~ Between Two People ~
A/N: Xin chao. Xin chao. It's been a while, now it's a brand new year! I hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday season!
Whoever says that the holiday season is a good time to relax and sleep needs to be me during that period. It's the most exhausting time; fun, but exhausting. Therefore, I took a two week hibernation period which is why this chapter is only coming out now.
Also a bit late in saying so, but THANK YOU very much for all the comments (and any errors had been fixed on the 'master copy' which would be re-uploaded when I completely edit it).
Disclaimer: Alas, I own nothing. Hikaru No Go is not mine.
Chapter 5: NetGo and Light
Akari flicked her wrist and checked her watch for the third time in the last fifteen minute. Akari sighed. She knew she should expect it. Hikaru was definitely not known for being on time. It was still their first week of school and Hikaru, predictably, joined the soccer club. Akari had been recruited to the Home Economics Club with her female friend that also got accepted into Kaio. Both Hikaru and her club activities ended around the same time so they decided to walk home together. Kaio Junior High is a bit further of a walk home then their previous school and honestly, Akari didn't want to walk home alone.
Akari checked her watch again and saw no sign of Hikaru coming out of the locker room by the field. She leaned back against the school gate and gave another sign. The school is relatively empty now that class has been over. The students in clubs had scattered out of the building several minutes ago and headed home.
Akari had noticed another boy waiting on the other side of the entrance, seemingly waiting for someone as well. The other boy looked pretty, Akari decided. His chin-length hair looked smooth and well-cared for. Akari looked down at her own hair and scrunched up her face at the split ends.
Akari looked up and saw Hikaru waving and running towards her. She pushed herself off the wall and walked towards him. From the corner of her eye, she saw the other boy do the same. Perhaps he's tired of waiting? Akari thought momentarily, only sparing him a brief glance.
"Hikaru! You're late!" Akari scolded, jabbing his elbow when she reached him.
"It's not my fault, new players had to do clean up," Hikaru groaned at the thought. He couldn't wait until next year when he has seniority.
"When is the try-outs?"
"Next week, but it's just for appearance sakes, Coach Terusa already had people in mind," Hikaru replied and stretched his arms above his head.
"You're not running away this time." A voice stated from behind Akari. She turned and found the boy standing on the other side of the gate earlier almost glaring at Hikaru. He was waiting for Hikaru? Why?
"Man, I see you everywhere," Hikaru muttered underneath his breath, loud enough that Akari who was standing next to him could hear.
"Let's go have a match," the prim-looking boy insisted, approached Hikaru, grabbed his wrist despite Hikaru's protest, and dragged him towards the school building.
"Hey, what are you doing to Hikaru!?" Akari shouted over Hikaru's own objection as she followed them. For a boy that looked delicate, he seemed to have a tough grip on Hikaru's wrist that Hikaru couldn't get out of regardless of the tugging.
"Hikaru, who's this person?" Akari asked, annoyed. They were going to get scolded if they didn't head home soon.
"Ugh. That guy I played Go with that one day," Hikaru leaned his neck back and explained. He looked back towards the back of Toya's head and groaned. Go players are so serious and scary, Hikaru thought. Now what was he going to do?
"Here we are," Toya said as he slid a door open and pulled Hikaru in.
Akari peeked from behind the door before stepping inside. The room was relatively big and clean. She noted that it was filled with Go boards and other Go-related items that she saw when she went with Hikaru to the Go store. It's probably the Go club, Akari thought as she looked around the room.
"What are we doing here?" Akari asked out loud.
"Play Go," Toya replied. He pulled a chair out and motioned for Hikaru to sit down.
"Are you going to let go of me now?" Hikaru asked, staring at his wrist.
"Only if you promise not to run out again," Toya answered in all seriousness. He wasn't taking his chances. If need be, he would play the game while holding the other boy's wrist.
"Fine, fine." Hikaru rolled his eyes. He rubbed his wrist when Toya let go and went to the other side of the Go board and sat down.
"Nigiri," Toya said a few seconds later.
"What?" Hikaru asked, confused.
"Nevermind, you take black," Toya said, his tone betrayed his impatience.
"You're serious?" Hikaru blinked and stared at the other boy. It was getting late, he didn't have time for this.
