Disclaimer: Surprising as it may seem, Hikaru and company do not belong to me. I know you're all shocked.
Author's Notes: Um...this is my first attempt at a Hikago fic, and I think it went pretty well. And there's a bit of shounen ai near the end, so be warned. It's also pretty fluffy, but I like it. Read, review, etc.
Hikaru, clad in a light blue kimono, stood in the midst of a crowd of people, staring. All around him there were lights and music, people talking and laughing. Various stands had been set up all along the sides of the street, covered with paper hangings and decorated bamboo sticks. Paper lanterns hanging between the stalls lit up the night brighter than the stars. Hikaru's eyes were wide in surprise as he took in every aspect of the festival.
"Isn't it cool?" Waya, wearing a yellow kimono, asked from over his shoulder.
"Whoa, look at all the food!" Hikaru exclaimed, and Waya sweatdropped.
"Why are you just looking at the food? Don't you have any respect for your own culture?" Waya grabbed Hikaru in a headlock, and Isumi stepped in to separate them.
"Hey, calm down, Waya," he said in what he hoped were soothing tones. After making certain that Waya wasn't going to attack Hikaru again, Isumi straightened his purple kimono and turned to Hikaru, who had gone back to staring at all the food. "This is your first time going to the summer festival, isn't it, Shindou?"
"Yeah," Hikaru admitted. "Mom never had time to take me when I was younger. I didn't know there was so much stuff."
"I used to come here when I was a little girl," Nase said, coming up behind them with Fuku beside her. Nase was wearing a colorful yukata with roses on it, and Fuku was wearing a yellow kimono. "I remember I used to write wishes on pieces of paper and hang them on the bamboo stalks."
"Why?" Hikaru questioned curiously, and Waya gave him a dark look.
"Geez, Shindou, are you clueless at everything?" Waya shook his head. "It's part of the tradition. Little kids write down their wishes and hang them on the bamboo stalks, and then they're supposed to come true."
"In the old days, they used to throw the bamboo branches in the river when the festival was over," Isumi added as the group began to walk through the rows of colorful stalls. "It was supposed to be a way of dispelling misfortune. Most of the festivals don't do that anymore, though, because it harms the environment."
Did they do that in your time, Sai? Hikaru silently questioned the ghost walking along behind him.
"Not exactly," Sai told him. "Though we did have similar rituals. I remember when I taught Go to the emperor we would have grand festivals celebrating the beginning of summer. We would send offerings down the river in the hopes of a good harvest for the coming year. As I recall, the children also made wishes just as Waya said. The young girls in particular enjoyed to wish for romance in the court."
"Wow," Hikaru murmured. He glanced at a passing stall and stopped dead, grabbing the sleeve of Waya's kimono to stop him. "Hey, let's get some rice balls! These look really good."
"You're gonna make us all sick before the festival even really starts!" Waya grumbled. However, when he looked over at the stand, he changed his mind. "But those do look pretty good...Hey, Isumi, guys, don't leave us behind!"
"What'd you stop for?" Fuku asked as he, Isumi and Nase walked back over to join Hikaru and Waya.
"I think we should get something to eat!" Hikaru said excitedly. "Don't those look good?"
"Are you sure you want something to eat already?" Isumi looked a bit worried. "We've still got about two hours to kill until the fireworks start..."
"All the more reason to have our stomachs full now!" Hikaru declared. "So we won't get hungry while we look."
"Shindou and I are having some whether the rest of you want them or not," Waya said.
"I'm going to have one too!" Fuku spoke up.
"Why not?" Nase added.
"Eh, I guess me, too, then," Isumi sighed. "We're going to be out of money within the hour at this rate...."
Minutes later the group sat together on a pair of benches, happily eating.
"Hey, can we make wishes later?" Hikaru asked around a mouth full of rice ball.
"Wishes are for little kids," Waya proclaimed. "And don't talk with your mouth full, that's gross!"
"Waya-kun, you're very tense," Fuku said happily, and everyone else laughed.
"Did you ever make a wish when you were little, Sai?" Hikaru quietly turned to Sai.
"Sometimes," Sai told him. "If you want to make a wish, Hikaru, you should. Since you said you've never been to a festival before, it should be okay. You could wish to improve your Go!"
"I don't want to make a wish like that!" Hikaru objected. "I can get better at Go without needing a stupid wish. I thought I'd make a fun wish like...I dunno, like something. I can't think of a good wish right now. I'll make one later when I think of something."
"Shindou-kun, are you talking to yourself?" Fuku asked suddenly, and Hikaru turned back to look at his friends, red-faced.
"W-who, me? I was just, um, thinking aloud!"
"That is talking to yourself, technically," Isumi pointed out. Hikaru glared at him and pouted. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of a familiar-looking hairstyle.
"Hey, isn't that Touya over there?" Waya said even as Hikaru craned his neck to look. The others followed Waya's gaze just in time to see Touya Akira disappear amidst the throng of people.
