A drabble drawn upon my experiences in foreign schools and foreign languages, and how much you say is actually correct, and how much is lost in translation.
Shindou Hikaru blew a raspberry as she looked out the window, where rivulets of water splattered the glass and made the dreary city look like a surreal, watercolor abstract of ashen gray.
Seoul was usually beautiful in this season, but a recent typhoon had turned the entire Asian coast into a watery mess of shallow oceans in cities, and Hikaru wondered when she'd be able to go outside again.
The go salon was, as typical for a Friday night, packed with old people who smelled and wore horrid ankle socks and high water pants which made her acute fashion sense wilt. She had taken to the back corner, the glossy surface of the go board relatively untouched, aside from one black stone which she had placed at the upper left star point. Sai had wanted to play, but she had vehemently denied him. She had homework to do. That's what happens when you go to SAIS, the most prestigious international academy in Seoul.
She'd picked up the distraught ghost ages ago in her grandfather's shed, back when she still lived with the old geezer in Japan. She clearly remembered the day her parents died, a perfect summer sky and the bright lights of lanterns, swimming faces and alternating fluorescent lights of red and blue. Bent metal, sterile hospitals, and the silent movement of the Nakano river, quietly slipping away into the musty smell of the shed, and, inevitably, meeting the ghost which plagued her.
Well, plague was a really inaccurate term. A nuisance, was more like it. Sai didn't really do much aside from pester her to play go. She certainly didn't care much for the game, but Sai was rather adorable, and she honestly felt sorry for him. It must suck—the only person who could see him was a fourteen year old girl who was more interested in getting into the best schools.
Getting into SAIS was just one of the many goals she had in mind (and, much to Sai's immediate chagrin, none of those goals included becoming a professional go player)
Or at least, they hadn't.
She transferred into SAIS, where everyone knew everyone and were all so god damn studious and made her look entirely immature, with their pressed pleated skirts, white button down blouses and dark blue ties which made up the uniform, and everyone wore stern faces and straight-mouthed smiles and god—if she hadn't met Yongha, seen the boy in the back with the tousled auburn hair, a foreign nose, and two buttons undone, one missing.—she'd surely have run herself into the ground like that too.
It would be her luck that her first friend, her closest at this point, would be a go obsessed, suave little charmer.
"Lets hang out after school." She said eventually, finding enough courage to ask him to do something other then sit around with her in class. He was her only friend in Korea, as much as she didn't want to say it.
He gave her a strange look, and she wondered if that was proper etiquette in Korea.
In Japan, kids clamored together to walk home, kicked a soccer ball on the curb and laughed as they tossed drinks from street corner vending machines into girls' hair. One way or another, Hikaru would always end up at the arcade with Waya, or window shopping at the mall with Akari. She never had to ask to do something, it was just a free movement that happened naturally.
SAIS wasn't like that. SAIS was blank-faced children walking into the rain with their equally bland black umbrellas, getting into nondescript cars or waiting outside the school building for their rides. No one walked home, and if they did, they did so alone. No one wanted to hit up the arcade, or stop by Mcdonalds. In fact, no one really wanted to do much else aside from studying.
"Maybe next time." He said, and looked away.
Hikaru didn't know Yongha, but she did know people, and certainly people like Yongha. The boy was a lot like Waya, a childhood friend of hers who lived in the same schooling district as her grandfather. He had a funny laugh and a quirky grin, a horrid sense of balance too, as they found out one day at the Arakawa bridge. She wondered how he was doing (surely, by know, that grin had turned into a sexy smirk, and the boy was probably just fine) and was sorely reminded of him, studying the cut line of Yongha's jaw.
"You're embarrassed." She startled, candidly and with little tact. The prideful, stubborn boy only scowled and shook out his soft auburn hair. "Why?"
"I'm—," A blush. Hikaru blinked, amused. She'd never seen the boy blush. "I'm doing stuff."
"Stuff like what?" She pried on.
If possible, he turned even more away from her. SAIS was in a big building in the middle of the city, and looked more like an office. She supposed this would be the first floor, and the attendance office, the secretaries desk. He had moved to face the windows. Seoul was experiencing a typical lugubrious day.
"I'm going to a go salon." He rushed out, and immediately, Hikaru wondered why that was so embarrassing.
She supposed it may have something to do with her sex, her anatomy as a good-looking girl, and in part his kick-ass devil may care attitude which seemed to clash greatly with his aspirations as a professional go player—most of whom were tame, and, god forbid, polite.
"Okay." She said, instead, with broken Korean and probably the wrong words entirely. "I'll play you, then."
