Once upon a time

Part 1

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, Hikaru - 23 years old, ranking Go Pro and repeated winner of the Juudan and Gosei Titles - found himself, dressed up in silk robes and wearing a ridiculously tall hat, squatting behind a bush in the dead of night. The full moonlight intermittently cast its rays over the ancient landscape of trees and lake and its reeded shore.

Hikaru knew the day was right, but not how long he'd have to wait, so he shifted his weight from one leg to the other, wincing at both the twinge in either leg and the noise the move produced, which disturbed some of the night life into action. As all became quiet again, Hikaru went back to letting his emotions swing between elated anticipation and extreme annoyance. Anticipation of what might be accomplished this night and annoyance at himself, for he was half-way sure he had been completely had and been conned out of a very large sum of money.

It had all started when he'd been mistaken about a lecturing date and had shown up at Fussa Town Hall one week early. He was pretty quick to notice that his Go lecture was not the announced talk of that night, but rather a scientific lecture about time travel, of all things! Checking with the management put the fault clearly in Hikaru's own hands; he had written up the date a week too early, had never checked afterwards and like an automaton had gone that night to wherever his diary commanded he should go.

The problem was quickly fixed; he noted the date of the week after in his diary and texted Waya to cancel the planned bowling outing of that night. Waya was neither surprised nor upset; he knew Hikaru long enough to know that sometimes Hikaru's mind would wander. It was altogether a good thing that Hikaru had been a week too early instead of too late; he really would be in trouble with the Go Institute if he missed yet another lecturing date.

So, with all schedule errors fixed, that left Hikaru in Fussa Town at 8:27 pm with nothing to do and nothing but a long boring hour and a half on the train back home - with nothing to do there either - to look forward too. He figured even if he started back now, by the time he'd arrive at the Touya Go club, most everybody worth playing would have gone home. And there was the rather good smell that the ramen vendor at the Town Hall was producing to consider.

It wasn't too much later that Hikaru found himself sitting all the way at the back of the hall - together with no few others - discretely slurping his ramen and listening to the science presentation.

And that had been the beginning of everything.


The moment it got through Hikaru's ramen-stuffed head that the talk was not just about the theory of time travel but that the speaker implied that they had actually time traveled, right before the end of the presentation, that Hikaru's interest suddenly went into overdrive, while that of everybody else waned considerably.

Even more credulity was lost by the crowd when the speaker explained that the time travel theory itself, while making the actual travel possible, at the same time made proving that time travel had occurred impossible. This last bit of information Hikaru had serious trouble with; he had always know he'd never be a science buff to begin wit, and he knew that dropping out of High School at age 15 would not have helped matters any, so the fact that the speaker's statements seemed incomprehensible to Hikaru was not a big surprise.

What he did know was that he'd be damned if he'd let this chance slip by. Time travel! Actual working time travel! It was the answer to the unsolvable problem that had burdened him since he had been 14 years old. Sai. He could get back Sai. Even if it was a remote chance, he'd take it; Sai, he just meant that much to Hikaru, even now.

Hikaru hadn't realized until he had been about 16 and Sai had been gone some two years that he had been in love with the Heian ghost for years. Ever since Sai's disappearance Hikaru had dreamt of him frequently. Oh, that first dream, that had been different; it had felt very different. But the dreams after that were normal dreams; well, as normal as dreams can be anyway.

At first he just dreamed of all the things they'd done together; play Go, walk around town, go to school, go to Insei class, the Go exam, and loads more. But gradually, so gradually it took a while for Hikaru to notice, the dreams would just be about the two of them together, just the closeness of it, not so much the things they did. And then after a while Hikaru found himself having very sweet dreams of the both of them looking into each other's eyes and floating in a sea of clouds or sometimes masses of purple-black hair and the softest white silk.

When awake, Hikaru had been slightly revolted at the sticky sweetness of those dreams, but he couldn't deny that the residual emotions from them made him feel the lack of his friend more than ever.

It was not too soon after that Hikaru had started to deal with the physical aspects of his nightly 'sweet dreams'; he suddenly found he needed to change his sheets a lot more often!

Realizing he was in love with the ghost at that point was even easy, even for a lame brain like Hikaru. He really could kick himself that he had not seen it sooner. A 16 year old virgin, for goodness sake! Well, no, that was not fair; he was sure there were plenty of 16 virgin boys out there, but not so many that had not even lusted after a girl (or boy) before. No, he had to be the one who fell for a dead man. Hopeless. Utterly hopeless.