"I'm surprised he's here," Nase said. "From what I've heard about him, I thought all he ever did was stay home and practice his Go."
"He's probably just on his way home or something," Waya suggested. "I can't see Touya actually coming to one of these festivals to have fun."
"But he was wearing a kimono," Hikaru said thoughtfully. I'm surprised too, though. What's Touya doing here? There's no Go demonstration or anything.
"Maybe he came to have fun, just like you did," Sai suggested. "He's the same age you are, remember? Perhaps he thought the summer festival would be enjoyable."
"Nah," Hikaru said airily. "That guy doesn't seem like the type to visit a festival. Someone must have dragged him here."
The group finished eating their food, then resumed walking amidst the various stalls.
"I think there's going to be a short parade later," Isumi said. "I read something about it in the paper this morning."
"They'll want to have it before the fireworks, though," Nase said. "And aren't there usually demonstrations and such?"
"Someone told me there was going to be a Taiko demonstration today," Fuku added. "And an ancient dance one, too."
"We'll probably be able to figure out when they start, since that's where the main part of the crowd'll head," Waya pointed out. He suddenly noticed that they were missing someone again, and turned to see Hikaru looking with interest at a pair of small dolls.
"What are these for?" he asked curiously. "Another part of the festival?"
"In a way," Isumi said. "It has to do with the traditional Tanabata, or Star Festival."
"A bunch of cities celebrate it," Nase added. "There's a big one held in Hiratsuka every year, isn't there, Isumi?"
"Yeah," Isumi said. "You've probably heard about it on the news at least once or twice, Shindou. Our festival is just a regular summer festival, but it has some roots in the Tanabata. There's an old Chinese legend that talks about two lovers, Altair and Vega. Altair was a shepherd and Vega was a weaver for the Emperor of the Heavens. They fell in love, but because they were so in love with each other they began to neglect their work. Vega began to stop working on her weaving and Altair let his flock wander, and so they angered the Emperor. Legend says that, to punish them, the Emperor separated them by the Milky Way and allowed them to meet once a year. However, there was no bridge across the Milky Way, so the lovers couldn't meet. According to the legend, the magpies took pity on them and so created a bridge by spreading their wings."
"But if it rains, then the lovers can't meet," Nase added. "So people used to pray that there would be no rain on the day of the festival."
"I remember that legend," Sai told Hikaru. "We had Tanabata festivals in the Heian period as well. Ours was generally a festival for the children, though, especially the girls. I told you that we had the tradition of wishing, yes? Well, the girls often wished for help with weaving and such as well as romance. Vega was a weaver, after all, and so the girls hoped that by celebrating the one night she was allowed to meet with her lover they would gain better weaving skills."
"So do the dolls represent those two lovers?" Hikaru questioned. "Ally and Veggie, or whoever?"
"Altair and Vega," Isumi corrected. "And, yeah, sometimes the dolls represent the lovers. I think in Matsumoto they also use dolls as stand-ins for a spirit who can carry the lovers to each other if it rains."
"When I was little I used to think that the stars really were people," Nase said. "I always thought that it was such a sad love story."
"If you say so." Hikaru shrugged. "I'm just glad someone made it up, since it lets us have a festival!"
"Hikaru!" Sai looked profoundly shocked. "You shouldn't say such things! You'll offend their spirits!"
"Aw, come on, Sai, there's no such thing as spirit--uh, I mean, as stars being people," Hikaru amended quickly.
Sai just gave him an offended look, and Hikaru gave up.
"Okay, so I know the story now," he said. "Can we do something now? We can play a game or get more to eat or something! I think I see someone selling yakisoba over there."
"Didn't you just eat?" Waya said, sweatdropping.
"You'll ruin your appetite for the rest of the week at this rate, Shindou-kun," Fuku added.
"I just want to try some of everything," Hikaru defended himself. "It's, um, it's part of sampling all aspects of Japanese culture! Yeah, that's right! Hey, guys, wait up!" Hikaru hurried to catch up with his friends, who had begun to leave him behind.
They wandered for a while until they heard the sound of a someone beating a small drum.
"Fish! Try and win a fish!"
"Why don't you try and win one, Waya-kun?" Fuku turned to Waya with a wide smile, and the other boy scowled.
"Shut up," Waya grumbled.
"What's wrong?" Hikaru wondered.
"Waya-kun and I went to one of these festivals last year," Fuku explained, ignoring Waya's sudden 'shut up already' hand motions. "They have a game where you try to catch fish in a paper cup. Waya-kun tried seven times and still couldn't catch one. Then, right after he gave up, a five year old came by and caught two easily!"
"I said, shut up!" Waya growled. "I didn't see you catch any!"
"I bet I could catch one!" Hikaru proclaimed. Waya glared at him.
"I bet I could catch one first," he said.
"Oh yeah?" Hikaru challenged.
