Summary: Shindou Hikaru never publicly made himself known to the Go world, preferring to stay in the shadows of NetGo. But even he knows he can't stay hidden forever, not when Sai disappears. It's time to fulfill the Go master's last wish.
Note: Hikaru is a little more mature than in canon thanks to Sai's influence.
Oh hey, I actually updated. But I would like to say that I've already told you guys several times that I have CRAPPY update speed. Stop complaining. I can't churn out chapters in the blink of an eye. I have my own life to consider, and that takes precedence over fanfiction, frankly.
Some of you asked about the 'missing chapter twelve' (since this fic hasn't actually been updated since August). It was an author's note about SOPA that I took down when I realized it wasn't completely accurate.
Status: 11 chapters, 289 reviews, 138,145 hits, 52 c2's, 733 favs, 881 alerts.
Miles Across the Universe
XII. Hokuto Cup: Rectifying Mistakes
"…and you'll, of course, be first board, Touya-kun."
"What? But… Kurata-san!" the go prodigy protested, standing up so quickly that he almost knocked his chair over. "Why am I first board when Shindou is stronger than I am?"
Kurata waved a chubby finger at him. "Shindou-kun might be stronger, Touya-kun, but you have more experience! I have faith that you'll be able to wipe those smug smirks off the faces of those arrogant Koreans… and then they will finally know the name of Kurata Atsushi, of Japan!" the overweight man proclaimed, clenching his fist in front of him.
"Shouldn't the team manager be more responsible?" Yashiro muttered, crossing his arms. "All he seems to care about is making the Koreans lose face in public."
Akira exhaled huffily. "If he really cared about that, he would make Shindou first board," he mumbled. "What do you think, Shindou?"
The blond-banged boy was silent, an uncharacteristic frown decorating his face. He looked up upon hearing Touya's inquiry. "…I agree that it is problematic for me to be second board," he said. "I want to beat Ko Yeong-ha, and I can only do that as first board." A dark look laced through his eyes as he said that.
Touya and Yashiro quickly exchanged brief looks. "Say Shindou, you never told us what's up with all this Yeong-ha business you're stuck on. You've never met the guy, right? What did he do to you that has you so upset?" Yashiro asked.
"You guys know Kosemura, right? From Go Weekly?" They both nodded, although Yashiro's was slightly more hesitant because he originated from the Kansai area. "Well, he went to Korea to interview their participants, and when he came back, he told me that Yeong-ha had insulted Shuusaku." His fingers dug into the fabric of his yellow shirt. "He called him 'outdated'."
"Outdated? Shuusaku?" Touya echoed, his eyebrows rising incredulously. Shuusaku was considered the greatest go player to have ever lived – to demean him was to insult the entire world of go. Were the Koreans truly so arrogant that they thought they were above him? True, Shuusaku's joseki were old, but every great go player in the present age still studied his methods, moves, and plays. This was no laughing matter.
Yashiro looked like he was going to say something, but then their manager cut in. "Ko Yeong-ha insulted Shuusaku, you say?" Kurata growled. "The nerve of them!" He continued to rant about the arrogant Koreans and how they weren't fit to be true go players if they didn't acknowledge Shuusaku as the legendary genius he had been. The three teenagers opted to tune him out completely, returning to their own conversation.
"You said Kosemura-san told you this?" Touya asked in a hushed voice, which could barely be heard over Kurata's irritated voice.
"When he returned from Korea," Shindou replied, nodding. His eyes narrowed as he recalled Kosemura's words. Yeong-ha would pay for the slight to Shuusaku – to Sai – but how could he deliver retribution to the Korean player if Touya was first board and not him?
"Are you sure it wasn't just a translation error?" Yashiro said doubtfully. "I mean, it can't be easy to convert Korean into Japanese and vice versa, you know what I mean?"
Touya agreed, "Yes, that is possible. The Go Associations should generally have at least one competent translator, but perhaps that person was busy or away when Kosemura-san arrived."
"You think so?" Shindou asked, his fingers tapping absently on the go board in front of him. It was a plausible reason, certainly…
"Yes, I do. Regardless, Shindou, I think you should clear this up before we actually play the official games. I don't want our actions to reflect badly on Japan if this turns out to only be a misunderstanding," Touya said.
"Alright," Shindou replied. Some of his ire at Yeong-ha died away at the suggestion. "I can't speak Korean, though. What if it's translated incorrectly again when I try to speak to him?"
Yashiro's brow furrowed, then he just shrugged. "We'll cross that bridge when we get there," Touya said, sending a dry glance at the white-haired teen. Shindou hid a grin.
"Who knows, maybe we'll get lucky and one of the Korean players will know Japanese," he said, his gaze returning to the goban that they'd been using for practice games before Kurata had interrupted to announce their placements in the Hokuto Cup. "I hope you're right, Touya, but if it's a real slight, I'm not going to hold back. Yeong-ha will pay."
