And So It Begins
Disclaimer: I own nothing. All Hikaru no Go-related material belongs to Yumi Hotta.
Warning: Mentions of near Reincarnated!Hikaru. Slice of life and all the inane things we face in life. Stories are based on Canon, but are changed to better integrate Hikaru. Slightly skewed timeline in Hikaru no Go-verse - if events and people don't match up, make a note and comment. All questions, comments and concerns can be addressed in the review section.
Shindou Hikaru glanced at the test corrections he had to do for tomorrow - history. His worst subject. His own personal academic nightmare. He just didn't have any talent for the stuff. It just didn't click. It never did. There was just too many dates, too many people and too many events. Too much of everything and anything. He learned it one day, and out it went the other. It also didn't help that it was boring and dry, and could put him to sleep faster than anything else. If he was suffering from a bout of insomnia, his History text was his go to.
And his attitude definitely showed.
His paper was smeared with red. It was a slaughter. A massacre of epic proportions and as his eyes trailed the length of the page, he could visibly see his teacher's frustration. There didn't seem to be any white left. None at all. The image of that petite woman rearing her head back in fury as she graded his exam paper made him wince.
The ink was literally bleeding through his exam and upon closer inspection, he realized that the edges were also frayed. If the test itself had endured such abuse, Hikaru could only imagine what bespectacled woman would have done if he were in her oh so capable hands.
In any case, the subject just never seemed to be of much relevance to his life - didn't have anything to offer and considering who his father was, that wasn't surprising. Shindou Masao was a business man through and through and had expressed more times than Hikaru cared to remember the need to major in economics and business management on the off chance that they actually had meals together.
When was that, anyway? Hikaru sighed at the thought. His father left for work early and came home late, if he came home at all. It was something he was use to.
But on those even rarer occasions when the man he called Father spoke of things outside of work, things that actually held relevance for his son, there was genuine warmth behind those usually coldly calculating eyes. There was comfort behind his heavy hand. There was love. The bleach banged pre-teen relished those moments, few and far between as they were.
Despite the man's love, and Hikaru was sure his Father loved him -the alternative was too harsh to even consider- that just wasn't enough. Love alone would never be enough. The company would always seemed to be his first priority. The needs of the many, outweigh the few, his father would always say. That was the Japanese way. Society was deemed too important to forsake. They were also his Father's parting words. Always and forever more.
But with those traitorous thoughts brought about by his own self pity, the assault began. It tore through him. Crippled him. Made him question his own father. Questioned if he cared.
But if he did, care that is, he would be home more often, wouldn't he? He would make an effort to actually be around. And maybe then, he would have noticed. Noticed that his son was acting strangely. Noticed that his usually hyperactive pre-teen was unusually solemn. Noticed that his wife seemed to take everything that was happening around her, lock it somewhere in the depths of her own heart, and pretend that everything was alright, when it very well wasn't. Noticed anything. But he didn't. He wasn't there. Never was.
Hikaru laughed. Bitterly. Like glass. Fragile and soon to be broken.
Not only was his personal life suffering, but apparently his family life as well? But then again, that was normal. Should have been normal. He should have been use to it, but somehow, he wasn't. Even after all this time, he wasn't ok.
Perhaps that was just how he was and would forever be? Sai and Shuusaku had never really known their fathers. Never had the chance really. They were so gifted. Too gifted, some would even say. And if those words were said in jealous anger, their listeners easily disregarded it, for they too believed it to be true - they just never had the courage, or the sake, to voice their opinions aloud.
Sai and Shuusaku had matured far beyond their years and those around them never saw the need to baby them. To coddle them. To care. In place of that love was fear and devotion. Fear of their potential. Fear of their ability and what they could do with it. Of where and how high it would take them. And devotion for the off chance that such brilliance could one day be theirs to take. But that fear and jealously fueled the prodigies; it gave them focus. Freed them from a world of attachment. Allowed them to truly master their Go, setting them on their never ending path towards the Hand of God.
Which, evidentially led to him.
The whole thing left a sour note in Hikaru's mouth. People suck, he thought, his browed furrowed in his irritation as he clenched his knuckles.
And the cycle rep-
"-karu. Hikaru," a voice intoned, as once soft hands invaded his personal bubble. Hands that were all too familiar. "You don't seem to have a temperature. Are you alright? I was calling you for several minutes, and. And, well, you just seemed to stand there. Just standing there." The woman had trailed off, speaking the last words to what seemed herself - they were but whispers his ears, making him strain to even catch them. Like her voice, her hands likewise retreated as she took a step back, revealing none other than his mother. A very worried looking mother if her slightly trembling hands were anything to go by. That and the slight quiver in her voice.
That was easy to miss. Not.
In that moment, Hikaru just looked. Truly looked at her. Guilt crawled its way into his heart immediately. Made its way up his throat and made itself a home, keeping him silent.
Shindou Mitsuko was approaching her forties and in her youth, she was sure to have been a beauty but that beauty had seemed to fade with time, and it especially showed in her eyes. Hikaru never remembered such fine lines framing his mother's eyes, but here they were in all their glory. He also remembered vibrant brown that danced with joy as she tittered to and fro in their house, but all he saw now was her sadness. Her weariness.
Because of me, he admitted to himself. She was so haggard looking because of him. Him and his problems. Problems that she had no way of ever knowing. Ever understanding because how would he even go about telling her? Hi, mom. Your son's the latest reincarnation of a forgotten Go prodigy. The last one being Honinbou Shuusaku. Yeah, the one Grandfather goes on about all the time. Surprise, surprise? When's dinner ready? Growin' boy's gotta eat.