He felt such a fool that he'd never told Sai how he'd felt. Oh, fair enough again; at 14 he really hadn't know that he'd fallen in love with Sai, but he could have been nicer, less of a brat! But what was done, was done. And for years Hikaru played Go to show the world his Sai, and the rest of the time he dreamed of him at night and reminisced about their time together in the day time.

He had tried to get over his grief, he really had. He had gone to a grief counsellor who had advised him to write all his feelings down. Hikaru didn't feel he had any writing ability, and had opted to write out as many of the games he had played against Sai as he could remember. He then continued with any and all games that Sai had played with Hikaru placing the stones. It had helped ease his heart a bit, a solid record of Sai's genius, but it didn't make the longing go away.

So Hikaru had resolved to live on with the bleeding of the Sai shaped hole in his heart. There really had been nothing else to do. Except perhaps... But no, he did feel that Sai would be disappointed in him if he showed up in heaven too soon.


Once the lecture was over, Hikaru started off by cornering the mousy looking scientist speaker as the man was putting away his laptop. He bombarded the man with questions, quite a few sounding less than bright, even to his own ears. Once the man had backed so far backwards that he hit the wall, Hikaru asked him to explain again how that 'can't prove it'-thing exactly worked. The poor man kept spluttering and using his laptop as a shield against the young Go Pro, trying to get out from under. Hikaru was having none of it; he notched up the stakes and started demanding a time trip. At this point the scientist's burly assistant drew Hikaru's attention by tugging on his sleeve.

'You want to take a trip through time?' the assistant asked.

Hikaru let go of the professor and took a step backwards. 'Yeah. If it's possible,' he said slowly.

'Oh, it's possible all right,' the man drawled.


It took Hikaru a week of hard thinking, interspersed with very frequent calls to Kanzou-sensei - who turned out to be the real brain of the outfit, not a lowly assistant at all - for clarification, before Hikaru finally started to understand the problem with time travel.

Kanzou-sensei explained - and the speaker that night had said it also, even if it had gone way over Hikaru's head at the time - that they had undertaken several time travel trips in order to prove their research was worthy of funding by the government. Their results were always the same; mission successful, but the proof couldn't be produced.

For example: they had gone back to the 13th century and had stolen the 'Nendo' sword from Master Craftsman and Priest Gorou Masamune before it was famous for being used in the hands of a senior member of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Only to find, upon arriving home, that now history had the 'Honjo' blade listed as the famous sword.

They had tried gathering different types of historically significant items, from many different periods, but each time when they came home history recorded some other item had been used instead. The Time Team, as they called themselves, had seen first the Japanese government, then company after company turn down their pleas for funding. They all cited the same reason, even if the wording differed: a difference that makes no difference IS no difference.

No, difference , 'ey? So Hikaru asked the - to him the most - obvious question: what about taking a human out of his own time?


And so Hikaru squatted, dressed like character from a Noh play, in the dead of a chilly October night, in the year Kantou 8 of the Traditional Japanese calendar, also known as 1012 CE in the modern world, one thousand years exactly into the past, by a marshy lakeside with mosquitoes buzzing all around, and his leg was falling asleep on him, darn it!

This was the culmination of the three previous trips in which the Time Team and Hikaru had pinpointed the exact date on which Sai had originally committed suicide. While Hikaru had remembered himself as being an insensitive little brat, he had had a great capacity for memory even back then - that possibly being one of the reasons why he'd done so well in Go. Of course now that he was 23 he still had that ability, but apart from using it in Go, he had lost the interest in using it to recall events in his current life.

His childhood memories had given them a place to start; Sai had mentioned the notable Ladies of his time: Sei Shounagon and Murasaki Shikibu, both of whom History remembered and both of whom had been at the emperor's court from around 1000-1010. So the first three trips had been to times around those dates, narrowing down the date of that fateful game and the gruesome location of where Sai's remains were found many days later. This fourth trip was 'the Pick-Up' and would, hopefully, prevent there ever being any remains.

Hikaru had not told the Time Team how he knew there once existed a man called Fujiwara no Sai, Go Tutor to the Emperor, who was disgraced and committed suicide and whom no modern or ancient history book had ever mentioned. And after the Go Pro had pointedly ignored the first three times Kanzou-sensei asked, the subject was dropped altogether. Maybe also in light of the large sums of money Hikaru was shelling out.

Four trips at five million yen* a pop. Now that was no peanuts! It was a very good thing that Hikaru had managed to claim and keep both his titles these last few years. 'Cause this little joke was blowing a huge hole in his funds! But if he got Sai back for it, it would be all worth it, he felt sure.




*5 million yen = about $62,500

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