"I thought that last time you'd disappeared for good, Sai."
"Nonsense, Hikaru. Luckily for me there were no pregnant women present. But just remaining visible is very hard these days."
"Akira and I are official again. He even finally told his parents about us. They both already knew, and then he wanted to tell my parents and I had to tell him that they both already knew and I'd just been keeping it from him because he's so anxious about that sort of thing, and then he was so angry that I think he almost dumped me again."
"I had confidence that you would resolve your problems. I really believe that you two were meant to be."
"It's really thanks to you that he even started speaking to me again, Sai. And as soon as I thought he looked like he was softening, I pulled out my secret weapon. It worked! Let me tell you about it…"
Hikaru held up a packet of papers in his hand. "Tickets. For the Mt. Fuji tour and for Fuji-Q-Highland. They let me trade in the tickets that I couldn't use for getting these half-price, and they're expiring at the end of this week, so it's now or never. If you have any interest in going."
"Fuji-Q is that amusement park, right?"
Hikaru looked sheepish. "I got them, that day we were supposed to go together. You were going to have to go to the amusement park with me another time in order to make up for standing me up—I didn't know why you couldn't make it at the time!"
"I thought you could barely afford one ticket."
"No manga and anime and net cafés for a while."
Akira said, "But if you got these the day we were going to go, then you didn't even know I had a reason for not showing. You were mad at me, weren't you? You sent me a text that day saying no future dates unless I called you in the next ten minutes! You went ahead brought the tickets after that?"
Hikaru looked sheepish. "I know that text was mean. Sai told me so. When I said you had to call me in the next ten minutes, what sort of I meant to say was that I was worried about you. So? Tickets expiring? Unless you're free this Saturday?"
Hikaru had his clueless-but-cute look that Akira was never sure if he did on purpose. Surrender was inevitable. "Fine. You can be my boyfriend again."
"Wait, we stopped dating? When?" Hikaru asked.*
He was lucky Akira found dumb to be endearing.
*In Hikaru's defense, it was not that he had forgotten Akira telling him that they were breaking up. It was just that Akira often made drastic threats when angry, such as "Hikaru, if you facilitate my father breaking one more of my laptops, then I will kill you in a slow and painful manner," yet despite the death of two more computers and an i-phone, Hikaru remained alive. Therefore he had simply assumed that breaking up was another extreme threat that would never be carried through. They were having a fight, sure, but they were still together. This assumption was supported by the fact that he was still living part-time at Akira's house and Akira was still talking to him every day, even if it was only to be snarky. Can you blame Hikaru for being confused?
As they walked back together, Hikaru said, "I'm still a selfish jerk, just so you know."
Akira said, "And I'm told that I'm uptight and obsessed with Go. I think we both have known each other long enough to know what we're getting in to."
Hikaru said hopefully, "And back when you were dumping me, I thought you said something about wanting to take our relationship to the next level? Because I've been waiting to hear that for a while now."
Akira miss-stepped. "What do you mean you've been waiting? I was waiting for you to say something!"
"I was being gentlemanly."
"Like hell. You are many things, but a gentleman isn't one of them."
"I also might possibly have been waiting until I could beat you at Go. Because I kind of assumed we would be playing for who would be on top, and I wanted to wait until I had an even chance at it."
Akira glared. Someone would definitely not be winning their first game, that was for sure.
"Akira's father and some of my friends know about you now. So does Ogata—I hope you don't mind?"
"Of course I don't mind, Hikaru. But you told Ogata? I can hardly believe you would do that."
"Well, as it turns out, Ogata really isn't that bad."
Ogata cornered Hikaru and Akira at the train station. "I thought that if you weren't at the station closest to the game, you would be here. Left something behind, Shindo?"
Akira froze. He had confidence that he knew every major Go professional in Japan well enough to guess what lies they would find most compelling—but he knew Ogata well enough to know that he wasn't easily lied to.
Ogata said, "Shindo is clearly not Sai and you will not convince me otherwise. Now care to tell me the truth?"
Hikaru said, "It's okay, Akira. We can tell him."
Akira's mouth hung open. Hikaru couldn't blame him for his shock, given the feelings he had expressed to Ogata in the past. But Ogata had saved Sai's afterlife, at the cost of being arrested, and Hikaru owed him a debt as a result.
After listening to the explanation, Ogata nodded as if it was the only possible reason that could have made sense. He bowed in Hikaru's general direction. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Sai-sensei. At the first available opportunity, I would like to play a game for you so that I can see you as well. In fact, any time that Shindo is too busy, I would be happy to play for you."
"He's not even here right now," Hikaru informed him, snickering.
"So I had to promise him that I'd let you meet him later, and that you'd play another game with him, etc. I hope you don't mind, I thought you'd be up to a game with Ogata once in a while."
"Did he really say that he would play a game for me anytime I wanted? What a nice man. Do you think he'd mind if I went over whenever you're busy?" Sai asked hopefully.
Hikaru went back to hating Ogata.*
Akira poked his head in, "Can I come in?"
"My room is your room."
"There's an interesting news story playing on the TV downstairs. It turns out that the computer SAI was really the same program as Deep Orange, the experimental AI from China that has been playing games online. Someone named Yang Hai was really happy about getting his computer program back. And he wants to challenge you to another game, Sai. Can you believe the nerve?"
Sai said, "I have no problems at all with playing anyone who faces me openly and honestly."
Akira spotted the calendar on Hikaru's wall. "Is that another one? Hikaru, how many did you buy?"
Hikaru looked at his fingers. "Um…four."
Akira growled, "Given that the only reason I posed for the Go Weekly calendar was to save your worthless hide, I think it's a little tactless of you to buy four copies."