And so he did what he had been doing since everything started. Something he was growing increasingly good at.
"I'm fine. Just thinking about that stupid history exam," Hikaru muttered with practiced stubbornness. "I mean, how am I suppose to know what happened during the Tenpou Reforms. And where Perry landed. It already happened. End of story. It's not like I'll ever need the stuff. What a load of crap. Urg." Hikaru ended his impromptu rant, hands fisting his hair as he tousled his locks in what could only be perceived as frustration, all the while glancing at his mother from the corner of his eyes.
The woman had been initially silent in her quest for an answer, but the more she heard, the redder she got until she finally exploded, "Hikaru! History is an incredibly important subject for students. It's just as important as Mathematics and the hard Sciences." She shook her hands in emphasis, her eyes blazing at how her son could possibly disregard such a noble subject. He had forgotten - his mother was a history nut.
Parents are crazy, he mentally added as he rolled his eyes. How his mother had allowed her husband to badmouth the subject was beyond him. So lost in his thoughts, he almost missed her next words. "Not only does it allow impressionable minds the insight into civilizations that have come and gone, but it allows us to advance as human beings. We can learn from mistakes - learn so that we can do things differently."
Learn from our mistakes, Hikaru grouched. What a bunch of shit. He had two lifetimes to learn from his mistakes, but he still kept making them. Still kept reaching for the Hand of God, and that made him wonder if it was even possible. So what did that mean? But he let it go, this was what he wanted after all. He didn't need to ruin his own plans. What kind of mastermind did that?
"Yeah, yeah," he replied, knowingly taunting, a secretive smile at the corner of his lips as he appeared for all the world an uncaring student. An uncaring and flunking student. A student whose mother was standing right in front of him ready to enact vengeance. He knew it all and he loved it. Savored it.
His mother had likewise been subdued, her moods mirroring his own and to see her like this, it was great. It was awesome. It was a whole lot of other things that he couldn't even begin to describe. Even though he himself was depressed, there was no reason for her to be. She was his mother. Nagging woman that she was, she was his and his alone. End of.
It also had the benefit of allowing him to act like a kid. Act being the key word. By acting like the brat others thought him to be, by acting like the kid he use to be, it allowed him to pretend that things hadn't changed. That everything just hadn't gone into the shithole and that everything would be ok. He could only hope.
"-karu, Hikaru!" she snapped as she pulled him out of his musing with her shrill tone.
Totally busted an eardrum on that one, he lamented, rubbing at his tender ears. "Heard you the first time, mom," he sighed as he took a seat at his desk, a totally put upon expression adorning his face for her to clearly see. Face that was soon planted face down into the table lest he give himself away.
"Now see here, young man. Your father and I don't ask a lot from you, but what we do ask is that you take your schooling seriously and from what I've seen, I just don't think you are," she lectured, her tone no nonsense. Her hands were even tucked at her sides from what he could see as he turned to face her ever so slightly. "So until you clean up your act, no-"
"No television, no video games, no Manga, no loitering after school and absolutely no more failed assignments," Hikaru droned like he heard this lecture one too many times. And in fact he had. But the aim was never to intentionally rile up his mother. But things changed. He had changed. And so he had planned accordingly. Fate had dealt him a hand and he was going to make the best of it. He was going to adapt. Somehow. Someway. It was how he was. Meh.
He was such a badass. Better believe it!
"And because you just seem to know me so well, Hikaru-chan," she all but sung out that particular suffix, knowing that he loathed it, and that definitely got his attention, forcing him to sit ram rod straight as his eyes widened. His reaction was justified. It really was!
Shindou Hikaru may have lived two life times, and may very well could have been classified as cute in all of them, but to say it to his face? The audacity of some people. Because really, what self respecting boy wanted to be addressed like some girl. Girls were cute and soft. He was anything but. He may have been those things some time ago, but definitely not anymore.
Knowing all of this, his mother usually saved him much embarrassment and watched her words, but to use it so nonchalantly, she must have had something planned for him. Something that he definitely wouldn't like. He definitely didn't think this one through. "You'll be glad to know that you'll also be helping your Grandfather this weekend with his yard sale."
"No buts Hikaru-chan," she said as she immediately cut him off, a hard glint entering her eyes. "I'm not sure what's been bothering you, but it's going to stop. And it's going to start now. As I'm sure you're aware, Grandfather's getting on in years and he definitely needs someone to help him around the house. And it just so happens that he'll be having a yard sale coming up and you'll be expected. Don't be late. Do I make myself clear?" When all she received was a blank stare, she gave him that look. The looks all mothers got when they wanted their children to do something that was especially unpleasing - for their children that was. And it didn't look like she was going to stop anytime soon.
"Crystal," Hikaru nodded as he fell face first into his pillows, turning his face away from his mother. Even behind the confines of his pillows and comforter, he could still feel his mother's stare. It was felt like she was literally burning a hole into his back.
"Hikaru-chan," she began, only to trail off moments later. It felt like ages before she finally sighed and turned around, her footsteps echoing almost ominously throughout his room.
The shuffling ended. The door turned.
He could hear her hands knocking against the wooden panels as she held it in place, but she didn't leave. She just stood there. Waiting.
"Hikaru-chan, I really don't understand what's going on, and I probably never will. But I. But I would like to. I would like to know what's bothering you. What's making you so upset. What's keeping you ... what's keeping you from talking to me. To us," she paused, as if allowing her words to sink in. And sink in they did. They ate away at his defenses that he had worked so hard to create. So hard to maintain. "I just wanted you to know that. Wanted to let you know that I'll always be here to listen, that's what mothers are for, neh? Goodnight and sweet dreams."