"Um, guys?" Isumi ventured hesitantly, but he was too late. Hikaru and Waya were already marching off determinedly towards the stall.
A young girl with blond hair stood beating the drum near a long wooden crate filled with water. Hikaru could see small golden shapes darting through the water.
"Hey, look." Waya elbowed him and Hikaru glanced over to see Touya Akira standing near the stall. He was holding a small plastic bag with a goldfish in it, and handing it to a small boy.
"It's all right, I don't want it," Akira was saying. Hikaru thought that something about Akira's face seemed odd. He was smiling, but his eyes seemed strangely sad.
The young boy standing beside Akira looked up at him for a moment, then reached out and took the fish from him. The boy then gave Akira a wary look, as if expecting him to snatch the animal back.
"It's okay," Akira assured him. "If I want another one, I'll pay to play the game again. You can have this one."
The boy mumbled a thanks and ran off. Akira stared after him, still with the same oddly sad smile. He turned back towards the stall and found himself face to face with Hikaru.
"O-oh, Shindou!" Akira stammered, surprised. Hikaru smiled.
"Ha! For once I get to appear in front of you!" he teased. "Doesn't feel so good to be on the surprised side of things, does it?"
"Um....o-okay," Akira replied, taking a moment to compose himself. "What are you doing here?"
"What do you think I'm doing here?" Hikaru laughed. "Having fun, of course! Why're you here? Is there some Go thing going on?"
"No, nothing like that," Akira said. "Father thought I might enjoy myself if I came."
"I didn't expect to see you here at all," Hikaru admitted. He curiously glanced around. "Hey, are you with anybody?"
"No, I came alone." For a brief moment Akira looked sad again, before composing himself and staring back defiantly at Hikaru. "Are you here alone?"
"Nah, I came with Waya and everybody," Hikaru said. Even as he spoke, Waya called to him.
"Hey, Shindou, are we gonna play or not?"
"Coming!" Hikaru called back. "Well, uh, see you, Touya."
"Goodbye." Akira bowed hastily. Hikaru hurried back towards Waya, and Akira stared after him.
Waya and Hikaru both paid the girl with the drum and positioned themselves by the water, paper cups in hand.
"Whoever gets one first wins," Hikaru said.
"On three," Waya agreed. "One....two...three!"
Both boys plunged their cups into the water. Almost immediately, Waya groaned.
"Dammit, it broke again!"
"Ha, I'm gonna win, then!" Hikaru said. He quickly scooped a fish into his cup, but a moment later the paper tore and the fish tumbled back into the water.
"See, it's not so easy," Waya said.
"I want a rematch!" Hikaru proclaimed.
Waya agreed, and so they paid again.
"This time I'll get one," Hikaru said determinedly, staring into the water.
"I'll get one first," Waya stated.
They positioned themselves back over the water.
"I get to count this time," Hikaru said. "One, two three!"
"Hey, at least pause a little between numbers!" Waya protested even as he dipped his cup in the water. It tore almost immediately. "Not again! Am I jinxed or something?"
"I'll get one for sure this time," Hikaru murmured. He caught sight of a fish that looked good for catching and moved towards it.
"Don't put the cup in the water too quickly or it'll break," a soft voice said by his ear, and Hikaru jumped, dropping his cup in the water as he did so.
"Touya! Geez, warn a person before you appear like that!"
Akira, who had silently positioned himself beside Hikaru while the other boy was intent on fish, actually managed to look a little contrite.
"I was simply offering advice," he said defensively. "If you put the cup in the way you did before it'll break again. You have to be more careful to catch a fish."
"Who asked you?" Waya spoke up from Hikaru's other side. "Why're you hanging around us, anyway?"
"I was trying to be helpful," Akira defended himself. "I noticed Shindou was having trouble before, so I--"
"We don't need your help," Waya said. "Don't you have somewhere else to be besides here?"
Akira glanced back at Hikaru, as if waiting for him to contradict Waya. Hikaru, feeling suddenly uncomfortable, remained silent.
"As you wish," Akira said, more to Hikaru than Waya. "I'm sorry for surprising you." He bowed politely and then left before anyone else could speak.
"What was that about?" Isumi, Nase, and Fuku came up behind Waya.
"Touya was hanging around Shindou again," Waya said.
"You didn't have to be so mean to him, Waya," Hikaru said.
"Why not? Nobody asked for his help," Waya stated. "That guy really annoys me."
"Well, he's gone now," Nase pointed out. "Are you guys done? Isumi found out where the Taiko demonstration was being held."
"One more try," Waya said hastily, heading back towards the girl with the drum. Isumi sighed and grabbed Waya by the arms, dragging him off.
"No you don't," he said. "If you and Shindou spend all your money on this you'll do nothing but bother us for the next few hours. You've done enough fish-catching for one day."
"Aw, you're such a spoilsport," Waya grumbled, though he allowed Isumi to drag him away. Hikaru, following along behind, paused for a moment when he thought he caught sight of Touya staring at him from behind another stall. But when he turned to look, no one was there.
