor not. He wouldn't be satisfied until he saw it for himself.
The ancient Goban was there, sitting innocently in the corner, covered with dust. Hikaru wiped it off reverently with his sleeve, the finish of the wood shining in the noon sun leaking through the small window of the attic.
But there was no stain. There was nothing at all to indicate that it was the Goban that had housed Fujiwara no Sai.
But there was nothing.
Several hours later, Hikaru approached his grandfather. "What were you doing up in the attic for so long? You should ask before you just go through people's stuff."
"Let me have that Goban."
"What? It's a priceless antique! Besides," he joked, "they say it's haunted."
"I want it to be haunted!"
His grandfather flinched, surprised by the intensity of the statement. "I don't know what's gotten into you, but I'll buy you a Goban if you really want one…"
"Play me then. If I win, you give me the Goban." Hikaru's eyes took on a steely glint, and his grandfather could see the fighting spirit warring inside his grandchild.
He took the challenge.
"I'll warn you though, I'm not going to be easy to beat. I've won more trophies than there are years you've been alive!"
"Yeah, I know. Nigiri."
"What? Did your father tell you? I didn't think he cared…"
"He doesn't." His fingers ran over the stones in his goke, a familiar feeling despite the smooth contour of his fingertips. The first move was concise, the stone skillfully hitting the board with a sharp pa-chi and sliding gracefully into its final resting place.
So he could still play.
His grandfather was completely perplexed when he was forced to resign so early in the game, but he held up his end of the bargain, and Hikaru was given his Goban.
"You play like a genius… how did you learn?"
"…A friend taught me, Grandpa."
He scratched his chin, disbelieving. "That's some friend."
"Yeah, I know. Look, I really have to go now…"
And he walked away, the remains of something that didn't exist held tightly in his hands.
Hikaru sat in seiza, and though he could feel the effects in his legs and feet proving his body was not yet used to this position, he ignored it. He was much too busy placing stones in the familiar shapes of his games. Hour after hour he sat in front of the Goban, replaying the games he'd played with Sai, Touya, Waya, Isumi… every game he could recall.
As he played them out, he carefully recorded each move in his fresh book of kifu, labeling the games by name, match number and his age.
The Fujiwara no Sai and Touya Akira sections dominated the book so badly that he ended up starting over, giving them each their own book.
He didn't understand how he could remember so clearly something that was supposed to be a dream. There wasn't a single moment that he couldn't remember – not a single emotion that felt dull or distant. He could hear Sai's happy voice as he saw a vending machine for the first time. Touya's rare laughter rung clear in his ears. Waya's defiant tone still assaulted him as they argued over whether to eat sushi or ramen.
Everything was so clear, and now, sitting in his room in his twelve year old body, he could see the sharp contrast between his life with Go and his life without.
Was there any certain person that changed his life? He wanted to say it was Sai, but it was Touya who had really made him want to play. Then he wanted to say Touya, but he couldn't deny that his passion for Go was his own. Where had his motivation came from?
Perhaps from the game itself?
But that too, felt wrong.
Dream or not, he couldn't change the way Go affected him. His light-hearted younger self never understood what it was to be serious. He had been reckless and uncaring, and the first-dan he remembered himself to be had purpose. A purpose he had lacked.
One thing was certain. He would not stop playing Go.
"An exam? Hikaru, an exam for what?" His mother just stared at him blankly, not comprehending what her son was telling her.
"I want to play Go, mom. Anyone can take the Pro exam, and I need you to sign the consent form and pay the entrance fee."
"Fee? A Go exam? Hikaru, didn't you only just start playing? You really think you can pass an exam?"
Hikaru's eyes glinted dangerously. "I know I can."
Hikaru's mother rung her hands. "I, well… I don't understand. What is this exam for?"
The slim boy rolled his eyes. "When I pass, I'll be a professional Go player." When his mother just kept staring, he elaborated. "I'll make money playing Go."
"But why would you need to? You're only twelve!"
"It's what I want to do. Will you pay the fee or won't you, mom?"
She looked at him helplessly. "I… yes. But just don't get your hopes up too high… I mean, you did only just start playing…"
The day of his first match of the preliminaries for the Pro Exam dawned early, and Hikaru could barely contain his excitement. On the way to the train station, he picked up a copy of Weekly Go for his growing collection. He'd constantly scanned it for any possibility that he might recognize a name or a style of play, but so far, it had yielded no results. He wondered if he'd see anyone he knew at the preliminaries.
