Title: God's Reward
Author: Fujiwara no Seimei
Rating: All ages
Pairings: None yet
Summary: Touya Kouyo has been granted the reward of hosting the ghost of Fujiwara no Sai. Shindou Hikaru is thrilled that his friend has returned- if only for a limited time- but Touya Akira is frustrated that he alone is left out of the knowledge of Sai's existance. Over time, Touya Akira will learn that he is part of the privilage of knowing the truth about Sai, and that Shindou is not only a rival, but an important friend.
Touya Kouyo, former Mejin, sat at his Goban in the middle of the night. He did this frequently, with the black stones on his side, and the white stones on the other. He had placed his first hand, and waited, fruitlessly, for his invisible opponent to place his move.
This activity had perplexed his son, Touya Akira 4-dan. Akira had wondered why his father sat, silently, with stones on the other side of the board that he could not reach. When he first saw it, he asked silently, "Whose hand are you waiting for, father?"
Tonight was the night that the answer would come.
On this moonless night, Akira was sound asleep. Kouyo was locked in his regular invisible battle, into the third hour of the morning, when a voice spoke.
"God has seen fit to reward both of us, Touya Kouyo."
He looked up into the dark room, and saw the faint glow of a figure sitting on the other side of the Goban. Was he dressed in Heian-era costume? He could only see him from the elbows down. His face was totally obscured by darkness. He waited for an elaboration from his visitor.
"Touya Kouyo, to reward my patience in his plan to lead Shindou Hikaru to go, as well as your unfaltering pursuit of the highest go, he has granted me one year back on this earth."
Kouyo was thoughtful for a moment.
"You are Sai."
The figure answered his question with silence. "300 nights you've sat awake at this Goban. 1000 years I've waited to bring Hikaru to Go. Tomorrow, you and I shall both be rewarded with our one wish granted. We will be able to play another game."
Kouyo remained in deep contemplation of his current affair. He was focused on absorbing the spirits every missive.
"Touya Kouya, fetch my Goban from Hikaru Shindou. It is then that we will be permitted to play."
Immediately after this directive, Kouyo was suddenly sucked into the daylight. He was startled awake to find his son touching his shoulder.
"Father! Honestly!" Akira hissed, "What if mother sees you asleep at the goban again?"
Kouyo blinked. Was it a dream? No, it was a message.
"Akira-kun," he said, eyes fixed on the goban before him.
"Summon your friend Shindou Hikaru immediately. And instruct him to bring Sai's goban."
"Sai's... father, are you sure you know what you're-"
"Akira!" He growled. "Precious moments are being wasted. Bring him to me at once."
Akira stumbled back at his father's orders. He had never seen his father so stern. Collecting himself on the way, he ran out of the room to call Shindou.
"He said what?" Hikaru grunted from his end of the phone, rubbing his bleary 7 AM eyes.
"He insisted that you come over with 'Sai's goban.' Do you have any idea what he's talking about?"
Hikaru was silent.
"Shindou..." Akira began, nervously biting his lip, "Shindou... what knowledge... do you share with my father... that you don't share with me?"
"Touya, listen, don't-" Hikaru stammered, but Akira instantly changed from frightened to fierce.
"Shindou! What is wrong with you? I'm the one who has been waiting patiently- silently- for the explanation you promised me. Yet my father knows what your connection is to Sai?"
"No! Touya, he doesn't! I have no idea how he knows about Sai's goban. That's something only I know. Please believe me. I'm as perplexed as you right now."
"I highly doubt that, Shindou," Akira growled.
Hikaru huffed. Akira was being a brat.
"I'll be over in a half-hour. Maybe then we can all learn what the hell is going on."
"We better," Akira said, after hanging up with a punctuated 'click.'
"I'm entering!" Shindou hollared from the doorway of the Touya residence. Normally, he was greeted politely by Touya Akira, or sometimes his mother, but today, no one there to greet him. Shindou took off his shoes, and lifted the great, antique goban towards Touya Koyo's playing room. There, Kouyo and Akira were waiting, stern-faced.
"Akira-kun, help him with the goban."
Akira obeyed his father silently, standing and reaching out to assist a wheezing Shindou with placing the heavy board on the ground in the center of the room.
Shindou sat on the opposite side of the room, facing the Touyas.
"Touya-sensei, may I ask a question?"
"Only I know about the existance of this board, and who its original owner was. I was wondering, how is it that you-?"