Hikaru said, "But I need four! One is for my bedroom, one is for school, one is for carrying around and showing off to people, and one is in a sealed plastic bag in the family safe."**
Akira rolled his eyes. "I should have held out for royalties on those damn calendars."
Hikaru said, "You should have. It's been only two days and they're already doing a reprint."
Akira said, "I actually would have rather not known that."
"Sai, tell Akira about how we were meant to be so he won't dump me again."
Akira threw a pillow at Hikaru, who threw it at Sai, who could not participate.
"I didn't get a chance to tell you when you appeared, because Hikaru was screaming too loudly, but I'm glad you're still here, Sai," Akira said. "If there's anything that I can do to help you, just let me know."
"I appreciate the offer, Akira, although I don't think I will end up taking you up on it."
Little did Sai know how wrong he was.
*Amount of time that Hikaru spent not hating Ogata: Twenty two hours, fifteen minutes, and two seconds.
**Hikaru was lying. In reality, there were twelve calendars. One he'd gotten just so he could cut it into little pieces and fold his favorite picture into his wallet for good luck (Akira looked incredibly hot in March), five he'd gifted to relatives and friends at school so he could brag, and two were in sealed plastic bags in a bank (one was for in case his house burned down and one was for in case the calendars became collectible and Hikaru needed a spare to sell.) He would have brought more calendars if they hadn't run out of copies, but he was first in line for the second printing.
Two weeks later:
Bursting in the room, Hikaru demanded, "Akira, I need a baby!"
Akira gaped in shock. "You want children?" He tried to picture Hikaru molding an impressionable child in his image. The mind boggled.
Hikaru shook his head impatiently. "No, I don't want a baby, I need a baby! That bastard Ogata is talking about how he never thought of himself as a family man but it might be time to settle down, and he started showing Sai pictures of Go sets that were child-safe! He's trying to get the jump on me! He's going to steal Sai!"
Akira sighed wearily, "Hikaru, we talked about this. Ogata is not conspiring against you."
Hikaru frowned, clearly unconvinced. "It's all down to race with time. Sai's grip on the Earth is slowly deteriorating. And he thinks that if he's going to be stuck learning Go all over again, he had better get an early start and pick out a nice family with the right background."
"And what's so wrong with Ogata?"
Hikaru looked at him as if he was insane. "Everything! I might have come to realize that I just want Sai to be happy, but there are limits to how much I'm willing to accept! I swore on Gone With the Wind and everything."
As usual, Hikaru had completely lost Akira. By now he had learned to just roll with the flow. "What do you want me to do about this?"
"Well, I've already asked everyone else I know if they might be happening to have a baby they could give me, and it didn't work well."
"Does this have something to do with that red mark on your cheek?"
Hikaru scowled. "I don't know what sets Akari off, I really don't."
"I think I do."
"But it was Isumi's right hook that really surprised me!"
Akira composed a few apologies in his head. He'd started handling that sort of thing for Hikaru.
The person in question continued, "It seems the only people we can count on our ourselves, Akira. You must have a few female relatives who can make babies."
"Hikaru, I'm not going to get myself slapped as many times as you have when the result will still be the same."
"I've got it! Akira, you have to persuade your parents to have another child!"
"What? My parents? Why MY parents?"
"Because mine aren't famous Go players. The closest relative who plays Go is my grandfather and I think he's too old. Come on, Akira! Do it for me! If your mom and dad go senile from old age then we'll raise the baby together."
"That's my parents you're talking about and they aren't senile—raise together!?"
"Oh, this is my best idea yet!"
And with that, Akira knew the plan was doomed to failure. It was a relief, really. He was too old to have a sibling. But the odds of his parents deciding to adopt triplets were probably still better than one of Hikaru's "ideas" generating anything but another round of apologies.
Eleven months later, Sai Touya was born into the world.
Hikaru and Ogata sat on the floor, both crouched on their hands so their faces were almost level with the infant.
"Hikaru. Hi-ka-ru," Hikaru proclaimed.
"O-ga-ta. It's easier to say," Ogata countered.
Yes!" Hikaru cheered.
Ogata pushed up his glasses. "That sounded more like he said 'hiccup.'"
Sai clapped his hands together. "A-ki-ra!"
Both parties turned a death glare on Akira, who swallowed nervously. "He is my little brother…" he said weakly.
"Who's your favorite, Sai?"
Hikaru held up a signed copy of Yugioh Zexal Volume one. Ogata held up a baby rattle.
"Unca Ogata!" Sai shrieked, toddling over to Ogata.
"Nooooooooooooooooooooo," Hikaru wailed.
Akira said, "He's two years old, Hikaru, what did you expect? Give the book to him in a few more years. And please stop telling everyone that Ogata is a pedophile. People might actually start to believe you."
"Aw, do you like the shiny? Does it remind you of a Go stone? Yes it does!" Hikaru cooed, bending over the stroller.
Sai reached up and yanked Hikaru's pearl earring.
Akira said, "It's your own fault for teasing him with it."
"I thought I was out of reach. Wagh!" Hikaru stumbled over a rock and almost fell.
"You've been tripping over those high heels all day. Don't wear them if you don't know how to walk in them."
"What? I'm doing you a favor! You don't want to dress up as the mother, so that's why I have to."
Akira sighed. "Unlike you, I have no desire to be mistaken for Sai's parents to begin with."
"Don't you think it's hilarious when people ask us how long we've been married?"
"Not really, no."
"How long have we been married?"
"One year or eight years, depending on whether you count from when you proposed that we elope to the Netherlands for that legally invalid ceremony or when I first knew I was stuck with you for life."
"Now, if your father will just go senile then we can adopt Sai."
"My father isn't going to go senile, Hikaru."
"I can hope, can't I?"