The bedroom lights flickered and died. The door creaked one last time and closed. And she was gone.
One Shindou Hikaru was left alone in the darkness. Left feeling raw and exposed for the world to see. He was left with a face full of tears, tears that were common place these days, but there was one major difference. His face was lit up with a smile that stretched from ear to ear and despite the ache that was beginning to from, he didn't stop. He smiled and smiled, and smiled even more. The pre-teen was sure he looked like a maniac - absolutely raving mad.
And he didn't give a shit.
His mother was a total badass.
Today had been a good day.
"Hikaru! Look out! Hikaru!"
One Shindou Hikaru immediately turned towards the all too familiar voice, an automatic reaction at this point, and found none other than his childhood friend, Fujisaki Akari. She was waving and gesturing like a madwoman and that definitely piqued his interest. She was always so reserved in school and to see her acting so out of place was definitely odd. His brow arched and he sent her a puzzled expression. "Yo. Akari. Wh-"
The world tilted.
A ball lay innocently in front of him, taunting him, as he clutched at his cheek, shock leaving him speechless. He had been stopped mid-sentence by none other than a ball. A dodgeball to be accurate. A dodgeball that he should have been able to outmaneuver with ease like he had done in all his past games.
He sent Akari a pointed look, hoping it conveyed his annoyance. She immediately looked down, a blush clearly staining her pale cheeks. Somewhat mollified, he turned towards his opponent, who was in hysterics over his own antics.
"Yes! I got Hikaru," the boy all but screamed in elation, giving himself a congratulatory pat.
"Dude. Don't go for the face. So not cool," another boy said, his tone clearly speaking of his disappointment in his friend's actions.
"S'all good. Don't worry about it! This is Hikaru we're talking about. Small tap like that ain't going to kill him." The ass - because really, who aimed for the face in a friendly game of dodge ball - finished his sentence with a cheeky grin. A grin aimed directly at Hikaru.
It only served to spike the bleach banged pre-teen's irritation. As if I didn't have enough to worry about, he moaned as he silently picked himself up. He made his way towards the sidelines where Akari stood waiting with an apologetic smile. Hikaru's face remained blank, impassive and the girl's smile grew more hesitant with each passing minute.
He ignored her, putting his hands into his pockets, the warmth easing his frazzled nerves. Somewhat. This definitely wasn't like him. Not at all. He had been in his own little world on that court today, thinking. Always thinking and the subject was none other than you guessed it, his past. Or more like his past lives and wasn't that just awesome? Seriously, how was that even possible? And why did he have to be burdened with it.
Looking at his classmates, his totally carefree classmates, a fire burned. It started in his belly and slowly worked its way up throughout his system. He was filled with it. Consumed the jealousy so many had showed Sai and Shuusaku. It just wasn't fair. It just was-
The poke at his side broke him from his thoughts, and for that, he was grateful - even if he would never show it. And finding Akari at the other end, he definitely wouldn't show it. Let her squirm, he thought and if his thoughts were vindictive, so be it. For all the experiences that he had gathered through his lifetimes, Shindou Hikaru was still a kid. Something else he would always be grateful for. It made things so much easier. Being moody and introspective could be passed off as puberty and none would be the wiser. Just like he liked it.
Finishing with his thoughts, he turned towards his friend, a hope shining in her brown orbs. "What?" he said, his tone resigned. He could never stay mad at her, it was just too tiresome. Especially now.
Despite the curtness of his words, Akari was immediately able to discern the truth behind him, if the smile that grew by the second was anything to go by. She nodded to herself and linked her fingers behind her back before apologizing once more.
"Whatever." Hikaru waved her apologies off. It wasn't like the situation had been that serious and if he thought about it, he was more at fault than she was. She had been trying to be a good friend, warning him about the dangers that had been fast approaching his face. Literally.
They lapsed into silence after that, but it was a nice sort of silence. He slowly let himself ease against the wall behind him, eyes closing and let the silence embrace him. Yes, he thought. This was nice. And it was. It was nice. It was comfortable. Peaceful even.
Shindou Hikaru wished moments like this could go on forever. He didn't have to think about anything. Didn't have do anything. He let the world go on without him. Allowed himself to be a bystander to all the laughter. All the cheer. Just everything.
He hummed in contentment.
And then the bell rang.
"Alright everyone! Line up!"
Hikaru stood still, allowing the hustle and bustle to occur without him, hoping for a few more seconds of that moment. Akari, sensing what he was attempting to do, wisely stayed silent at his side.
But the moment had been broken. It was gone and he would find no more comfort today.
"Let's go," he finally said, reluctance coloring his tone, as he kicked off the wall, walking towards the rest of the class. There were no feet shuffling to keep up with him, no cries about being left behind and about how he should just slow down, and that made him pause. Akari wasn't there.
She was still standing at that wall, watching him. Staring. Attempting to see beneath the mask he projected to the world and he couldn't let her. She was always an inquisitive girl and this was especially the case when it concerned him. Hikaru may have been seen as thick and oblivious at the best of times, but even he could see the interest she held for him. And didn't that just make him feel incredibly uncomfortable at times knowing that?
But regardless of her interest, she was still just a girl. A normal girl. A girl that definitely didn't need his problems on her own plate. The bleached haired pre-teen may have been selfish and self-absorbed most of the time, but even he couldn't bring it within himself to unload like that on the girl. This was his burden to bear and he wouldn't drag her into it. Or anyone for that matter. At least until he himself could sort things out and somehow make sense of things.