The determined gaze that Toya gave Hikaru send a shiver down his spine. Toya looked like Hikaru and his teammates when they're on the field, readied to take on their opponent. The only difference was Toya was so serious, so straight-laced that Hikaru questioned if the other boy was having fun playing Go.
"Fine, but we need to make it fast," Hikaru agreed. He couldn't well tell the other boy he didn't know the game or the match they previously had was some out of this world event. It'll be okay if he puts the stone randomly and lose, right? Then, the other boy won't look for him anymore.
Akari looked confused standing beside the table staring at the empty board and the two boys sitting in front of said board. "Hikaru?"
"Just a bit, Akari. Go sit somewhere or do your homework or something," Hikaru shooed and after a moment of hesitation, grabbed the stone between his forefinger and thumb and placed it on a star.
Toya's eyes sharpened at the move before grabbing a white stone and placing it next to Shindo's. Finally, Toya thought. He can finally gauge this other boy's skills. He can have that rematch.
Minutes passed and Shindo placed stones down without much hesitation. However, every so often, Toya became confused. Shindo's hands were strange, sporadic, and made no sense. One moment, the two were engaged in a battle for the corner and the next moment, Shindo would make a play for the middle. Toya didn't feel any of the pressure he felt from the first game they played together.
Fifty or so hands in, Toya sat back and glanced at the board, still unsure what Shindo was planning with his plays. Shindo had just made a really poor move that all, but gave the game up. Was Shindo toying with him? Toya thought. He glanced up at his opponent, expecting a face similar to the first time they played, a haunting look that said Toya was out of his elements. However, what he saw was a small grin. Toya wanted to grab his hair in frustration.
A minute later, after a hesitant placement of the stone that would extend his advantage from the middle, Toya leaned back against the chair and momentarily rest his eyes, certain that Shindo would take more than a few seconds to play his hand.
No more than a second passed before Toya heard the klak of the stone hitting the Go board. Alarmed, Toya immediately sprung up and suddenly the pattern on the Go board dawned on him. He glanced back at Shindo to see an opening grinning face. Toya grew outraged. How dare he disrespect the game like that! Toya mentally screamed. How dare the other boy make fun of him like that?
Toya slammed his fist down beside the Go board loud enough to catch Shindo's attention as well as Shindo's friend who was sitting nearby. "Are you mocking me, Shindo!?"
"Wow, took you a while," Hikaru said instead of answering the question. Hikaru looked down at the board again, "I was running out of body parts."
"How dare you!? What-"
"Geeze, calm down," Hikaru said, holding up his hands in front of him as a shield when he noted the other boy looked crossed enough to perhaps commit murder? Perhaps after a rant or scolding, Hikaru mentally added.
"What is wrong with you?!" Toya all, but shouted. He felt lightheaded with fury and rage. Toya couldn't remember the last time he felt this much vehemence towards another person.
"Me?" Hikaru pointed to himself and asked, surprised. "More like what's wrong with you. You're so serious!"
"How can I not be serious?" Toya countered, "It's not everyday I get a chance to have a match with the only person my age who won against me."
"Wow, conceited much," Hikaru whistled under his breath.
"Argh, no, that's not what I meant," Toya was so distracted and mad that he couldn't think straight. "Oh forget it."
"Why are you so serious all the time?" Hikaru asked, curious. Being serious all the time seemed to be tiring so why would anyone do it? Though it may be just Go players, Hikaru thought as he remembered the Children's Go Tournament event.
"Unlike you," Toya pronounced 'you' with such venom, "I'm aiming to become a pro."
"A pro?" Hikaru knew that there were professional Go players from the Go magazines that he read, but he didn't know that children can be a pro. "But you're a kid?"
"There's no age limit. It only matters if you passed the Go exam or not," Toya replied, a bit taken back that the boy didn't know anything about it.
"Hm, Go pro, huh. Maybe I'll give that a try when I have time," Hikaru commented, mainly to himself. Maybe he should actively look for Sai amongst the pro players soon. Hikaru wondered if Toya would take him to Sai when he passed his Go exam. I mean, how can he not pass, with him being so serious about it all the time, Hikaru thought.