And here she was, scrawling away on her lap, head tilted into the cool window pane, hair long enough to fall from her shoulder and pool in the go ke, blonde mingling with shiny black stones. Her homework was only three quarters done. And the board, a story as unfinished as if it had been abandoned on the first page. Time ticked away, Sai whined, her head hurt.
Tick, tick, tick.
Yongha sat down opposite of her.
"Not really." She answered, and closed the math book, to glare at him. "You're late."
"Late isn't a word in my vocabulary." He scoffed. Words and verbal cues still confused her, but his haughty facial expression conveyed what she needed.
"You're a cocky bastard, is all." She stuffed the books into her bag as he glowered lazily, opening his go ke and setting the lid gently on the table.
"Where did you learn such crass language?"
She shrugged, and smoothed her skirt out. The dark blue plaid material was itchy, and so were the knee socks. "Around."
"It's unbecoming of a lady."
"I'm not a lady." She said, but the words were lost in translation, and she ended up saying something more along the lines of "I'm a man" then what she had originally intended. So she was rather confused when he contorted into laughter, and a full minute of him chuckling to himself ensued.
Sai clapped his hands in excitement as Yongha asked to Nigiri. They played. The outcome was obvious. Instead of gloating, which, in any situation other then go (which included that one time she kicked his ass in soccer, and that other time at the racing games at the arcade) she sat in silence as he shook his head at the board. When he said things under his breath like that, words she couldn't catch that were too quickly said, she wondered if she disappointed him somehow. Above her, Sai was moping morosely near the ceiling.
"What's wrong?" She asked finally, when he studied the maze of black and white for longer then usual.
There was something entirely ironic about the defeated posture of his shoulders. She wondered if he was going to ask her to join the Korean Insei program again. He'd asked before; she'd shot him down in flames. She had no intentions of turning professional—she wanted to get excellent grades, some how piece enough money together to go to a top college, become a doctor, make money. Who knows. She certainly didn't.
"Nah, it's nothing."
She shifted uneasily in her seat. Sai moaned from the corner of the room, where his head was now stuck in the plaster.
"Yongha…" She trailed off, feeling a little guilty. Apparently, the boy was a rising star in the insei program. He'd been cocky, of course. Being the best without any challenge did that to a kid with his looks and his grades. Obviously, that changed after Hikaru ruthlessly (or Sai, technically) taught him a lesson. He wanted her to join him so badly.
But she couldn't.
"Why the long face?" He had already stood up, by the time she had even gathered enough thoughts to string together a sentence.
A smirk grew on his face. "Alright, so we did what I wanted to do. Now what's on your agenda?"
"Bad food." She replied hastily, and hoisted her back on her shoulders as her thin, numble fingers picked out the stones from the board. "Like Mcdonalds. Or ramen."
Yongha shriveled his nose.
The following year, Hikaru would move again. This time, back to Japan. She'd say goodbye to Yongha, who would wear a stormy, tumult of expressions on his face as he met her at the airport. The comm would chime, and a woman's beguiling voice would announce the seven o'clock flight to Tokyo, and she'd look up to the screen with the flight schedule, and wouldn't notice him stand closer. He'd grab the hem of her dress, effectively turning her around, the flowery pastel design wrinkling in his palms as he'd kiss her senseless, and make her promise to join the Insei program in Japan. Despite her better judgment, she'd lie, and agree.
The flight was particularly guilt wrenching, as she wondered how she'd explain her lack of presence in the Insei program to Yongha—and more importantly, her obviously different intentions with him then what he had for her. The boy next to her was her age, and, while cute, had a rather depressing face that seemed as if he wore it so often it clung to the edges of his eyes. He also wore a terrible argyle knit sweater that reminded her of the grumpy old people from the go salon.
He introduced himself, rather pleasantly and with such a polite smile that she couldn't help but compare her introduction to Yongha, in which the young Korean had sneered at her and asked, "Well, you're a girl, so where's your chest?" and she had round kicked him in the face. But Touya Akira was much nicer, and instead of her shoe meeting the side of his cheek, she smiled sweetly at him.
So when he asked for a game of go—to pass the flight, as he was on his way back from a go convention he had been attending with his father—she could hardly refuse him.
When they met at his salon, months later, when he quietly but passionately asked her to join the Insei next year, she really couldn't refuse that either.
Sai was ecstatic, she was confused, Akira was pleased, and more importantly, she'd be meeting Yongha that summer, when he came to Japan for the North Star Cup.
I'm deciding whether I'll continue this...