Of course a lot of things happened to Hikaru on his way to becoming a successful Pro again. There had been his letting go of his Sai-doesn't-go-anywhere-without-me policy, when it became clear that he wouldn't be able to take Sai to the exam days himself, never mind picking him up afterwards. Luckily Touya had stepped in and offered his services, saying that he's be around the Go institute at the time of the exams anyway, as he had two young pupils of his taking part.
Hikaru had reluctantly agreed. Partly because he'd known Touya of the other time line to be a very responsible and capable person - and he appeared so here - but also because Sai seemed to feel comfortable with the Go Pro and that could not be said of everybody; the former Heian noble was actually quite shy.
So he had let Sai go, after extracting promises from both – each without the other knowing - that they wouldn't play each other. And they both kept their word, Hikaru was sure of this, because Sai couldn't lie convincingly even if his life depended on it. Every game day, Touya would pick Sai up from the apartment - Hikaru having gone to work hours earlier - and take him to the Go Institute. And after the official game there would be games in the open game room downstairs in the building, or Touya would take Sai to his parents' house where Sai would play Touya Kouyo, who was seriously thinking of retiring for real, so he'd have more time for the more private kind of games, like these with Sai.
Hikaru, in the meantime, had started to feel he had gotten the knack of taking usable pictures at any and all occasions, and was really starting to enjoy his job. He especially enjoyed doing an assignment he himself had proposed to his boss; a background piece on local Go Pros, to run as a human interest story behind the event of the current Pro Go Exam.
Once he got the go ahead, the first person he called was Waya, asking him for a interview combined with a game of Go. Waya - who he knew never turned down a game of Go, especially a friendly one with real coffee on the side - readily said 'yes' and so Hikaru got a great interview, a good game and the beginnings of a friendship.
Hikaru - rather slyly - consulted Waya on whom he should ask for an interview next, and Waya - quite predictably - recommended Isumi. Hikaru was grinning all the way back to the boss's office to get clearance for the second interview.
In the end he also interviewed - and played - Ochi, Shinoda-sensei and even Kuwabara-sensei - who just happened to be there the one day Hikaru actually had time to pick up Sai after his game. So he did that interview without clearance, but the boss didn't mind that very much; Hikaru had handed in an in depth interview with the current Honinbou, what could be better?
All in all that summer was pretty marvelous, even if Hikaru did have to miss the Exam.
That winter, when not working or 'playing' with Sai, Hikaru decided to write down again all the games he could recall of his time with the other Sai, having lost the last set to the tides of time.
It was funny how 'this Sai' had become just 'Sai' over the year they'd spent together and how 'his Sai', the first Sai, Sai the ghost, had become 'the other Sai'. The differences between the two were not that great; there was the difference in Go levels, but Sai, this Sai, was catching up to modern levels at a staggering pace. He wasn't quite playing Touya Kouyo to a draw yet, but he would very soon!
The two Sais looked differently, but that was largely due to the fact that this Sai either wore modern clothing when going out, or a Yukata when staying in. And he never wore a hat.
The two Sais talked differently, that was true. Even after spending over a year in the modern world, Sai hadn't lost his usage of 'thee' and 'thou'. But then the other Sai's speech had not been very modern either. It had been very formal at the best of times; Hikaru guessed he'd had modified his speech when he had spent those 30 years with Torajiro. It was also there that the other Sai had gained the levels of Go that this Sai had not had when Hikaru had taken him out of his own time.
As for behavior; Sai the ghost had been a ghost and couldn't interact with anybody but Hikaru. And therefore he had not ever learned to interact with the modern world. This Sai was forced to interact with the modern world. From flushing a toilet, to turning on the lights at night, to making tea, learning to read and using the micro wave, Sai could do it all. Well, now anyway.
There were still things in the modern world Sai just couldn't handle. Like using public transport, even with Hikaru's help. The one time Hikaru had taken Sai on the Metro had been an utter disaster, when they had gotten separated and Sai had gotten lost. It resulted in a loss of confidence so bad that Sai wouldn't leave the apartment for two whole sunny days.
No, the two Sais were not the same; they couldn't be, because their lives had taken different paths and a person is molded by his experiences. On the one hand Hikaru was head over heels in love with Sai, but on the other hand the loss of his first Sai was still there, even if it didn't hurt quite so much anymore. It had helped that Hikaru felt he had done something for the other Sai by rescuing him just before his suicide. It also helped that he had accepted there had been nothing more in this time line - or in any other - that he could have done for the other Sai. And the fact that he held Sai in his arms each night, well, that was just unbelievable.
To honor the other Sai, he wrote out all the Kifu he could remember and showed them to Sai, who was in total awe of them; he declared the games against the stronger opponents 'sublime'.
It was after he finished recreating the Kifu collection he had had in the other time line, that Hikaru decided to write down the other Sai's story. Because, really, Hikaru was the only person to remember what a remarkable thing had happened between a boy and a ghost some 12 years ago.
And so the first line he wrote was:
"Once upon a time, not so long ago at all, a foolish boy met a magnificent ghost."
Well, we've come to the end. I hope you liked reading it; I definitely liked writing it. (in fact there may be a tiny tiny chance that I'll write another epilogue, so do 'alert' this story, if you want to read it. But no promises on if or when.)
Nobody's come to me with questions about the time travel & time line changes aspect of the story, so there's no need for me to do any explaining. I guess it's all clear than...
Thank you for reading! Don't forget to review! I just love reviews!
Tuulikki: Nice to see you here! I hope you like the ending too. Let me know if you do!
Guest: Good question, well spotted! I quite deliberately didn't say whether Hikaru ever became a pro.
Darifica: Oh wonderful, I was waiting for someone to ask those questions!
Secondly, the part with the Time Team disappearing.. I might be stupid or something, but I just couldn't comprehend how that could have been possible.. Who were they?! They seemed so mysterious..
They are not mysterious to themselves I'm sure. But HnG is a slice of life type of story and in life not everything gets explained.
See it as Hikaru being a small chapter in the Wondrous Adventures of Professor Kanzou and his Time Team. In Kanzou's story he probably doesn't get to find out what happened to the boy and his imported Heian noble either; I'm sure he has long since moved on to other adventures. Or he's been made to move on, Hikaru can't know that as that's not his story; he is just a bystander there.
One last thing, what about this part? - "How can Shuusaku be known as a great player in this time line if Hikaru had taken Sai away from his original time, before he became a ghost, and in that way preventing Sai from ever becoming the ghost that had played for Shuusaku over 150 years ago, so Shuusaku'd become a great player?" That was never explained D:
It's called a paradox and can't be explained, that's the point.
It can however be 'paradoctored'. One explanation could be that time just righted itself like seemed to have happened when the Prof brought those artifacts back from the past. Or it could have been Captain Red and his merry men who went to young Suusaku and injected him with IQ juice, maybe not realizing it was the removal of Sai from history by Hikaru that caused the problem in the first place. But again there is no way for Hikaru to know that and this is his story after all, so we can't know more than he does.
I deliberately left some questions open, after all that is life, and it's up to the reader think about the possible answers, if they like.
Do check out my profile page for links to fics & pics that are not posted on FF.