"Go... have time? What gives you the right to look down on Go pro's like that! It's not easy to become one. It takes hard work! And you think you can become one during your free time?" Toya raged. His vision was almost clouded with red and his whole body shook in silent fury. He was so disappointed! This boy was nothing like he imagined.
"Huh, what? I think you-" Hikaru began, attempting to clear up the misunderstanding. He didn't want to become a pro; he didn't even know the game much!
"This is a waste of time," Toya interrupted. He grabbed his bag and started for the door. He stopped at the doorframe and turned around to find Shindo and his friend looking at him in confusion. Toya bitterly ground out, "I mistook you, Shindo."
Hikaru watched the other boy disappeared behind the closed door, confused.
"He seemed pretty upset," Akari commented as she walked over to Hikaru. "What did you do?"
"Heck if I know. Oh, l-"
"You made a face out of the stones?!" Akari interrupted when she looked down at the Go board.
"Huh? Oh yea, isn't it neat?" Hikaru proclaimed with pride.
"Oh, Hikaru," Akari sighed and shook her head.
Akari exhaled noisily as she tried to think of a way to explain it to Hikaru. "Okay, so imagine you played a soccer game against Reiji Saito-san and Hibiki Hitomiko-san. It's just a practice match, but everyone was told to play a real game. However, Saito-san was just joking around the entire time, how would you feel?"
"Annoyed. Reiji does that every now and then," Hikaru responded, "Did I tell you that one-"
"Yes, so don't repeat that story again, I'm so tired of it," Akari cut short.
"Anyway," Akari interrupted loudly, "That's exactly how that other boy is feeling with you just joking around."
"It's not the same!" Hikaru countered, "Go is just a silly game, soccer is a sport!"
Akari stared, blinked, and stared again in disbelief. "Oh please, soccer is a game too."
"No it's not, you can make a living out of it!" Hikaru responded hotly.
"And couldn't you become a pro in Go too? What's the difference?" Akari rebuffed. She liked the Hikaru that loved to play soccer and felt envious of him for finding something he's passionate about. But sometimes, that love for soccer blinds him to everything else.
Hikaru was silent. He disliked people who saw soccer as a game and brush it off. Like I did with Go, Hikaru thought and mentally groaned. He became one of those people. "Fine, fine, I'll respect Go and stuff."
"Good," Akari grinned and felt accomplished. She then began taking the Go stones off their board and into their correct colored-bowls. "Now, let's clean up and head home. We're already pretty late. If my mom asks, I'm blaming you."
Hikaru was ecstatic! He made it onto the team, albeit as a substitute. However, he did managed to beat out dozens of his sempai's to get on the roster. The coach had divided the twenty-two people on the roster into two teams, with a mixture of regulars and substitutes on both sides. They were going to have their first real practice match.
Hikaru was on the same side as Reiji and they were able to acquire the same positions they normally played, central midfield and sweeper respectively. The captain, an attacking midfielder, was also on their side. Hikaru was excited. He had seen the captain practiced with last year's regulars and he was amazed at the skills everyone shown.
It wasn't even two minutes into the game yet before a conflict broke out. The captain had called the former while Hikaru yelled out the latter. There was a moment of chaos when voices broke out afterwards.
"Time out!" The captain signaled to the coach who blew the whistle.
"Yo, new kid, what do you think you're doing?" The captain demanded immediately after everyone froze.
"Wada-sempai should be on the offensive, Tai-sempai would've been able to steal the ball," Hikaru answered.
"Hey captain, is this kid serious?" A nearby voice called out in annoyance.
"I need to make something clear. I don't know how it was with your old team, but on this team, either the coach or the captain gets to call the shots," the captain explained, loud enough for the whole field to hear so as to shut down others who have similar ideas.
Hikaru could hear whispers from all around him, but he could only focused on his own confusion. He was going to raise his opinion, however, he felt a familiar hand on his shoulder. Reiji was standing behind him and giving him a slight shake of his head before whispering for Hikaru to drop it. Hikaru resisted the urge to shrug the advice and speak up, but it was then he noticed all the stares pointed his way. After a quick inhale, he nodded towards the captain.
The game resumed with the captain calling the shots and Hikaru feeling a bit irritated. There were a few miss chances that Hikaru saw from those calls and he was tempted to do his own way when the calls were directed towards him.