I'm just being paranoid, Hikaru decided. Touya always appears so suddenly, I've started thinking he's going to jump out at me from behind something. You should've warned me when he walked over, Sai.
"I thought you saw him," Sai said. "Besides Hikaru, he was simply trying to be helpful."
"I guess." Hikaru shrugged. "I don't know why he didn't just leave, though. It's not like I asked him to stay."
"Maybe he wanted you to," Sai suggested.
"Nah, that's not it," Hikaru said. "He probably just thought he could drag me into a Go game or something."
"I don't think that's the reason, Hikaru," Sai said, but Hikaru ignored him, rushing forward to catch up with his friends.
"So where are we going now?" Hikaru questioned as he ran up to where the others were waiting.
"There's a Taiko drum demonstration over down this way," Nase said.
"A whatsit demonstration?"
"Taiko drum. It's a traditional Japanese drum. I hear the woman giving the demonstration, Hina Tono, is supposed to be one of the best in Japan," Nase explained.
"And it's free to watch," Fuku added.
"We have time until the fireworks display," Isumi elaborated. "And I don't know about you, but I only have so much money with me. We need to find some cheap things to do while we wait."
"There it is." Waya pointed to where a crowd was gathering around a raised stage. A woman stood on the stage beside a large drum, talking to the audience.
"Within the last forty years, Taiko drumming has become very much a performance art," she was saying. "There are several thousand groups in Japan today who study the art. Since this is just a demonstration I'll be playing by myself, but usually you can see two up to fifteen people playing at once."
"Is she going to play or talk?" Hikaru said to Waya in a low voice.
"I think she's almost done," Waya replied. "Looks like we missed most of the talking part of the demonstration."
"I recognize that type of drum," Sai said happily. "A man once came to the court of the Emperor, to play for him. Everyone attended, and it was quite enjoyable."
"So I guess that means it's a pretty old instrument," Hikaru murmured before Waya hissed at him to be quiet because the demonstration was beginning.
Hikaru soon became caught up in listening to the drum. He had to admit that it was fun to listen to, and it looked fun to play as well. Then Sai tapped him on the shoulder.
"What?" Hikaru asked quietly.
"Touya is here."
"Huh? Touya?" Hikaru immediately stood up a little taller and scanned the crowd. Sure enough, he caught sight of Akira lurking along the fringes, staring right at him. For a moment their eyes met, and then Akira swiftly turned his head and ran off.
What was that about? Hikaru wondered. Is he following me or something? Hey, Sai, how long was Touya standing there, anyway?
"I only noticed him about half a minute before I told you," Sai replied.
Was he looking at me before, too?
"I believe so. His eyes were turned in this direction."
So he was watching me! Why was he doing that? Hikaru looked annoyed. Waya already told him to leave us alone.
"He didn't try surprising you this time, though," Sai pointed out. "He was simply watching you."
So? It's creepy, the way he always shows up when I'm not looking. Hikaru sighed. It's like having my own personal stalker or something.
Hikaru kept his eyes out for Akira during the rest of the demonstration, but he didn't see the other boy again. When the demonstration was over, Hikaru and the others wandered off to play some games and possibly get some more to eat. Hikaru had almost forgotten about Akira until the parade began.
Hikaru and his friends were lined up along one side of the parade with about half the crowd, watching. About halfway through, Hikaru started to feel as though he were being watched.
He's not hanging around again, is he? Hikaru began to search the crowd. Sai, do you see him?
Touya, who else?! I know he's here somewhere. Hikaru finished scanning the crowd in front of him and turned around to look behind. He quite suddenly found himself face to face with Akira.
"Why are you--" Hikaru started to ask, but Akira didn't give him a chance to finish the question. Without a word, the other boy turned and ran off.
"Hey, wait a sec!" Hikaru called after him. He started to follow, then stopped and tapped Waya on the shoulder.
"What?" Waya asked, turning to look at him.
"I have to go look at something," Hikaru said quickly. "I'll meet you guys later, okay?" He hurried off through the crowd before Waya could stop him.
"Hey, Shindou, wait!"
"Do you see him, Sai?" Hikaru asked as he hurried between various stalls and decorations. The main area of the festival was almost devoid of people, as most of the crowd was still watching the parade.
"Over there!" Sai pointed, and Hikaru looked over just in time to see Akira disappear around a corner.
"This time I'm gonna make him tell me why he's following me," Hikaru muttered. He ran over to where Akira disappeared, and then skidded to a halt in surprise.
Akira sat alone on the ground, holding his knees close to his chest and staring at nothing.
"Are you going to talk to him?" Sai asked when Hikaru continued to pause.
"O-oh, yeah!" Hikaru took a step towards Akira, then stopped.
"It's just...he looks kinda sad, doesn't he?" Hikaru shifted uncomfortably. "Maybe I should go back to the others."