When he arrived, he didn't see any faces he knew. He hid his disappointment well and greeted his opponent as cheerfully as he could.
Sereki was older, and sat with an air of confidence. "Hello, Shindou-san. Are you an insei?"
His opponent grinned then, and Hikaru could tell his opponent thought he had an easy win.
Thirty hands later, the baffled man admitted defeat.
And so it went; Hikaru would replay his old games in the evenings and destroy his opponents during the day. As the end of the pro exams drew near, the Fujiwara no Sai and Touya Akira kifu books became increasing frayed from use.
Months passed, and Hikaru found himself at the First Dan Series with a perfect exam record
It was practically unheard of for a twelve year old to pass the exam, but to pass at twelve with no losses was phenomenal in the Go world. He was interviewed, counter-interviewed and approached by so many Pros that it made him dizzy, and though his claim to having learned Go from a friend that he refused to reveal was a disappointing answer, it only added to the mystery and intrigue that was Shindou Hikaru.
There was a large crowd of Pros gathered to see the results of his first match.
The man he was playing – Kenko Juudan – was talking quietly as the pictures were being taken. "It's wonderful to see such young Pros entering the world, and with such an impressive record, too! It looks like I'll have to go all out on you if I want to save my reputation."
The Juudan laughed, but Hikaru merely said, "Please do."
Kenko Juudan fell silent at that.
The battle was long and difficult, but in the end, Hikaru was a step behind. "I resign. Thank you for the game."
"Thank you for the game." They got up to walk to the discussion room when Kenko Juudan said, "You know, I thought you were just being cocky, but you play a solid game. Were you measuring your strength?"
Shindou nodded. "No matter the difference in strength, a player cannot be truly measured unless both sides play to their full potential. I apologize if I offended you."
To his surprise, the Juudan laughed. "I like you, kid. You have real spunk. I look forward to watching your progress. I'm sure it won't be long before you're after my title! I'd better watch out."
Shindou's eyes grew distant; a memory of a time when his only goal in the Go world had been measuring up to the person he wished to call his rival invading his thoughts.
"Isn't having a good rival a wonderful thing?"
"Then the God of Go must be quite lonely."
He didn't just want titles. He wanted his rival back.
Despite maintaining his perfect record in his matches, he could feel the loneliness in his Go. It was rigid and predictable. Though he became stronger, his Go didn't have that flair that it had at night when he replayed his games with Touya.
He thought perhaps he should just give it time, but one year turned to two, and there was no one who could bring the spark back to Shindou Hikaru 3-dan's Go.
On his fifteenth birthday, he seriously considered quitting Go. He could feel his love for the game coursing through him, but it was becoming more and more clear with each passing match that whether he won or lost, his love was unfulfilled. He continuously won to the lower level pros, and he periodically lost to some of the higher ones, but it didn't seem to matter.
He was reminded of the rumors that went around about Touya as he was entering the Go world, and he found that some of the same rumors started to go around about him. The Pros were all still interested in him, but slowly but surely, the other Pros were noticing his aloof attitude towards his Go and the players around him. They said he would burn out and that he was arrogant and uncaring.
This didn't bother Hikaru. After all, these people couldn't ignite his Go.
He wondered if there could ever be anyone who set fire to his Go like Touya Akira could.
It was after a match one day that Hikaru finally had a spark of hope.
Hikaru was replacing his shoes and shouldering his bag when what he heard almost made him fall.
"My father actually managed to be the highest bidder on the Touya bank. Can you believe it? We went to their house, and man, is that family loaded! The man has some pretty old fashioned taste, though. I mean, the guy even wears traditional clothing! Who does that anymore? And the kid? I think his mother dresses him…"
Hikaru ran across the hall, accosting the surprised 2-dan in front of him. He could hear the firm reprimand issued from the clerk, "Shoes, young man!" but he ignored it.
"Did you say Touya?"
"Uh, yeah. Why?"
The 2-dan stared at Hikaru strangely. "I think that was the old man's name… why, do you know them or something?"
"The son… his name is Touya Akira, right?"
"I, well, I guess so… I mostly only noticed his horrible fashion sense…"
"Tell me where! Where do they live?"
"I don't know, do you even know them?"
"Shoes, young man!"
"PLEASE! TELL ME!"
"Geeze, you don't have to sound so desperate."
Hikaru didn't care that everyone was staring at him. He didn't care that the rumors would circulate like mad, and he sure as hell didn't care that he was scaring the hell out of the 2-dan in front of him.