Practice was over after the practice match and on his way to the locker room, Reiji stopped Hikaru.
"Hey, let's go get food afterwards," Reiji asked while fanning himself with his shirt.
"Yum, food!" Hikaru exclaimed, excited. Because of the try-outs and practice match, practice ended later then usual and knowing that, Hikaru had told Akari to not wait for him. Luckily Reiji wanted dinner, he was starving! Reiji was a fellow ramen-lover therefore Hikaru was sure where they were going for food.
Hikaru met up with Reiji outside of the locker room and with their bags slung over their shoulder, the two of them walked towards the nearest ramen food stall, two blocks away from their school. While walking, they talked about their classes, of which they had three together, and the excitement of being chosen on the team.
"Can we get two bowl of your special ramen!?" Hikaru ordered before he even sat down at the counter. Reiji took the seat to his right and readily took out the utensils from a nearby basket.
"I wonder how Hiroto is doing," Reiji thought aloud during the wait.
"We should let him know we made it onto the team!"
"Mm," was all Reiji said.
Hikaru noticed a slight passivity from his friend and fellow teammate. Reiji didn't seem as excited to be on the team as Hikaru thought. He wo-
"You know, Hikaru. Back on our old team, with Hiroto, Fubuki, and everyone else, it was fun, wasn't it?" Reiji said, unknowingly interrupting Hikaru's thoughts.
"Of course and we were good too!" Hikaru announced proudly.
"Hiroto and I don't say it often, but you shone very brightly on our team, you know that?"
"Wait, what? Is that a compliment from the great Reiji?" Hikaru joked and was in a state of disbelief, Reiji was being unusually non-argumentative.
Reiji rolled his eyes.
"Brightly, how?" Hikaru scrunched his nose at the word.
"You were like this light that guided everyone, a very bright light that's always alive and moving. We followed your calls during games, didn't we? It meant we trust you to guide us because honestly, you shine brighter than everyone else on the team. Hiroto and I just didn't want to tell you otherwise your ego would be ridiculous!"
"I don't know if you're fishing for compliments, Reiji, but you were the best player on our team. Everyone knew that," Hikaru replied, perplexed. His eyes squinted in suspicion.
The ramen arrived, steaming hot. The smell drifted by and it was wonderful. However, Hikaru's attention was still towards Reiji.
"In terms of techniques, sure," Reiji responded. He unabashedly began eating, not bothered by Hikaru's stares. "Aren't you going to eat?"
Hikaru turned his attention towards his own bowl of ramen and his hunger got the best of him. He could grill Reiji after the food.
"Your ability to predict people's moves and assess their skills is wicked good. You improve so fast, too," Reiji continued the conversation.
"But you always shout at me!" Hikaru responded.
"I didn't want you to get a big head," Reiji replied and rolled his eyes.
"Why are you acting so weird, anyways?" Hikaru finally managed to ask the question that he has been dying to ask ever since practice ended. This Reiji was being too philosophical.
Reiji avoided the question by continuing his train of thought. "You don't shine on our current team, Kaio's team. Your light is overshadowed."
"You mean like what happened during practice? That I can't call the shots?" Hikaru said and cringed while remembering. "But I'll be able to once they see what I can do and if I ask them, right?"
Reiji hesitated a bit before slowly shaking his head. "Unless you become the captain, which may be a possibility next year or something."
"Oh," Hikaru couldn't remember the last time he didn't call the shots, it was a strange feeling, being involved in the game, but not able to control it. "I think I could be okay with it. I'll change to fit in."
Reiji sighed deeply. It was times like this that he and Hiroto hated the most. They had talked amongst themselves many times and several of those times included Hikaru in it. Although the three of them were the same age, Reiji and Hiroto felt Hikaru needed protection. Hikaru loved soccer, of that Reiji was sure. Hikaru was also great at soccer and smart when it came to game plays. However, Hikaru didn't understand that becoming a soccer player was a tough road. He had wanted to protect Hikaru a little longer, yet... Reiji sighed deeply again. He felt old for his age, sighing like that.
"Can you have fun playing soccer by doing that?" Reiji asked.
"You might, but it wouldn't be as fun as it could be. Like how I thrived on competitiveness, your potential and skills come out the most when you're enjoying yourself and that happens when you get to call the shots," Reiji explained.