So the reincarnated pre-teen walked away from his childhood friend, leaving her to stare at his back. Leaving her with questions that he would probably never be able to answer.
True to his promise, Hikaru started taking school seriously. Or rather, more seriously than he had done before, but for him, that wasn't saying much. He did have help after all. Help in the form of memories of days long gone. Memories of time spent on matters other than Go. And wasn't that just the kicker?
For all the dedication that Sai and Shuusaku had shown towards their Go, they were naturally adept at other subjects as well - which was totally unfair according to Hikaru, because hello, he was supposedly them reborn and he didn't seem to be all that smart in the first place. According to him anyway, but maybe that had more to do with his refusal to actually do the work. But that, like everything else in his life, was starting to change.
It was a change that was also recognized by his teachers as well as his peers. Throughout the week, on more than one occasion, this teachers had tasked him with solving the day's problem on the board and he did. He did it well. Perfect even. Their reactions were priceless.
"Quiet down class. I'd just like to say that because everyone did so poorly on the last History test, we'll be having another one today." The teacher finished her sentence with a smile as she took in her student's reactions. And what a reaction it was.
Students his left and right continuously bemoaned their fate, asking themselves why they didn't study more. Why they didn't study at all. They were seriously close to tears, but Hikaru just couldn't bring himself to care. He may have been in their shoes weeks ago, but things were different now. He merely sighed at the repetitiveness of it all. Kids went to school, teachers lectured and then a test was given. The cycle was continuously repeated and then they graduated. It was all very mundane and Hikaru was seriously wondering if it was even worth it.
He let his mind wander, allowed it time to clear itself and when he finally tuned back into the real world, he found his instructor smirking, a strange light in her eyes and that was when he understood. He plopped his head down and closed his eyes in response.
When the class' rather violent reaction had quelled down to but a few grumbles here and there by the more rebellious students, the bespectacled woman merely beamed before saying, "That's what was originally on the agenda, but the idea was scrapped. Instead, we're going to be doing an oral review today. That sound better?"
The immediate chorus of "yes" was her answer and had the woman chuckling behind her hands. "So, here's how it'll work. We'll be reviewing the most recent material first, just so we'll get that out of the way. It'll be a little warm up before we delve farther back." She let her words wash over the classroom, allowing them time to digest her instructions. "And first on our list for today will be ..."
She had trailed off, a thoughtful look in her eyes before they settled on him. He groaned, doing nothing to smother the sound, allowing the entire class to hear. He was met with sympathetic faces, Akari especially, while most of the boys merely laughed at his misfortune, glad that they weren't chosen.
"So Hikaru, I hope you've been studying?" It was a rhetorical question, one that teachers often posed to the classroom, as they already expected their class to be prepared, but he answered anyway.
"Yes, Sensei." His voice was polite enough, albeit detached. The woman didn't comment, but she did look at him a bit funny, which wasn't really out of the ordinary for her when it concerned him. He was always doing something or other that had the woman looking in askance at him.
"This first question was on the essay portion of your exams last week, and dealt mainly with the Tenpou reforms," she began, leaning back against her desk as she gave Hikaru her attention. "Because more than half the class seemed a bit iffy on the details, I'd like to go over it a bit more in depth. Shindou-kun, could you perhaps explain to the class what exactly occurred during those reforms?"
He immediately began, reciting his answer as if reading a script and in some ways, he was. "The reforms were introduced in 1842, by the Tokugawa Shogunate in Japan. Their aim was to resolve perceived problems in the military, economics, agriculture, finance and religion." Hikaru couldn't help but think of Shuusaku and the harsh reality of the world he lived in. Times were changing and it was all happening so fast. Reforms happened one after the other and nothing was set in stone. His mind was a whirlwind, but on the outside, he appeared bored as he continued his answer.
"They were intended to address local politics, but they also applied more broadly to what was termed "domestic unease." Because of this, many prominent political figures were arrested and the Tenpou Reforms became the precursor of reforms initiated after the Meiji Restoration two decades later. The reform was accompanied by three others during the Edo period, the Kyouhou Reforms, the Kansei Reforms and the Keiou Reforms." When Hikaru finished his impromptu lecture, he took his place back in his chair, hand propped under his chin. A hand that was hiding a growing smirk and waited for the next kid to be called.
"What?" he exclaimed, his expression wide and innocent. "Should I go on?"
His teacher, whose mouth was open for all the world to see, immediately snapped to attention. Hikaru lamented at not being able to capture that expression in a camera. It was a real pity he thought as he mentally smirked. "Th-that'll suffice Shindou-kun." The woman definitely didn't look too good, if the weak grip on the desk was anything to go by. "I. I need. I think I need to lie down."
His smirk grew wider.
That seemed to break whatever spell was cast and the entire class was in motion once more. His friends immediately surrounded him.
"Dude, when'd you get so damn smart. It was like listening to one of those programs on TV," asked a kid, and for the life of him, Hikaru could not place a name to his face. "And did you see the look on sensei's face? Priceless!"
He had barely interacted with the boy, that was true, but they had been in the same classes for several years now. That was just sad on his part. Pushing those thoughts out of his mind, Hikaru merely shrugged in reply but he did nothing else to answer their inquiries. Seeing that they wouldn't get an answer, his classmates eventually left him to his own devices.
All but one. Akari. She was giving him that look again. Eyes filled with curiosity and intrigue, made even more by his abrupt change in attitude regarding his school lessons. Eyes that he dutifully avoided.