All he cared about was the address in his hand.
He didn't know if his dream was a parallel universe, reincarnation or even some strange form of premonition, but he prayed to every God he had ever heard of, his most fervent prayers going to the God of Go, that it wasn't just a dream.
The house was large, and it was comforting to find that it looked very similar to the house the Touya's had in his dream. But he wasted little time admiring it in favor of nervously pressing the bell.
Could this really be his rival at last?
The door opened slowly, and Hikaru nearly fainted as a boy with shoulder length raven hair and a firmly defined face opened the door. The boy's blue-green eyes narrowed slightly and the voice from Hikaru's dreams greeted him. "Hello."
Hikaru just gaped stupidly. It really was Touya Akira.
Awkward silence rolled by and Touya fidgeted in the doorway, tentatively continuing when it was clear the boy on his doorstep wasn't going to speak. "I'm sorry, but if you're looking for my father, he's out of town for a few days. I can take a message if you'd like..."
It snapped Hikaru out of his daze and he said in a revered tone, "Touya, it's you! I thought I'd never… I mean, I don't really understand it but…"
Touya blinked, uncomprehending. "Do I know you?"
"Yes! I mean no… no, I suppose you don't. I'm Shindou Hikaru."
There was a brief flash of recognition in his eyes. "Shindou Hikaru 3-dan? My father is a fan of yours."
"So he plays Go then?" Hikaru's words were rushed, as if at any moment, Touya might vanish.
"Well, he started playing late in life, and he really only follows it in Weekly Go anymore."
"Touya Kouyou, an occasional player? That's… not what I expected. He's never played professionally?"
"My father?" Touya said, perplexed. "He was the CEO of a bank. He definitely has never played Go for money."
"But you, you play Go, right?"
"Me?" Touya's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Not at all. I've never even tried it, to be honest with you."
It was Hikaru's turn to be surprised. "You? Never played before? You have to be joking! There's just no way…"
Touya's face scrunched up in confusion. "I'm sorry, but perhaps you've mistaken me for someone else?"
"There's no mistaking you, Touya Akira." His raven-haired rival of his dreams flushed slightly, though from the intensity of his words or the passion in his eyes, Hikaru didn't know. "Play a game with me."
"Play with you? You can't be serious."
"I've never been more serious. Your father is an occasional player, right? You must have a Goban here somewhere."
Touya's eyes narrowed. "I don't believe it's any of your business what my father keeps in his house."
"I'm not leaving until you play a game with me."
"Then let the cops drag you away!"
And he slammed the door in Hikaru's face.
Akira was not entirely sure why he had let the stranger upset him so much. He was usually such a calm person, and it generally took a lot to even evoke outward displays of irritation, let alone anger. But something about the kid on his doorstep had shaken him to his very core.
And why was he going on about playing Go with him? For what possible reason could a Pro have for tracking down someone who had never played before and demand such a thing?
The boy had sat out there until well after dark, too. He certainly was persistent. What was worse, he looked familiar somehow. It was a fuzzy feeling, almost as if he had dreamed it, but he couldn't be sure. That, more than anything, confused him.
It was nearly midnight before he opened the door again to make sure the kid had really left. There was a paper sticking out from under the flower pot that hadn't been there before.
It read simply, "This isn't the end – There is no end."
Though he probably should have reported the incident to the police, the words felt sharply familiar, as if he were forgetting something important. Instead, he pocketed the note and went back inside.
The sudden desire for the feel of a Go stone against his fingertips was blatantly ignored.
Hikaru's encounter with Touya had been, to say the least, interesting. A Touya who didn't play go; if he hadn't seen it with his own eyes, he never would have believed it. He wasn't sure he believed it now.
There was one thing he was sure of though; if this Touya was anything like the one he knew in his dream, this was far from the last time he'd see Touya Akira.
It did get him thinking, though.
If Touya Akira existed in this world, what was stopping the others from existing as well?
Sai came unbidden to his mind, but as he had no way of knowing how to find him, his thoughts turned to more likely candidates.
He began with Waya Yoshitaka.
He found Waya working part time as a waiter at a local sushi restaurant. He couldn't help but laugh at that.
Hikaru settled into a seat in the back of Sumo Sushi as directed by the door greeter and waited. He wasn't sure how he would go about getting Waya's attention beyond the menu, but he had a feeling he'd figure something out.