"But I can change," Hikaru replied stubbornly. He didn't understand where Reiji was getting at.
A few minutes ticked by while both of them ate. The atmosphere felt slightly thick before a voice spoke up.
"Hm?" Hikaru glanced over with a mouthful of ramen.
"We're going to Korea," Reiji said, unable to look at Hikaru for his reaction.
"Wait, what? You're joking! Why?" Hikaru exclaimed, alarmed. Reiji was joking with him, right?
"My dad found a job over there and my elder sister is going over there for university."
Hikaru couldn't find his voice to make a verbal response and Reiji took the silence to continue.
"After this term, we're leaving beginning of August. We've been talking about it lately and my parents finalized it last night."
"Soccer? But you made the team!" Hikaru's voice rose. They both made the team, they were both going to go to win tournaments and play against Hiroto and become the best. They can't do that if Reiji leaves.
"I know. I haven't told coach yet. I want to wait a few weeks to enjoy it before I tell him." Reiji's words came out slow and cheerless.
"What about our goals of becoming the best!?" Hikaru demanded despite a lump stuck within his throat. He was fully facing Reiji now, ramen forgotten, and staring at him so hard in hopes that Reiji would yell out 'I'm joking'.
"We'll just meet at the world's stage," Reiji replied and finally managed to face Hikaru with a bittersweet smile.
"But Korea is so far! It's another country!"
"We can email one another. My sister is teaching me how to use our computer and she helped me made an account."
"But we won't be able to play soccer together again. First Hiroto, now you!?" Hikaru felt abandoned. Hiroto and Reiji were the first friends he made while playing soccer. They went through elementary school together and Hikaru wanted to believe they'd be able to go through junior and high school together. When Hiroto moved to a different city, it was tough, but at least he was in the country so they could go visit him or vice versa. However, Reiji was going to a different country. Hikaru was the only one left.
Reiji grimaced. He felt he was going to leave Hikaru behind and he was helpless to do anything about it.
"Sorry, Hikaru, sorry."
It was the third Saturday in April, the sun shone, the birds chirped, and Hikaru was not happy. The thought of Reiji leaving was always lingering at the back of his mind and he hated it. He almost wished Reiji hadn't told him until he was about to leave. The waiting and anticipation that their time together was going to end was agonizing.
Also despite all his efforts, Hikaru could not get his mom to agree to the weekend soccer trip to see Japan's team play in a practice match the next city over. They would watch the game and then spend the weekend and have a few practices before heading home. And Hikaru would be missing all that because his mom wouldn't fork over the fees. He tried to ask for an advanced allowance, only to be glared at and told that he was already two month's allowances ahead. It wasn't his fault that his favorite manga came out once every week and the price for a manga increased.
He was stuck at home with no one to call over to play soccer and not even Akari was home to bothered. Akari had to go to her grandparents' place somewhere in the countryside for the weekend. I need more friends, Hikaru thought to himself otherwise he wouldn't be where he was at the moment.
And where is Hikaru? He's currently keeping his grandpa company at a street festival near his grandparents' place. Only, he's ditched me when he saw his friends, Hikaru thought darkly. Hikaru ended up walking alone through the festival with a few dollars, hurriedly given by his gramps, for food.
The festival wasn't big and it didn't take long for Hikaru to reach the end of the boarder for the festivities where there were only a few tables scattered about. One of the table caught his eye with a large poster of a Go game. Curious, Hikaru walked over.
"Hello, do you play Go?"
Hikaru looked up from the polite inquiry of the man sitting behind the table. He was an older gentleman, probably around Hikaru's father's age.
"Er, a little bit," Hikaru responded, returning his attention to the pamphlets and paper on the table.
"Oh, wonderful! Have you ever heard of NetGo?" the other man asked, excitedly.
"Yes, it's a website where people go on to play Go. It's completely free and this..." the older man continued to explain animatedly, passing pamphlets and papers to Hikaru and not letting Hikaru get a word in.
Soon, Hikaru was walking away from the table with a bunch of papers and in a daze. What in the world happened? Hikaru thought to himself, perplexed. He couldn't even try walking away.
But NetGo, huh, maybe I'll get Akari to help me.