Thinking back on the matter, the entire experience was a bit juvenile but he couldn't help it. School had become so incredibly boring now that he promised his mother that he would work harder, so it was completely justified that he have a little fun. It definitely helped him get through the monotonous school days, but now that the week was over, he was faced with the reality of helping his Grandfather.
Don't get him wrong, he loved the old man. Adored him even. But that didn't mean he wanted to be working on his day off. Especially not working in his Grandfather's shed sorting out antiques in hopes of finding something for the old man to sell. Because really, just what exactly was he suppose to find?
A stupid tea cup?
He inspected said teacup, leveling it an appraising look before simply tossing it to the side. Not only was it chipped and the design all but worn away, who would honestly buy one tea cup. Maybe a crazy old bat with cats just as crazy as her, but for everyone else, nope. He definitely didn't see any potential sales coming anytime soon.
Exhaling roughly, one Shindou Hikaru scrubbed at his tired eyes. He had been at this for several hours already and had found nothing. Nada. Zilch. A big fat lot of nothing. And that tea cup a while back with the faded flowery patterns definitely counted as a huge load of nothing. The irritation was definitely starting to get to him. He leaned back against the wall and kicked at one of the boxes to further emphasize his frustration.
The youngest Shindou was rewarded with dust, dust and more dust as box after box fell from their perches. Perhaps that wasn't best idea, he grumbled, as he covered his mouth lest he die of dust inhalation. Could you even die of that? He waved the air in front of him furiously just in case - even if the answer was no, he sure as hell definitely didn't want a breath full of dust in addition to everything else. It just didn't seem very pleasant.
Hikaru banged his head against the wall, bemoaning his fate. Why did he have to open his big mouth last week when his mother had come to check up on him? Why didn't he just leave things alone? But no sooner did he think those thoughts, did he push them away. This was clearly the better of the two alternatives, and he despite his bitching, because that's what this was, he would suck it up. He was definitely a momma's boy.
Huffing one last time, Hikaru set to work cleaning up the sudden mess that had landed in his lap. Literally. His Grandfather had picked up so many trinkets over the years, useless trinkets. Setting aside yet another something - why in God's name does he have so many whatever that was- he found himself face to face with something he least expected in the shed. A goban.
Shindou Heihachi was a Go fanatic, a proud one at that, so it was expected of him to have a goban on display in the living room, but to find one left forgotten and covered in dust was definitely not what he was expecting. Running his hands over the board, Hikaru was surprised for a second time that day.
Kaya. Hyuga kaya to be exact.
He didn't know how, but something just told him that the board was old, but despite this, there was this luster to it that it just had to be Hyuga kaya. It was a luxury item. Top of the line. The best of the very best. It must have cost a fortune. And it was in his Grandfather's shed. Who'd have thought?
Hikaru continued running his hand over the smooth surface, determined to rid the board of the dust. The thought of this goban being dirty just didn't sit well with him. His whole body practically screamed for him to take care of it. And take care of it he did.
Now, if only that stain would come off. Stubborn thing, Hikaru thought has he continuously rubbed at the board. Try as he might, the stain remained and if anything, it just seemed to shine even more. Like it was a monument to something. Trying to tell him something. Something that he felt he should have already known. Should have always known.
That. Th-that looks like blood. With growing horror, Hikaru immediately took a step back and gave the board a good long look. A board made of Kaya. A board that was stained with what appeared to be blood. Blood that just wouldn't be rubbed away. It. It can't be. No. This. This isn't.
It just wasn't possible.
It was raining.
It was as if the skies were crying for him, crying tears that he couldn't seem to release but how he wanted to. How he wanted to curl up into a ball and cry the pain away but that just wasn't an option right now. He had nowhere to go. Nowhere to turn.
Hikaru had run out on his Grandfather - ran out on the man and didn't even say a word. Left the old man calling after him in his haste to leave the goban behind. Left him to clean up the mess that he himself had made with the shed. It was horrible now that he thought about it, but at the time, he just couldn't deal. Couldn't deal with the implications that had come with the goban and now he was paying for it.
And so he walked though the busy streets of Tokyo, his eyes downcast the entire time with only the rain for comfort. Passersby merely glanced at him askance before shifting themselves away, uncomfortable with the prospect of a child walking alone in the rain, but doing nothing to help. But that was normal these days. There was always a threat to one's livelihood and even children couldn't be trusted. Times have changed and Hikaru was bitter for knowing this fact intimately. So just like they ignored him, he too ignored them - never even giving them a glance. The splitter splat of feet on pavement the only testament that they were even there.
Or at least attempted to.
Before he even knew what was going on, he was somehow dragged into what looked like a store by a deceptively small hand. His eyes immediately darted towards the woman's face and she merely smiled concernedly at him, offering him a towel to wipe away the rain. Just as he was about to open his mouth to say something, anything, he was forced to shut it as he suddenly found warm clothes to change into dangling in front of his face. He merely looked at the women, his eyes wide and confusion clearly evident for her to see.
"Think nothing of it. A friend of mine keeps a change of clothes here just in case and I doubt he'd mind, especially if he saw the condition you were in ..." the woman trailed off at the end, and it was obvious she wanted some sort of explanation, but too bad she wasn't going to be getting one. At least not from him. Hikaru merely looked away.
When it was evident from his closed off posture that he wasn't going to be offering up anything, she merely sighed before ushering him into the bathroom to change, all the while mumbling this and that to herself. He allowed the manhandling, too tired to protest or rather, knowing that it was futile and that he shouldn't bother in the first place. Women are strange, Hikaru thought before rolling his eyes. But in this case, not so bad, all things considered.