Both Touya and Yashiro gazed silently at the other teenager, Kurata's words fading into the background. They exchanged quick looks again. "Shindou," Yashiro began, slightly hesitant. "I, uh – I'm not sure how to say this, but… you seem to be taking the insult rather personally, don't you think?" He scratched his cheek with the tip of his finger, looking anywhere but Shindou. That didn't come out as eloquently as he'd wanted to put it – it made him sound like he was accusing Shindou of some sort of heinous crime. "I mean, Shuusaku was a great player and all, and we revere him, but…" Yashiro struggled to find the correct words to say as Shindou's face went carefully blank, his green eyes shadowed with an unknown emotion.
Touya seemed to take pity on him, because he picked up where Yashiro left off, "What he means to say, Shindou, is that you speak as if you knew him personally." To his trained eyes, Touya didn't miss the slight flinch that Shindou made as he spoke. There was tension in his shoulders and his muscles, and his expression was guarded. Touya continued, "You speak of him as if he was a mentor to you, a mentor you knew as a real-life figure of authority in your life, someone so cherished that you can't bear to stand any insults to be thrown at them. But, considering that Honinbou Shuusaku was long dead before any of us were born, that can't be the case." Touya's gaze intensified. Shindou returned a cool glare of his own.
"Does it matter?" Shindou asked. Yashiro nearly winced at the frost coating the normally-cheerful boy's voice.
Touya was unfazed. "If we are going to be a team, we shouldn't have any secrets between us, Shindou," he replied. "Especially if we need to persuade Kurata-san to put you as first board." Show me that you can be entrusted to play as first board.
Shindou sighed loudly, crossing his arms over his chest. He stared at the goban for a moment, lost in his thoughts. The black-and-white pattern on the board suddenly looked a lot more interesting. "You sure know how to pressure a guy, Touya," he finally said. The iciness that previously accompanied his voice was gone, replaced with weariness, resignation, and – at least, Yashiro thought so – a tiny hint of grief. "I can't… I can't tell you right now. Not yet. Maybe… maybe one day–"
I'm so sorry, Hikaru. It was fun –
He shuddered as the memory sprang up in his mind, as vivid and clear as the day it happened. He didn't even know that he had trailed off, and started to curl into himself. Yashiro and Touya both noticed the change, and, realizing that something was wrong, hurried to Shindou's side.
No! No, no, no, no, no! Sai! Sai!SAIIIII!
He shivered, his breaths starting to come in short, sharp gasps.
"Shindou? Shindou, stay with us!" Touya said, gently shaking the teenager's shoulder. "What's wrong? Snap out of it!"
Why did you leave me? You promised!
"Shindou, man, what's going on? Come on, pull yourself together!"
You promised we would find the Hand of God together!
He couldn't breathe. Sai was disappearing in front of his eyes and he couldn't do a fucking thing about it.
An involuntary, half-strangled sob forced itself from his throat.
Touya's loud voice, tinged by fear and worry, finally broke through his thoughts. He started violently, gasping, and bolted upright, accidentally slamming his head against the underside of Yashiro's jaw. The silver-haired teen yelled an obscenity and tripped over backwards in his haste to get away. He fell to the floor in a heap of tangled limbs, cringing at the pain flaring in his chin and his backside.
Shindou didn't notice, too busy blinking at the goban and realizing that he was back in reality. He stiffened at the feel of his clammy hands and the stickiness of cooling sweat clinging to his neck. Oh god, did he just –
"I think–" Touya said, capturing Shindou's attention, "–that you need to see a doctor, Shindou. Did something traumatic happen in your past to make you react so severely to our probing?"
Yep, he did. He just had an attack in front of his teammates.
Shindou took large gulps of air to help steady his breathing. Oh man, this was bad. How was he going to explain this to them? Maybe he should tell them about Sai. No, he couldn't do that. They couldn't know about him yet.
Yashiro gingerly stood from the floor, rubbing at his jaw tenderly. "That was one hell of a headbutt, Shindou," he groused, rejoining them. "Warn a guy next time, will you?"
"Sorry." His reply came out as more of a whisper, and he grimaced.
"I also think you owe us an explanation," Yashiro said, glaring down at him. "What the fuck just happened, Shindou? Spill the beans. Right now."
"I… I can't…"
"Yashiro!" Touya admonished warningly. He turned back to Shindou. "If you don't want to say it right now, don't. However, we are your teammates. You can trust us."
Shindou nodded slowly, traces of his old self coming back. The pale pallor of his skin began to infuse with a healthier flush. "Thanks," he murmured. "One day, I definitely will tell you about it – no, about him."
