Disclaimer: Hikaru no Go was written by Yumi Hotta and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. I do not, in any way, profit from this story.
Go, Soccer Player, Go!
Chapter 5: Children's Go Tournament I.
"Wow." Hikaru said as they looked around the huge hall.
He spun in a circle in order to take in the entire atmosphere, and nearly walked into another person as he did so. The woman glared at Hikaru and expected an apology.
Hikaru hadn't actually hit her. He was about to point this out, but shut his mouth tight upon spotting that lady's kid.
The boy standing beside her looked uncomfortable and completely embarrassed. Hikaru winced as the kid tugged at his mother's arm and begged her to "not make a scene". Hikaru knew the type from school: quiet, kind of cool once you got to know them, but wanted nothing more in life than to live without trouble.
"Err...sorry." Hikaru apologized to the kid, completely meaning it. Parents were embarrassing.
"Hmph!" The kid's mom replied, apparently thinking Hikaru was talking to her.
She stomped away, dragging her child with her.
Hikaru ignored the fact that he and Sai had to follow behind her. They were going to the same place.
They entered the main hall. The entire space was filled with tables and go boards, children sitting in all of the seats, adults crowding along the sidelines. Parents and grandparents silently cheered for the successes, and silently agonized over the struggles, of their children from the sidelines.
"It feels like I'm walking onto the field right before the start of a soccer game." Hikaru said to Sai, glancing at the crowd of anxiety-filled spectators. They looked just like the parents in the stands during an important soccer match.
"So many children." Sai smiled cheerfully, looking upon the room with great fondness.
"These children have the same passion for go I had a thousand years ago. These children are telling me that things will be the same a thousand years from now."
Hikaru was silent as he stared out at the sea of children so seriously playing their games. If this was before he met Sai, Hikaru would have said that go was a game for old men with nothing better to do without even thinking about it. But there were children here younger than him. Their parents were watching from the sidelines, cheering for them. This pressure, this nervousness...this feeling was familiar to Hikaru even if it was a different game.
"Hikaru, let us observe these games." Sai said, easily falling into what was sure to be a lecture about go. "You will find that there is much to learn from observing games. We are even more fortunate to be able to observe the games of players of similar age to you. This will give you a better indication of your level of play, a much more accurate judgment than simply playing against me."
Hikaru had long ago given up on complaining whenever Sai launched into go lectures. Hikaru would hear them whether he wanted to or not, and he would waste less time if he just listened.
But Hikaru was curious about how he compared to other children. Sai was a monster, a Heian go-playing monster. Hikaru couldn't even begin to match up to Sai. But against children his own age...Hikaru would probably place a bet in favor of himself. (He wouldn't wager money, of course, but maybe like a game of soccer or something.)
Sai and Hikaru observed a scattering of games around the hall that day. Hikaru was forced to weave through the entire crowd alone, as Sai would finish a lecture on a game only to spot a better game to comment upon. It was somewhat difficult, considering that Hikaru was still lugging around his full gear bag...not that that maniac ghost noticed.
"Hikaru! Hikaru! Let us move in this direction. We have not observed any of the games being played in this corner of the hall as of yet."
Hikaru cursed go-obsessed ghosts who did whatever they wanted because no one else could see or hear them. Unlike Sai, he was a very-much-alive boy with a cumbersome physical body that could run into people and, more often than not, annoy the other people around him as he weaseled his way through the crowd.
"Oh! Look at the board in the upper left corner." Sai pointed over to one side as Hikaru finished wiggling his way to the front of the crowd. "If black isn't careful, those stones will perish."
Hikaru's eyes darted over to where Sai indicated, enough time to study the board before the player set his stone down.
"Oh! So close!" Hikaru reacted painfully. "You should have gone right above that."
The boy playing black took another look at the board.
"Oh. " He remarked in surprise.
"Oh..." His opponent agreed as well, before turning to Hikaru. "You're right."
Suddenly, the boy, his opponent, and their parents all turned to stare at Hikaru.
"Did I say that out loud?" Hikaru asked Sai.
Instead of answering, Sai stood next to him and looked horrified.
"Oops." Hikaru clapped his hand over his mouth.
"A lot of children take this tournament very seriously."
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" Hikaru apologized profusely. "I'm sorry!"
The head official Hikaru only sighed and shook his head at Hikaru.
With his bleached hair, brightly-colored sports clothing, and carrying that gear bag, Hikaru looked as if he had come into the go tournament looking to make trouble rather than quietly observe.
But Hikaru had apologized a lot, and the boy really did seem to mean it.
"I'm sorry, but we're going to have to ask you to leave the tournament." The head official said to him, deciding to let the matter go. There wasn't much they could do to him anyway.
"I'm sorry again. I'm really, really sorry. I won't do it again. Bye!" Hikaru apologized a few more times before getting out of there as fast as possible.
He slammed the door shut behind him.
Hikaru breathed a sigh of relief outside the room and waited a minute for his heart rate to get back to normal.
"That was awful." Sai sighed remorsefully.
Sai had been apologizing for the "error of his student" alongside Hikaru the whole time.
"Really, really awful." Hikaru agreed.
"They had to restart the match." Sai sighed again.
"Me and my big mouth." Hikaru remarked depressingly.
It was the same as if he had interfered in a soccer game, a bystander stepping onto the field when he had absolutely no business of being there.
And just to complete his day, because Hikaru hadn't been looking when he turned at the corner then, he collided hard into someone and fell backwards onto the floor.
Hikaru landed with a thud against the hard tile.
"Hikaru! Are you hurt?" Sai fussed about, reaching to pat Hikaru's various limbs and extremities in search of injury.
Hikaru only winced, groaning as he hauled himself into sitting position.
"Ow." Hikaru thought loudly to Sai. "And I'm still beat from tryouts too."
Thankfully, he had fallen onto his full gear bag. That meant that, mostly, he had just fallen onto his soccer ball and his practice uniform. But his elbow had hit his cleats in the side pocket, and now it was numb from sharp, tingly sensations.
Hikaru rubbed at his elbow and thanked his usual luck for the save. It was only then that he realized that the person he had crashed into probably hadn't fallen onto a mostly-padded bag full of soccer stuff.
Two voices had exclaimed the same apology at the very same time.
Hikaru had bumped into a boy around his age with a bob-cut hairstyle. And even though it was the weekend, the kid was dressed in a neatly-pressed school uniform he didn't recognize.
The two of them stared at one another.
Hikaru's been tutored by Sai in go for a while now, so he could understand the dangerous position black was in when Sai pointed it out to him during the tournament. He probably couldn't have figured it out himself, of course, but he was able to see it with his tutor pointing it out to him. And that is Hikaru's go level at this point in the story.