Getting to the bathroom, Hikaru immediately began stripping himself, the cold air assaulting his dampened skin immediately leaving goose-pimples in their wake.
He shivered, sneezed and promptly began rubbing his hands together, hoping to instill just a bit of warmth. It didn't work. Not well at least. He swore he could see his own breath, it was just that cold.
With his efforts proving fruitless and wishing to get changed into anything dry at this point, he turned his attention towards his attention towards his discarded outfit. The normally featherweight T-shirt and shorts he usually donned were wet, damp and weighed about a ton, he was sure. They definitely hadn't felt good either, so he was incredibly grateful for the change of clothes, even if they were a white button up and black slacks.
They fit surprisingly, albeit snugly, but they fit nonetheless. The owner must have been a kid as well, but he couldn't imagine someone his own age ever voluntarily wearing such an outfit. The boy's mother must have dressed the poor sap, of that, Hikaru was sure.
He shrugged his shoulders.
All things could be worse. Much worse. While it had suited his mood at the time, walking about aimlessly around in the rain sure as hell wasn't a good idea, especially if that sneeze was any indicator. He really didn't like being sick. He thought of Shuusaku and his anger burned. He absolutely hated being sick. Especially after everything that had happened and how things ended as they did.
No, don't think about it! he mentally screamed, shaking his now wet hair until he was left dizzy and disoriented. He grabbed the handle by the sink for support and by chance, his eyes found that of the mirror's and just like that, all thoughts of Cholera and the sickness it left behind in its wake simply vanished. As if it was never there.
Shindou Hikaru stared at the mirror, transfixed by the figure staring back at him.
Maybe it was his imagination running wild due to the fever that was no doubt forming, but was it just him, or had his cheek bones somehow gotten higher, his chin more pointed and his eyes sharper. Hikaru touched his features hesitantly, but instead of disappearing, his fingers met chilled flesh.
Wh-what? But how?
The youngest Shindou's face was always round and full, a testament to his youth but somehow, without him even knowing it, that too had changed. The brash looking Hikaru had quietly disappeared and in his place, this stranger stared back at him. This stranger that look so very much like Fujiwara no Sai. Looked so very much like Shuusaku. A stranger that looked nothing like him - Shindou Hikaru.
Without another glance at the mirror, he walked away, his steps hurried.
The woman's name was Ichikawa Harumi and she was apparently the cashier of the Go salon.
The irony was not lost to him.
He had left his Grandfather behind when he had found the goban, had left because of the bloodstains and the implications of it all, but here he was nursing a hot cup of chocolate milk in said Go salon, courtesy of one Ichikawa Harumi. The woman was stubborn to a fault and would not take no for an answer, literally shoving the cup into his mouth before directing him towards an empty table. Every time he so much as attempted to leave, rain be damned, the insufferable woman was on him faster than the eye could see.
I swear she's a ninja, Hikaru groused, sipping halfheartedly at the cup. Despite his protest, the chocolate did wonders for the chills that had wracked his body. Ichikawa looked at him in concern whenever she passed by, but he could always pass it off as a delayed affect from the rain. She didn't need to know the real reason. No one did.
Turning his attention away from his own problems, Hikaru surveyed the Go shop and its patrons. He hadn't been in many Go salons before, but from little he remembered from his time with his Grandfather as a little kid, the salons were always frequented by old men that had a penchant for smoking. While the geezers were here, the smoking was strangely absent. But then he thought of the woman's friend and how she had mentioned his frequent visits.
While it was a bit strange that all these men would defer to a little kid, he didn't question it overly much. It wasn't his business, so he wasn't going to pry. He'd be a hypocrite otherwise.
Taking another sip of his rapidly cooling drink, Hikaru started to get up, only to be blocked by none other than, you guessed it, Ichikawa Harumi. The woman was definitely living up to her newly appointed title of ninja. He sighed, hands ruffling his bangs as he said, "I was just going to look around a bit, that ok? Or do you need to watch me do that as well?"
Perhaps startled by his change in attitude, she stood in place, just staring at him before nodding her acceptance. "That's fine. Please, go right ahead. And today, don't worry about the fee, it's on the house." She gave him a playful wink before walking away, ignoring the whispers that trailed behind her. "Oh, and I can see just fine from the cash register. Have attempting to hide though."
Just. Wow. I don't even.
"Did I hear that right? Did Harumi-chan just let someone in for free? And a kid to boot? Thought Akira-sensei was the only one she was soft on? Now I've seen everything," several tables behind Hikaru inquired, his voice carrying despite the distance between them and effectively brought him out of his Ichikawa Harumi induced stupor.
"I hear ya," his friend agreed. "Just last week, she wouldn't even let me enter without paying first. Shrewd, that one, I tell ya." Despite his words, the man's tone spoke of his fondness for the, at least to Hikaru anyway, strange woman.
Noticing his stare, the two geezers immediately looked up, meeting his eyes. "Hey, kid, ya wanna play a game or two?"
Hikaru merely hummed instead in lieu of answering.
"Come on over and we'll see what we can do to teach ya a little bit about the game, whattaya say?"
Hikaru merely shrugged his shoulders, but made his way over anyway, hands in the pockets of his borrowed slacks. There wasn't anything else to do and it wasn't like he was afraid of the game itself. It was the memories that were the problem. Memories of dead men and their Go.