"You are not, Shindou." he replied, cutting Hikaru off. "The other person who knows is Sai himself. He is the one who told me where to find it."
Hikaru and Akira both leapt up.
"You spoke to him, father!?"
"Where is he! How did you speak to him?" Hikaru shouted.
Kouyo responded to neither of the young boy's inquiries. Instead, he positioned himself in front of the Goban, opened up both bowls of stones.
Hikaru's mind flooded with joy at the oportunity to see speak with Sai again, but mere feet away, Akira was beginning to feel torturously excluded from today's happenings.
Kouyo placed the black in front of him and the white on the opposite side. Hikaru and Akira stood in awe and anticipation and Kouyo lifted a stone and placed it on the board, which a solid and resounding 'pa-chi!'
With that action, Sai was summoned. The room lit up, much in the way that it had, Hikaru recalled, when he himself set Sai loose years ago. Except this time, he couldn't see anything, let alone Sai. He couldn't see Kouyo, and he couldn't see Akira.
"Father! Where are you? Shindou!"
Hikaru felt a hand smack against his arm, and then he was grabbed as if a drowning person was clinging to him for buoyancy. Hikaru grabbed on to Akira's shoulders and the two sat in awed, clinging silence under those flashing, ethereal lights. Neither could see Kouyo or the Goban, or anything besides one another, for that matter.
After a minute, the lights faded, and reality came into view again. Kouyo and the Goban materialized along with the rest of the scenery, and sound.
"...I think it has to be," Kouyo finished saying to the empty space in front of him.
There was a pause.
Akira and Hikaru slowly turned toward each other, and after a delayed moment of recognizing just how tightly they clung to one another, they scampered apart and stammered incomprehensible apologies out of scarlet red faces.
After another beat, Hikaru's eyes became fixed on the space behind the goban.
"Well, you can't fool him, anyway. And if anyone else deserves to know, it's Akira."
Akira lept up. "I..." he stammered, before realizing Koyo was not actualy paying attention to him. Why wasn't anyone telling him what was going on? He sat down again.
"We can deal with those issues as they come. Right now, I think someone wants to speak to you very badly." Kouyo turned to Shindou, whose eyes began welling up with tears.
"Sai...can...can you see me?"
Kouyo looked at Sai, then at Shindou, and nodded.
"Sai!" He shouted. His determined, heart broken stare pierced through the space behind the goban, but revealed nothing. "W... why can't I see you!?"
After a listening pause, Kouyo said "Because he is in my conciousness this time, Hikaru, not yours. You can't see him any more than Akira, or anyone else could when he was with you."
"Sai is there?" Akira yelped, thoroughly distraught, confused, and frustrated at being left out of the affair. He frantically looked back and forth at Hikaru and Kouyo, the latter of which took note and replied, "Yes, Akira. He is there."
"Only you can see him?" Akira asked.
"Sai, I'm sorry! I'm so sorry I didn't let you play!" Hikaru cried, ignoring Akira's inquiries. "I'd take you back in an instant, I swear! Please... please forgive me!"
"Hikaru, I forgive you," Touya said, repeating Sai's dictation. "You have nothing to apologize for. I didn't leave because you didn't let me play. I left because my mission on this plane was complete."
Hikaru relaxed, and wiped his eyes. "Why are you back? How?"
"I was rewarded by God for my patience, and was allowed to return for one year. I was able to choose my host, and I chose Touya Kouyo."
Hikaru began to tear up again.
"Someone, please!" Akira shouted, gnarling his hair in his fists.
"Akira," Kouyo began, gently nodding his head in apology for ignoring his son. "Sai says he is very pleased, and honored, to finally address you."
Akira sat down on his knees and fixed his gaze on the space that Kouyo and Hikaru had been looking at. He took a deep breath, adjusting to the idea of addressing an invisible person, and bowed, saying "I am honored to be in your presence."
Though he should have been fulfilled with respect and opportunity, Akira was brimming with fear and anger. He had pursued Sai with all of his might, and among the three people in the room, he was the only one never to have caught him. Though he had come to respect Shindou, right now, all he could wonder was why that uncultured oaf had the privilage of knowing Sai, and he did not.
In the next few moments, Touya Kouyo placed a white stone, and then another black. Shindou scooted over to the goban to watch what would surely be another legendary game. Akira, by all accounts, should have been interested as well, but all he could think about was the unfairness. He couldn't think about the opportunities, or the revelation of the truth.
All he could feel was left out.
-End of Chapter One-