"Are you sure?" Sai questioned softly. "You did say you wanted to talk to him."
"Well, yeah, but..." Hikaru shook his head and turned to go. He took a step back the way he had come, then stopped again. "Do you think I should talk to him?'
"It's up to you, Hikaru," Sai told him.
Hikaru hesitated again, turning to look back at Akira, who hadn't moved. The other boy didn't even seem aware of Hikaru's presence.
"I'm going to," Hikaru decided. Steeling himself, he walked over towards Akira and sat down beside him. Akira glanced over at him.
"Uh, hi, Touya," Hikaru said.
"What do you want?"
"Shouldn't I be asking that?" Hikaru said, vaguely annoyed. "You're the one who keeps following me everywhere."
"I wasn't..." Akira trailed off. "All right, I was. I'm sorry."
"You don't have to apologize," Hikaru said. "I just wanna know what you want, that's all."
"I don't want anything," Akira said. "I just...noticed you were there, and..."
"And followed me," Hikaru finished. "So, why? I mean, I don't think there's anything Go-related here or anything."
"That's not why I was following you," Akira told him, shaking his head.
"So you were following me!" Hikaru said triumphantly, and Akira glared at him. Hikaru couldn't help but quail a bit under his gaze; no one could glare quite like Touya Akira.
"You followed me here," Akira pointed out.
"That's different," Hikaru said airily. "I just wanted to see why you kept looking at me."
"I..." Akira shook his head. "It's nothing."
"It's gotta be something," Hikaru said. "I'm not going away until you tell me."
"Then maybe I won't tell you at all," Akira said quietly.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Hikaru asked, and Akira looked away. Finally, Hikaru sighed and stood up, turning to go. "If you're gonna be that way then--"
"Wait!" The moment the words left him Akira clapped a hand over his mouth. "I--I mean--" He looked down again and sighed. "All right, I'll tell you. I was--I was lonely."
"Lonely?" Hikaru looked surprised, and Akira glanced angrily up at him.
"I'm not allowed to be lonely, then?" He shook his head. "Of course not. Nobody ever thinks that maybe I care about other things besides Go. And they're right, mostly. Mostly."
"If you were lonely, then why didn't you bring someone else with you?" Hikaru asked, sitting back down. Akira shrugged.
"Ashiwara-san was too busy to come," he said. "Ogata-san was busy as well, even though he dropped me off here."
"Aren't you friends with anyone besides old guys?" Hikaru said. "I bet they wouldn't be any fun at something like this." Akira shrugged again.
"I didn't even want to come," he said. "I would have preferred to stay home and practice my Go, but my father thought that I looked bored recently, and that I might enjoy the festival. I didn't want to upset him by refusing, so I agreed."
"That's dumb," Hikaru said. "If you didn't want to come to the festival you should've said so. Then I wouldn't have to deal with you following me like a lost puppy."
Akira nearly laughed at that, but stopped himself just in time. However, he couldn't suppress a small smile.
"I didn't plan on seeing you here," Akira replied. "You surprised me before, remember."
"Oh, yeah." Hikaru laughed. "That was fun. You're always the one appearing suddenly, after all. So....you decided to follow me because you wanted to hang out with us?"
"Of course not!" Akira immediately denied it, but Hikaru heard the lie in his voice. "I just thought--"
"You just wanted a friend, right?" Hikaru smiled and Akira looked away. "Am I right?"
"Maybe..." Akira admitted softly.
"Then you should've just said so instead of lurking around!" Hikaru said, laughing. "What, did you think I'd get mad at you or something?"
"Weren't you mad, when I appeared before?" Akira countered. "Besides, we're not friends, Shindou. We barely talk to each other except--"
"Except when you jump in front of me and surprise me," Hikaru finished. He sighed. "Look, Touya, just because we're rivals and all doesn't mean you can't, you know, hang around me if you want. I mean...." Hikaru looked down, suddenly at a loss for words. "If--if you want, I'll hang out with you now. You never know, we might have fun. And you have money, don't you?"
"Yes," Akira replied, looking at Hikaru with confusion. "My father gave me a lot before I left because he wanted to make sure I was able to do whatever I want while I'm here. Why do you--"
"Perfect!" Hikaru was on his feet before Akira had even finished speaking. He grabbed Akira by the arm and hauled him to his feet. "Then our first order of business will be you treating me to some yakisoba! Come on!"
Akira, looking rather bewildered, allowed Hikaru to drag him back towards the nearest food stall. Hikaru kept a firm grip on Akira's arm as he walked.
"This is a nice thing you're doing for Touya, Hikaru," Sai mentioned as they walked.
I know, Hikaru replied silently. I mean, I know he's kinda intense when it comes to Go, but who knows, maybe we'll even like each other as long as we don't have to compete against each other.
"That's true," Sai said. "And besides, the summer festival is a happy time."
Right! Hikaru replied. Which means that no one should be lonely or sad, not even Touya. I'm gonna make him have fun even if it kills him.