"So, Shindou-kun was it? Well, we'll just play a game and you can observe for now. If there's anything you don't understand, don't hesitate to stop us so we can explain. That sound doable?" Sato said. The man was well into his fifties, if the balding and the wrinkles were serve as clues, but he was nice enough. Perhaps a bit rough around the edges, but overall, he was likeable.
"You act like you'll have the time to be commenting much, Sato-san. Need I remind of what happened last time?" his friend, Hirose, said teasingly, his eyes crinkling with mirth behind black squared frames - the smile taking years off his age.
"Why I oughta! Ya know that was just sheer luck, plain and simple," Sato groused, clearly embarrassed if the pink stain to his cheeks was anything to go by. "Shut yer trap and nigiri. I'll show you."
Looking at the two and their interactions, Hikaru could immediately tell that they were the best of friends. Ribbing like that came from years of friendship, from years of knowing each other. It oddly left him wanting.
In any case, after the pair finished their act, and it was clear to Hikaru that that was what it was, they started their game. Sato had guessed correctly and was awarded black, something he did not fail to rub in his friend's nose, which was met with laughter and an apology to Hikaru from Hirose for Sato's just deplorable manners in front of today's youth. And didn't that just turn into more fighting. The youngest Shindou wondered if all their games started this way and how they ever managed to finish one in the first place, but his silent question would have to wait until after the game.
Sato immediately placed his stone on 4-5, and the move definitely made Hikaru pause. It wasn't a bad move per say, and overall, it was quite reasonable, but it definitely lead to more complicated fighting early on. It would take a truly strong player to make it work, or a really reckless one. But then again, perhaps that was what the geezer wanted if the leers he was sending his friend was anything to go by, as if daring him to intrude.
Hirose-san merely smiled indulgently but refused to take the bait, instead choosing a corner himself and a position that was both offensively and defensively sound - you could never go wrong with that.
All in all, their fuseki was standard, each taking a corner to solidify their territory and it was something Hikaru could definitely understand. The corners of the Go board were the easiest areas to consolidate territory, and allowed players to easily secure their groups. This was due to the edge, which helped groups form eyes and the presence of two edges allowed for even more. Despite their unconventional attitude off the board, the two played a very conventional game.
People came in all shapes and sizes, of differing attitudes and creeds, but when they came to the Go board, all that changed and it was like a switch was turned on. No longer were they best friends and rivals, no, they had somehow changed into Go players and the change was astonishing.
Sato was definitely the more rambunctious of the two off the board, but when Go was the game, the man had turned oddly serious. The duality of the moment was not lost to him and was another marvel of Go that he was beginning to relearn. Hikaru wondered what he looked like when he played and if he ever had that intensity, but he had somehow doubted it.
Looking back to the board instead of the men's faces, he was surprised to see how much he had missed. Not only was Sato losing, he was losing badly. Hikaru was barely able to suppress a wince. That definitely didn't look good. Probably didn't feel too good either.
The man was rapidly loosing territory and his shape was near collapse - it was barely holding at the seams. No matter what he did, it was nowhere near enough. Never enough. Try as he might, his defenses were being slowly brought to their nears and it looked like the only thing he could do was resign.
Sato's imminent defeat showed in his face, and it definitely showed in how much he was wiping at his brow. Men sure in their victory didn't wear faces like that. Or sweat like that. Hikaru would have agreed as well, if not for that second glance at the board. But this was the man's game and even if he wanted to, it wasn't like he could interfere. His Go may have been a little outdated, but he was sure there wasn't back seat coaching involved now or ever.
"I almost had ya there," Sato grumbled as he resigned, never noticing that one spot that could have turned everything around. "It was that damn center that lost the game for me."
"Indeed. I was surprised you played into my trap, pleasantly surprised for my own sake, but surprised nonetheless. I was sure you would do well to avoid it," Hirose-san commented, the reprimand clear in his voice, like he expected Sato to play better than he had. And he probably had. He then began pointing out where Sato should have gone, but just like his friend, Hirose also failed to see that one spot. Deciding he couldn't take it any longer, he broke into their conversation.
"You're both wrong," he began, surprising the two. Maybe it was the intensity of their game, but whatever it was, the two had obviously forgotten his presence, if how they suddenly both clutched their hearts was anything to go. Not my finest moment. He mentally winced. He had only wanted to break into the conversation, he didn't want to kill them in order to do it though.
The first to recover was none other than Sato, and Hikaru wasn't surprised.
"How do you figure that?" the man groused, obviously upset that a kid that barely knew the logistics behind Go was actually telling him how to play the game. While Hirose remained quiet, Hikaru could obviously tell the man agreed by the slight narrowing of his eyes and he didn't take offense. He couldn't blame them. For all intents and purposes, he was just a brat that their Harumi-chan picked up off the streets. A brat that supposedly knew nothing about Go and was forced to take shelter until the rain had cleared. Heck, he would have been pissed as well if the tables were turned.
So no, Hikaru couldn't blame them for their offended attitudes, but that didn't stop him from correcting their Go either. This and that were entirely two different things. He was going to have his piece whether the two old fogies liked it or not. "You both agreed that the center was where Sato-san lost the game, that right?" he asked, just wanting them to clarify once more.
"And? What of it?" said man grumbled, his brows furrowed in further agitation at being reminded of his lost, and from a brat no less. He was having a bad day, no one was willing to question that.
"And," he began as his fingers moved, moved towards that elusive center point that both players seemed to miss. "The point is that if you had gone here, things would have worked out. For you that is. Hirose-san, not so much."