"Him?" Yashiro echoed, looking very much confused. Touya had a sneaking suspicion he already knew who Shindou might be referring to, but unless Shindou confirmed it himself, it would only be a guess.
"Shindou-kun." The uncharacteristically serious and solemn voice of their team manager suddenly reminded the three teens that the man was still there. Simultaneously, they turned to look at him with deer-in-the-headlights looks. Kurata cleared his throat. "Do you understand now why I've put you as second board, not first? Although I was uninformed that you are suffering from a form of PTSD, with your current mindset, you would not be able to play a good game against Yeong-ha. The pressure to win would be too stressful on your mind."
Shindou looked away. "Sorry," he apologized quietly. "But if I'm going to be second board, then… Touya, you better win against him. Show him that Shuusaku is still considered the greatest go player in history. Show him not to mess with Japan." A familiar fire began to light in his green eyes.
With those words, the other two teenagers relaxed. Shindou was starting to recover from his little episode. "You had us scared there, idiot," Yashiro said, lightly punching Shindou in the shoulder. "Just come to us if you ever need help snapping out of it again, alright?"
Shindou smiled – a small, but genuine smile unlike his typical sunny grins. "Thanks, guys. You have no idea how much… how much your support means to me right now," he replied. "Now, let's play some games. We've lost a bunch of time already."
"Indeed," Touya agreed, sitting in the chair across the goban from his rival. His eyes sharpened, the intensity of game-mode concentration beginning to settle around him like a veil. Shindou met his challenge with a slightly-forced smirk. They didn't need to say anything to understand what they were trying to say to each other.
Whatever happened to you in the past is the past. I'm your rival now. Concentrate on me, and the go games of today. Come at me, Shindou!
You're on, Touya. Thank you.
The next day, Touya sought out Kosemura to ask the reporter about what he told Shindou. The reporter was slumped in a chair in the Go Weekly office, an angry, sulky expression gracing his face. His coworkers kept shooting him periodic looks, growing increasingly annoyed by the loud sighs and mini-rants about those "damn Korean bastards!" Touya's appearance in their office was unexpected, but a welcome surprise.
"Kosemura-san," Touya said, getting the reporter's attention.
Kosemura sent a peevish glare in his direction, only to shoot up in his chair when he realized who had addressed him. "Touya-kun! How nice to see you! How can I help you today?" he asked, a half-hearted smile tugging at his thin lips.
Touya stopped a few feet away from him, looking decidedly displeased. Kosemura's smile faltered. "Kosemura-san, you visited Korea recently to interview their Hokuto Cup participant, yes?" The short man nodded slowly, unsure where the teenager was steering this conversation. "I would like an explanation on why you think the Koreans insulted Honinbou Shuusaku and why you saw fit to tell Shindou about it."
Kosemura squirmed in his chair, feeling very much like one of those butterflies pinned to a display board in a museum. He gazed nervously around at his coworkers, who hadn't paused in their duties, but were definitely paying more attention to the two of them than they ought to. "Well, you see, Touya-kun—" he hedged, attempting to stall. Touya glared. "Aah! I'm sorry! But Yeong-ha really said Shuusaku was outdated and Japan was weak for studying him!" he squeaked.
"Did he actually say it himself, or was it an error made by the translator?" Touya pressed. "Honinbou Shuusaku is considered the greatest go player in history; the Koreans would be foolish not to respect him at all."
Kosemura looked uncomfortable, and mumbled something under his breath.
"I can't hear you, Kosemura-san." Touya's voice rang through the room with a steely edge.
"It was the translator!" Kosemura cried out, nearly flinging himself backwards just to get away from the intimidating boy. "I'm sorry, please don't kill me! He had really bad Japanese!"
"It was a translation error after all, then," Touya commented. "Their translator can't be so bad that you misunderstood him. Was he the only translator provided or available at the time?"
"I-I went a day early," Kosemura stammered. Now his coworkers were starting to give him the stink-eye for making such a rookie mistake. Amano in particular was frowning at him, his face conveying a single thought: I will be having a word with you later, Kosemura-san. Oh boy.
"Therein lies your problem, Kosemura-san," Touya said. Kosemura felt like a tiny ant being squished under the sole of Touya's shoe. "Correct me if I am wrong, but you should have set up an appointed day and time to talk to them, right?" The reporter nodded jerkily. "But, in your belief that it wouldn't be a bad idea to scope out the competition just a little bit early, you went to the Korean Go Institute a day ahead. Of course, because you were a day early, the Institute was most likely unprepared, having not expected you that day. They had to give you a substitute translator, whose poor Japanese caused you to believe that the Koreans disrespected Shuusaku. They did not allow you a second interview, so you were unable to verify whether their insult was true. You came back to Japan, solidifying your belief that the Koreans must have slighted Shuusaku after all. You must have told Shindou about it sometime afterward, because last night Yashiro, Kurata-san, and I heard it from him. What you told him has affected Shindou's state of mind. Kurata-san has placed him as second board to both avoid conflict with the Koreans and to lessen the pressure being placed on him. Do you see now what you have done, Kosemura-san?" Touya's eyes were like chips of frozen steel.