Waya approached his table rigidly, uncomfortable in his own environment. It was a side of Waya that Hikaru had rarely seen, and he wondered if his parents had forced him into working. If he'd thought even for a moment that his dream friends were happy in this world, the sight of this stiff Waya would have killed that notion.
"Good afternoon and welcome to Sumo Sushi. I'm Waya, and I'll be your server today. Are you ready to order or do you need more time with the menu? Perhaps you'd like to start with a drink?"
Hikaru smirked. "Do you have any ramen?"
The corner of Waya's eye twitched. "No sir. This is a sushi restaurant."
So Waya wasn't a ramen fan in the real world, either. "I know, but ramen is so delicious. I thought maybe…"
Waya grit his teeth, forcing a smile. "Well, we're a very selective restaurant, and ramen didn't make the cut. I'm very sorry, but would you care to order something else?" He was practically growling.
Hikaru smiled sweetly. "Two orders of Hamachi and a coke, please." As Waya stiffly walked away, Hikaru pulled his folding Goban from his backpack and set it up on the table before him. If Waya's preferences were the same in this world, then maybe, so was his Go.
Or was he hoping that someone else's Go would be the same?
Touya Kouyou and his wife, Akiko, arrived home much later than expected. Sure that their son was in bed, they entered the house on silent feet, Akiko heading to prepare the bedding and Kouyou looking to the kitchen for some tea before he retired. The light in the den made him pause, though.
His son was engrossed in an issue of Weekly Go, not even noticing his father's presence in the doorway.
Startled, he looked up, politely greeting his father.
"What are you still doing up?"
"I guess I must have lost track of the time." His eyes strayed back to the open page, and from his uncomfortable shifting, Touya Kouyou surmised that his son hadn't moved in quite a while.
"It's well after midnight, Akira. What is it that has made you lose that much time?"
The words came out as little more than a whisper. "Shindou Hikaru, 3-dan."
Kouyou raised an eyebrow. "Oh? I didn't know you'd started following a player."
Akira's eyes widened. "I didn't! It's just… he came by our house a few days ago."
"What did he want?"
"Well, I thought he wanted to see you. But then, he acted a little strange… Father, he challenged me to a game of Go – no, he demanded it of me!"
"Did you play with him?" Kouyou replied calmly, assessing the situation.
Akira shook his head. "No. I told him to leave. He eventually did, after staking out our porch for hours."
Touya Kouyou was no fool. He knew that there was more to it than that, but it seemed Akira was not yet ready to face the missing pieces in his story. Instead of inquiring further into the incident, he questioned, "Why didn't you?"
It was ever so slight, but Kouyou's sharp eyes didn't miss the faint shake in his son's hand, nor the carefully covered emotions laced in his words. "And indulge this complete stranger in his wild notion that I should play Go with him? That I should have been playing Go all this time? I wouldn't, father. I had no reason to."
There was only one question left to ask. "Then why are you looking at his kifu?"
Akira didn't have an answer, and Touya Kouyou left his son to his thoughts.
Waya eyed him curiously when he brought his order, but Hikaru just kept on laying stones, so he walked away without comment.
It was an old game, one he had played in a formal match with Waya – a game he had won by a large margin. He ate slowly, and each time Waya came to check on him, he lingered longer and longer.
Finally, when the final stone was in place, he spoke. "White wins."
Hikaru nodded. "Yes, but it was a good game."
Waya hesitated. "Have… we met before?"
Hikaru cocked his head to the side. "I don't know, why do you ask?"
"Who did you play that game with?"
Hikaru shrugged airily. "I don't remember. It was a long time ago, you know."
Waya's face turned red. "You don't remember? You can play out the whole game, but you don't know who it was with? What kind of Go player are you?"
"A professional one," Hikaru retorted smugly, and it had the desired effect.
"You? A professional player? Who'd let a kid like you play professionally? You can't even remember your opponent? I don't know what you're playing at, kid, but it's certainly not Go!"
"Kid? Ha, I'd crush you like a bug."
Waya's eyes narrowed. "Want to bet on it?"
"Fine. I get off work in an hour. Meet me at the Go Salon two blocks up the street."
"You can count on it."
Waya smirked. "When I beat you, I'll make you admit sushi is way better than ramen!"
"Oh? Well, if I win, I'll force you to eat ramen until you burst!"
Satisfied, Hikaru gathered up his things and left a sizable tip. He just needed Waya to show up. He was sure he'd be able to manage the rest.