Hirose had obviously had enough, scoffing at his remark, and again, he didn't let it bother him. Merely let the insult roll off with practiced ease. He had a lot of that. Practice. "And I would have gone here. The end result is the same. While I applaud your interest, the game is much more complicated than you are making it out to be. Perh-"
"And I would go here."
"Which is easily countered if I go-"
"Here? Yeah, that ain't going to work."
On and on the two went. Hirose was stubbornly pushing forward his rebuttal, but that was ok for Hikaru. Sometimes, it took his students a little more time to grasp what he was trying to show them and he had always been willing to go that extra mile to get them that help.
And in this case, that help had both men gasping.
Black was saved.
Somehow, it had miraculously survived, like a phoenix rising majestically from its ashes. A phoenix that was pissed as hell and out for blood against the one that had condemned it to a premature grave. It burned white's offensives to the ground, stomping on it for good measure. It even spit on white's grave. It was vindictive like that. Hikaru could relate.
"Bu-but how?!" the geezers exclaimed as one, looking at Hikaru with wide eyes, hair in disarray. They were obviously spooked and it was an amusing sight. Outwardly though, the youngest Shindou merely shrugged his shoulders.
"You asked if I wanted to play, not if I knew how to play. Not my fault you didn't ask the right questions. That's what you get for assuming." And even if they asked the right question, he still reserved the right to not answer.
The two flushed in embarrassment, since he was so obviously right. They had finally realized that they didn't ask him anything besides playing a game, and had just assumed he knew nothing. That was wholly on them.
"Shindou-kun, while it was a severe oversight on our part, you could have corrected us instead," Hirose reprimanded. The and not let us make asses out of ourselves didn't have to be said - Hikaru could see what was unsaid perfectly clear.
"Not my problem."
"Why I oughta!" That would be Hirose, echoing the same threat he had made earlier against his friend but Hikaru knew the old man wouldn't go through with it. Too many witnesses. It also helped that the man was all bark and no bite. He could spot people like that a mile away. He smirked.
"That's enough Sato-san. We were obviously in the wrong, as Shindou-kun clearly mentioned. We should not have assumed he knew nothing of the game." Obviously seeing that his methods weren't working, Hirose changed tactics, or rather, changed his line of questioning. Smart man. Hikaru could definitely give him props for that. "Now that we have established that, would you care for a game Shindou-kun. An even one?"
"Sure," he said, his tone lazy and disinterested on the outside, but on the inside, he was a mess. This would be his first game, his first. Those internet games didn't count, would never count in his mind. They were on virtual boards and virtual stones - it wasn't real. At least not to him. They couldn't possibly capture the intensity he knew was involved with the game. Couldn't make him serious. So, no, it wasn't real. But before him now was it. The moment of truth. He had a real goban and real glass stones. It was time. Time to sink or swim and didn't that just sound ominous?
It was just a simple game of Go, it wasn't like anything could happen right? He had played online and he was still in one piece. Sort of. This would be fine. Of course it would be. He could do this. He definitely could.
To Be Continued
Based on the reviews for the last chapter, the most common theme was the length of my story. As you can see, that has been somewhat remedied (the chapter was suppose to be longer, but what I had written next just didn't seem to fit as a whole for this chapter). The consequence of this is that the next chapter will take longer to be produced, as my final semester at University is approaching next week. Please take the time and review. I may not reply to everyone, but I shall try.
Below are some explanations for the things that I included.
As you may have noticed, Hikaru has been incredibly contradictory in his behavior as of late and that's just how I picture the kid acting if he was suddenly placed in my AU. It was shown in canon that for all the brashness that he displays, for all the confidence he has, Hikaru often acts like a coward as well - the instance with finally understanding the depth of Sai's Go coming to mind. He has that duality to him that definitely makes him an interesting character to write about.
Because of such traits, I can definitely see him accepting, and I use the term lightly, some aspects of his situation while totally denying others. It also goes to show how intricate the human mind is. Humans are emotional creatures at heart and we never seem to choose the most logical choice. I don't see Hikaru acting any differently.
I'm not sure if there were any complaints about this, but I just wanted to get this out here anyway. Because the story's been tagged as Slice of Life, that means that it's not all that actiony in the first place. I wanted a story that focused on the emotional side of things, and how Hikaru will cope with his issues. Because of this, at times the story may seem slow, but it should pick up once the first few introductory chapters are over with. Here's to hoping you continue reading.
The topic actually was actually introduced in the Manga and I don't really recall if it was discussed in the Anime, but I thought it was an interesting piece of information. Because of this, I wanted to include it in my narrative as well, as it gives the reader more insight into Hikaru's life in school.
I just wanted to clarify a few things in regards to Shuusaku, as he will be an integral part of this story as well. There wasn't much said in regards to his personality in Canon and such, however, according to history, Shusaku was already almost a pro at eight years old. In addition to this, it was recorded that in three years time, he was able to gain his first shodan certificate - this would place him at 11 years old when he accomplished this feat. He had to have matured at an incredible rate and this will obviously affect Hikaru in how he acts, speaks and in general, how he interacts with people.
In addition, some asked about rivals and just to answer this in regards to Shuusaku, he technically had a rival, Outa Yuuzo, who was also his friend as well. I say technically because Shuusaku was, obviously, able to overcome his friend and was eventually regarded as the strongest Go player in his time, with the exception of Honinbou Shuwa, his predecessor. Because of this, I myself will not consider him a rival in the purest sense in this piece. However, that is always subject to change, as is anything in this story, as it is still a WIP. The story shapes itself.