Kosemura felt ready to faint.
"Touya-kun," Amano called, laying a hand on the boy's shoulder. "I apologize for interrupting, but we need to get back to work. I'll deal with this whole mess, don't you worry."
"Thank you, Amano-san," Touya said crisply, turning on his heel. "I hope your employees will not make this sort of mistake again."
"I will do my best to ensure that it doesn't," the bespectacled redhead said firmly. "Make sure you play your best, Touya-kun. For Japan."
"I will, sir. Have a good day," Touya said, heading towards the door.
Suddenly Kosemura remembered something. "W-wait!" Touya paused. "There was something else he said – he praised Shindou! Yeah, that's right, he said Shindou was a good player because – because he played like Shuusaku…" Kosemura trailed off, his eyes widening in realization. If that wasn't a statement that the Koreans did respect Shuusaku after all, he didn't know what was. Oh shit.
Touya gave him an annoyed look before exiting the office. The door shut with a quiet click.
"As for you…" Amano turned to Kosemura. The younger and shorter man quavered. "We are going to have a nice, long chat about proper reporting policies and procedures."
He was doomed.
Shindou wasn't sure when he had fallen asleep, but a hand gently shaking his shoulder and telling him to wake up made him aware of the go stones digging uncomfortably into his cheek. He sat up, blinking his eyes blearily. A muffled snort sounded from his right, and it sounded like Yashiro. Someone handed him a damp washcloth to clean his face with.
"Shindou, if you're going to sleep, at least use the couch," Touya said, exasperated. "Your face looks so ridiculous right now."
"Looks like someone played go on it," Yashiro snickered. "Shindou, you should go look in a mirror – you've got these huge go stone imprints in your cheek." He poked a finger into his cheek. "Like this."
Shindou was tempted to flip him the bird. "Whatever," he replied, yawning. "Mm, what time is it?"
"It's almost eight. Did you eat dinner yet?"
"I don't think so. I can't remember when I fell asleep," he answered, standing up and stretching. "But I'm pretty sure I didn't anything before I did."
"My mother left some leftovers for you. She probably didn't want to wake you up," Touya said, leading them to the kitchen.
Shindou brightened at the prospect of food, even though it was unlikely to be ramen. His stomach gurgled softly in agreement. Yashiro shot him an amused glance. Shindou responded with a disgruntled look.
"Anyways, Shindou, I talked to Kosemura-san today," Touya said, waving them towards the table. "He admitted that it was most likely a translation mistake. However, since the onus of interviewing Korea's Hokuto Cup participants fell to him, Kosemura-san decided to go to the Korean Institute a day before his appointment. As such, they were not prepared for him. Kosemura-san is the one at fault, not the Koreans."
"So they didn't insult Shuusaku? That's a relief," Yashiro said.
"We don't know if that is true or not," Touya said, taking the plate of leftovers from the fridge and reheating it for consumption. "But I'd say the chances of that are quite slim."
"Did he say anything else?" Shindou asked, gratefully accepting the plate of food that Touya offered to him.
"He did, although I'm not sure if that was also a translation error. Kosemura-san mentioned that the translator said that Yeong-ha praised you, Shindou. Yeong-ha apparently believes that you are a good player because you play like Shuusaku."
"I play… like Shuusaku?" Shindou echoed, his eyes going wide. He almost dropped the plate, but steadied himself at the last second. They had no idea how true that was. Sai…
Yashiro's eyebrows had nearly risen to his hairline. "Well, damn. If that's not a compliment, I don't know what is," he said, whistling.
Shindou finished off the last remnants of his meal and carried the plate to the sink. "You know what this means, guys," he said, turning around and grinning. Yashiro sported a similar grin. Touya merely arched an eyebrow, although the amusement in his eyes and the slight upward tilt of his lips indicated his excitement.
Well, well, well. I told some people that I'd try to update over Spring Break, but when I opened this document, inspiration struck me out of the blue. So I've been typing like a madman, even though I should be studying for finals (which start tomorrow…).
To everyone who asked about the 'missing chapter twelve' – if you didn't read my note above, I'll repeat it again: it was an author's note about SOPA that I took down because it wasn't completely accurate. What you've just read is the REAL chapter twelve.
I hope you leave a review, but please don't complain about how slow I update. I warned you way at the beginning that my update speed is CRAP. And I wasn't kidding.
See you next time.