Hikaru found himself bored, with nothing to do the following day. Hikaru didn't want to wait for Akari to come back to help him so he went out by himself to the nearby internet cafe and hoped that if he messed up on the computer, the workers there would be able to fix it.
"..and if you have any other questions, just drop by the counter and we'll see what we can do," an older girl, working for the internet cafe, explained.
"Er, thanks," Hikaru murmured as the girl walked away. And my mom thought dyeing my bangs blond was such a big deal, Hikaru thought to himself as he sneaked a glance at the girl's pink-dyed hair.
Hikaru was given a computer near the end of the row and if anyone looked at him, a large potted plant was obscuring his face. The girl who worked there had taught him how to logged in and out, explained the fees (which Hikaru only had enough for an hour), and some other basic stuff before leaving. Using the computer was still new to Hikaru since he hadn't really needed to use it.
Hikaru took out the pamphlet and stumbled around the keyboard and mouse to type the website's address in.
"Oh, that looks familiar," Hikaru mumbled to himself as the page loads. He had seen an image of this in his vision before.
To Login In, Please Enter The Following:
Don't Have One? Register!
Hikaru clicked on the button to register. He tried typing his name for the required username, but apparently, it was taken.
"Maybe I should try something funny," Hikaru whispered to himself while trying to think of another name. But then, the conversation with Reiji popped into mind. Let's try that.
Light is available.
"Seriously?" Hikaru made a face of disbelief at the screen. It's probably too cheesy for people to choose, Hikaru reasoned out mentally. "Well, whatever, I just want to see real quick what this is."
Hikaru filled out the rest of the information and minutes, his account was completed.
Before Hikaru got the chance to enter his username and password, he was assailed with more images. Some of the images he had seen before while some were new. Two things stood out and lingered in his mind when the images finally subsided.
No way... Hikaru pondered. He hesitated momentarily before deciding. His index finger went and search for the letter S.
Hikaru chewed his lower lip as the mouse hovered over the Enter button.
Hikaru didn't know exactly what he was expecting, but it definitely wouldn't be the webpage changing. His heart sped up when numerous notices were popping up, of random names, asking for a game. Hikaru panicked.
"Er, excuse me, but are you okay?" a voice from Hikaru's right called out.
Hikaru whipped his head violently towards the voice, terrified that he had done something wrong and he was caught acting crazy. However, it was only an older lady, probably around his mother's age, looking at him with concern.
"Are you cold? You seem to be shaking," asked the lady.
"Uh, no. Yes. N-I don't... I don't know how to stop this? I don't want to be on this page anymore," Hikaru stumbled over his words and pointed at his screen accusingly.
The woman leaned over and looked at the screen. "You mean you want to log-out?"
Her words weren't registering with Hikaru and all he could do was nod.
"There's a logout icon on the top right corner of the screen, just press it and it'll sign you out and bring you back to the site's homepage, usually," the woman explained.
Hikaru rushed to bring the mouse over the icon the woman pointed out and immediately clicked it. When the page brought him back onto the log-in screen, all Hikaru do was take a deep breath. His body shook silently in shock and disbelief. He managed to mutter a 'thank you' to the woman when he realized she was still staring at him in confusion.
Sai was getting more and more real and Hikaru didn't know how to respond to that. Yes, he read about Sai in the magazine and all, but this, this was something that belonged to the real Sai and not the Sai in his visions.
The Sai in his vision seemed otherworldly, something that belonged only in his visions and the real Sai was only a coincidence, a big monstrous coincidence. At least, that was what Hikaru had come to think of it as. But just now, Hikaru had access into the real Sai's belonging, his vision's Sai wasn't just his Sai anymore, but someone that exists. The Sai who lived in his vision and the real Sai in Hikaru's reality, how were the two related?
A/N: Like many things, this chapter sounded a lot better in my mind and then something happened during the transferring process.
On another note, I feel cruel, making you guys wait for Sai. It's five chapters in and nothing. I blame how the story is coming out since it's sort of writing itself (hence some plot bunnies). I do have a vague idea of when Sai is showing up. But telling you guys that wouldn't be fun, now would it?
Next Chapter: Chapter 6 - Untitled. (I got nothing, not even one idea for it. =/ - And I mean for the Chapter Title, not where the story is going.)