Ten minutes later Hikaru and Akira were sitting together on a bench, each with a bowlful of yakisoba noodles. Akira was eating slowly and carefully, while Hikaru slurped noisily as he attempted to stuff as much food in his mouth at once as was humanly possible. Akira, watching him, couldn't suppress a laugh.
"What's so funny?" Hikaru asked around a mouthful of food.
"Nothing," Akira assured him quickly. His expression darkened. "You don't have to do this, you know."
"You're not going to start that tired argument, are you?" Hikaru asked airily. "Look, Touya, just think of it as me paying you back for the food."
"You made me buy you the food," Akira mentioned.
"Details, details," Hikaru said. "I thought you wanted someone to have fun with? You said you were lonely, didn't you?"
"That doesn't mean I want you to take pity on me," Akira said fiercely. "You should just go back to your friends, Shindou. You don't want to be here, I'm certain."
"You're wrong, then," Hikaru said. "I'm fine staying with you." He paused. "You know Touya, you might have more friends if you acted more sociable. And less scary."
"Why?" Akira asked. "This is who I am, Shindou, and I won't change it. Why should I? I enjoy myself fine without friends, usually."
"Well, what do you do all day without anyone to hang around with?" Hikaru said.
"I play Go," Akira said. "I think that's fairly obvious."
"Don't you do anything besides play Go?" Hikaru wondered aloud.
"Not really," Akira admitted. "I don't see anything wrong with that. I like playing Go."
Hikaru shook his head and gave up. Akira was obviously a lost cause, and there was no point in continuing to pursue the subject. Hikaru decided it was time to deal with something more important.
"Are you going to eat that or what?"
Akira, with an indulgent smile and an eye roll, handed over his still mostly full bowl and settled back to watch Hikaru eat.
"So, now what should we do?" Hikaru asked once the food was gone. "We could play a game or something. What do you think?"
"I don't know," Akira said, shrugging noncommittally. "If you'd like, I'll win you a fish. You had trouble before."
"I might have gotten it the second time if you hadn't surprised me!" Hikaru argued, and Akira shook his head.
"Not the way you were doing it," he said. Hikaru glared at him, but Akira easily brushed off the look. "Come on, I'll show you the right way."
"You don't have to be smug about it!" Hikaru grumbled, and Akira looked at him curiously.
"I'm not being smug," he said. "I'm just telling the truth. It's just like with Go. If I know my own strength, then it's pointless to deny it so I acknowledge it instead and move on from there."
"W-well, okay, but still--" Hikaru started to argue, but Akira was already walking back towards the fish game. Hikaru sighed and followed.
"Now watch," Akira said several minutes later, kneeling beside the water-filled crate. Hikaru was perched beside him, neck craning to see in the water. Akira deftly lowered his cup into the water and came out with a fish, which he dropped into a plastic bag and held up triumphantly. "There, you see? It's easy if you know how to do it."
"It looked like you did it just the way I did!" Hikaru pouted. "I bet you just got lucky."
"Then do you want to try it again yourself?" Akira questioned. "I'll help you, if you want me to."
"Nah, I need to save my money," Hikaru decided. "So, uh, what are you gonna do with the fish?"
"Here." Akira held it out to him. "I told you I'd win it for you, so the fish is yours, if you still want it."
"Are you sure?" Hikaru said hesitantly.
"I don't have any use for a goldfish," Akira assured him. "So take it. Like I said, I won it for you." He lowered his eyes. "But if you don't want it I can just give it to someone else..."
"No, I'll take it," Hikaru said quickly, and Akira's eyes brightened noticeably as he handed Hikaru the fish. Hikaru looked thoughtful for a moment, then grabbed Akira's arm and started to drag him towards another stall. "Come on, I'll win something for you now."
"Y-you really don't have to--" Akira started to object, but Hikaru shook his head.
"It's my turn to do something for you," he stated. "After all, Touya, you paid for the food too. So I need to pay you back. Lesee....what could I win for you?'
Hikaru studied the various stalls surrounding them with calculated interest, while Akira tagged along helplessly behind him.
"Wait, over there! That's perfect!" Hikaru dragged Akira over to a small game stall. Against the back of the stall were three wooden targets hooked up to a small metal machine which caused them to rotate constantly. The object of the game was apparently to try and hit each target using toy guns filled with colored ink. Various dolls and stuffed animals were hung around the stall as prizes. Hikaru was pointing to one such prize, which appeared to be simply a small circular black pillow.
"What is it?" Akira wondered aloud when Hikaru pointed out the prize to him.
"It's just the thing for a guy like you," Hikaru stated. "All you like is Go, right? Well, that looks just like a giant stuffed Go piece!"
Akira stared at him incredulously for a few moments before bursting into laughter. Hikaru looked slightly offended.
"I-I'm sorry, Shindou," Akira gasped out between giggles. "But that was just--just--" He shook his head, unable to continue.
"I don't get what's so funny," Hikaru grumbled, both to Akira and to Sai, who had started laughing quietly. "Look, I'm going to win it for you, so stop laughing at me!"
Akira barely managed to stifle another laugh and instead nodded solemnly.
"As you wish, Shindou."
Hikaru paid the man running the stall and then grabbed one of the toy guns, first handing his fish over to Akira to hold.
"Watch this, Touya," Hikaru said eagerly to his companion. He aimed at one target and was about to shoot when the target rotated. He aimed again, and again the targets moved. "Ack, stay still!"
"Hikaru, aim for that one." Sai pointed.
But they'll just move again, Hikaru argued.
"Don't worry, Hikaru. There seems to a switch of some sort on that odd machine that moves just before the targets rotate. Shoot when I tell you to and you should hit it."
If you say so, Sai. Hikaru aimed as Sai instructed.
"Wait...wait...now!" Hikaru shot on Sai's command, and the ink hit the target dead center.
"Ha! I did it!" Hikaru cheered. He glanced back at Akira, who was watching with an amused look on his face. "See that, Touya? Now watch, I'll get the others too."
With Sai's help, Hikaru easily managed to hit the other two targets. Smiling triumphantly at Akira, he selected the black pillow as his prize and handed it over to Akira, who blushed a little upon receiving it.
"What's wrong? Don't you like it?" Hikaru was grinning widely as he spoke. "It's like your very own stuffed Go piece!"
"Ah--well, I suppose," Akira admitted. "Thank you, Shindou."
"I'm just paying you back for the fish," Hikaru said. "You like it, right? Because it's kinda like I gave you something that had to do with Go."
"I like it," Akira confirmed, nodding and holding the toy a little closer.
"You could sleep with it like it's a teddy bear," Hikaru teased, and Akira blushed again, looking away.
"You can go back to your friends now if you want," Akira suggested quietly, still not looking at Hikaru as he waited for the blushing to stop.
"Nah, we've still got stuff we can look at together!" Hikaru said, taking Akira by the hand again. "We'd better hurry or we'll never see it all!"
About an hour later the crowd began to gravitate towards the grass where the fireworks display could be easily seen. Isumi, Waya, Nase and Fuku just managed to beat the crowd and find an empty spot on the ground where they could sit and watch.
"I wonder what happened to Shindou," Waya murmured, scanning the crowd. "I haven't seen him since he ran off."
"I hope he hasn't gotten into trouble," Isumi said.
"Maybe he got lost," Fuku suggested, and Waya shook his head.
"How can you get lost? All he'd have to do is follow the crowd to find the main demonstrations, and we went to all of those. He probably got distracted by something."
"Or someone," Nase said suddenly. "Isn't that Shindou over there?" She pointed.
"Where?" Waya craned his neck to look. "Hey, it is! Shindou! Shindou, over here!"
"Who's that with him?" Isumi asked as Hikaru started walking towards them.
"He looks familiar..." Waya said thoughtfully. His eyes widened. "It's Touya! What the heck is Shindou doing with him?"
"Hey guys!" Hikaru waved brightly as he walked up to where the group was sitting with Akira skulking at his heels.
"Why's he with you?" Waya demanded immediately, pointing to Akira.
"I invited him," Hikaru said. "We've been having fun, too. Look, he won me a fish!" He held up said fish as he spoke.
"I'll leave if you'd like," Akira said with a slightly annoyed look.
"You're staying!" Hikaru sat down, dragging Akira with him as he did. "Sit. The fireworks are about to start, and we've got a prime spot!"
"So where were you all this time?" Nase asked Hikaru quickly, seeing the irritated look on Waya's face.
"Touya and I were checking out the festival," Hikaru said.
"Did you ever get a chance to make a wish?" Isumi questioned with a wry smile.
"Shoot, I forgot!"
"Wishing's for little kids anyway," Waya proclaimed, having been propelled into a bad mood by Akira's mere presence.
"It's not." Everyone turned at the sound of Akira's soft but firm voice. "I made a wish."
"Only little kids make wishes," Waya stated. "And I wasn't talking to you anyway."
"Leave him alone, Waya," Hikaru said. He turned to Akira. "What'd you wish for, Akira? Let me guess: you wanted to get better at Go, right?"
"No," Akira said quietly, lowering his eyes and pulling the black pillow Hikaru had won him close in a sudden attack of shyness. "That wasn't it at all." He glanced up quickly at Hikaru and then looked away, embarrassed.
Before Hikaru could say anymore the sky was lit up by fireworks. Soon even Waya had forgotten about his bad mood as the sky was painted red, green, blue and a variety of other colors. His eyes on the fireworks, Hikaru didn't even notice when Akira moved closer to him.
Ten minutes later the group, including Akira, was wandering around aimlessly, watching as the food vendors and game stalls were closed. The crowd was also dissipating as people began to head home.
"You guys wanna stop for dessert on the way home?" Waya asked. He was studiously avoiding looking at Akira, who remained a mostly silent presence in the back of the group. "I think there's an ice cream place nearby."
"Why not?" Isumi shrugged. "We've got money left. What about you, Shindou? I remember you said something about your parents not wanting you to stay out too late."
"I think it'll be okay," Hikaru said. "I can call Mom and tell her I'll be a little late, she probably won't mind." A thought occurred to him and he turned to the silent presence behind him, ignoring Waya's frantic head shaking. "You wanna come too, Touya?"
"I can't," Akira said, smiling slightly at Waya's sudden, relieved look. "Ogata-san should be by in a few minutes to pick me up."
"Oh..." Hikaru looked over at Waya and the others and then turned back to Akira. "Well, how about if I wait here with you until he shows up?"
"Aren't you coming with us?" Waya spoke up.
"I'll meet you in a few minutes," Hikaru promised. "Touya probably shouldn't wait here all alone. I'll catch up to you."
"Just don't forget again," Isumi said. He, Nase and Fuku turned to go, but Waya looked as though he wasn't going to move. "Come on, Waya. Let it go."
"Hey!" Waya cried out angrily as Isumi dragged him away.
"We'll meet you at the ice cream parlor, Shindou!" Isumi called over his shoulder as he and the others walked off. Once they were out of sight, Hikaru turned to Akira.
"So where's that guy meeting you?"
"Ogata-san dropped me off right over here," Akira said. "He should be here soon. You really don't have to wait here with me."
"I don't mind," Hikaru said. "Anyway, tomorrow we'll be rivals again, so we should enjoy this while we can."
"I suppose," Akira agreed reluctantly.
"So...are you gonna tell me what your wish was?" Hikaru questioned.
"Maybe I will," Akira replied with a smile. "But can't you guess?"
"You said it didn't have anything to do with Go," Hikaru said. "So what else am I supposed to guess?"
Akira smiled secretively and didn't reply. Hikaru groaned.
"All right then, don't tell me!" He pouted for a moment, then spoke again. "Are you at least gonna tell me if it came true?"
"Maybe," Akira said again.
"Aw, come on!" Hikaru wheedled. "Tell me! I hung around with you, so you owe it to me to tell you!"
"I thought I paid off that debt when I bought you food," Akira pointed out.
"I changed my mind," Hikaru stated. "So tell me! I wanna know."
"Maybe I'll tell you someday," Akira stated.
"It was a very important wish," Akira said seriously. "Don't you know, Shindou? If you tell someone your wish then it might not come true."
"Oh." Hikaru leaned back and stared up at the sky. "It's really clear out tonight, isn't it? That's weird, 'cause there are usually clouds everywhere and stuff."
"It's a perfect night for a festival," Akira agreed.
"I guess those lovers Isumi mentioned are happy," Hikaru added. "Since there's no rain and they can meet and all. Do you know that story?"
"I think so." Akira nodded. "I remember hearing it somewhere before. The lovers can only meet one night a year when there's no rain." He was looking at Hikaru as he spoke, but the other boy didn't notice, his eyes still on the stars.
"It's just a legend though," Hikaru said. "Stars can't be people, right?"
"And spirits don't exist," Akira added, and Hikaru suddenly looked sheepish.
"Ummm....right. No spirits."
They stood together in silence for a long time after that. Several minutes later, Akira straightened, craning his neck to look down the street.
"I see Ogata-san's car," he said. He turned back to Hikaru. "I'd better leave."
"Uh...yeah." Hikaru felt a sudden attack of nerves. "I guess...I'll see you whenever."
"When I jump out at you again, you mean?" Akira smiled.
"Yeah," Hikaru laughed.
"Well. Thank you for allowing me to have a good time tonight."
"You don't have to thank me. It was...it was actually kind of fun," Hikaru admitted.
"Yes. But tomorrow we're rivals again, Shindou," Akira reminded him. "Tonight was just....a special night."
"I know," Hikaru told him, nodding. "I'm not gonna stop chasing you."
"Good. I don't want you to stop," Akira admitted grudgingly. He glanced back towards the approaching car. "I'd better go."
"Yeah, you'd--" Hikaru was cut off unexpectedly when Akira leaned forward and kissed him on the mouth. Hikaru's eyes widened for a moment in surprise before he felt himself being pulled into Akira's kiss.
One long, sweet moment later, Akira pulled away and Hikaru found himself totally speechless. He could only stare wide-eyed at his companion, who was smiling.
"Until tomorrow, Shindou," Akira said, bowing slightly before turning to go. He stopped halfway at the car, then turned again. "You asked about my wish before. I can't tell you what it is, but I think maybe it might come true after all. For one night, at least."
With that, Akira left. Hikaru stared after the departing car, still scrambling to collect his thoughts. Finally he found his voice.
"Um....what just happened?"
Sai's only reply was a smile.