1

He doesn't have any explanation for how it begins, only that one moment he found himself looking, and Waya looked back.


2

What Akira knows about Waya Yoshitaka, 4-dan, before it all begins:

Waya's strength is in chuuban, when the game is in full swing, and the battle has spread to all parts of the board.

He prefers slow-paced games, which allow him time to plan and set up devious traps rather than require full-throated aggression.

But his smile, when seen, is always sincere.

It is not a long list.


3

Before the first game of the finals for the Meijin title, Akira stands before a sink in the hotel bathroom, splashing cold water on his face. His hands tremble slightly before he wills them to still. He looks at his reflection in the mirror, and it takes a moment to recognize it as his.

The door swings open. Waya walks in and glances at him. Akira stands frozen, not knowing whether to speak. Their eyes meet.

"So even Touya Akira gets nervous sometimes." Waya laughs, but it isn't unkind.

"I-"

"Breathe," Waya says and hands him a paper towel.


4

They stand side by side in the elevator, close enough for hands to brush. Akira flushes, remembering the first time they kissed, in this very same place, Waya's callused fingertips pressed against Akira's cheeks, dry lips against his mouth.

Glancing sideways, Akira notes that Waya is blushing too.


5

They only rarely play go with each other outside of official matches. Instead, they talk about go, obsessively, incessantly: what did Akira think of that game between Kurata 8-dan and Isumi-san, would Fukui pass the pro exam this year, what were Shindou's chances at winning the Honinbou title from Kuwabara-sensei. By mutual agreement, they avoid discussing their own matches with each other.

Akira respects Waya's go, but Waya has never won a match against him; such delicate boundaries must be respected.


6

When Waya invites him out to dinner, they go to a yakitori restaurant, sitting next to the grill and biting small morsels of roasted chicken from wooden skewers.

At one point, Waya uses several skewers and pieces of chicken heart and liver to reconstruct a portion of Shindou and Yashiro's latest game. Akira accidentally upsets the whole contraption with the edge of his sleeve, as he leans over to look, and a piece of chicken hits him on the nose.

Waya looks down at his plate, hiding a smile. Akira smiles too as he carefully assembles the skewers back into a neat grid.


7

"You spend so much time with him. Sometimes, it makes me...oh, I'm being ridiculous."

"You needn't worry-"

"Oh, I know. He's your rival. I'll never be that."

"I don't think I could feel the same way about you if you were a rival."

"Akira-"

"A game of go is no different from a battle. I never forget that. Neither does Shindou."


8

After Akira loses his first attempt to challenge for the Meijin title, he goes and knocks on Waya's hotel room door. Waya's eyes widen when he sees Akira, standing mute, tie loosened and suit jacket in one hand.

Akira says, "I...I wanted-"

Waya does not ask further questions. He holds the door open for Akira then wordlessly offers him a bottle of beer. Akira takes a large swallow.

"You played excellently," Waya says, after a long silence.

"It wasn't enough."

"Next time, you'll win." His voice, full of conviction, is reassuring.


9

What Akira likes about Waya Yoshitaka, 4-dan:

The way he smells faintly of wood and stone.

Waya's habit of making sure everyone at the table is included in a conversation.

The extensive catalogue of kifu, organized by date and name, lined up on a bookshelf next to his desk.

His tendency to stay up all night playing video games after a bad loss.

The discreet kiss he leaves at the nape of Akira's neck when they have a stolen moment together at the Kiin.

There's more to the list, but Akira stops, too embarrassed to continue.


10

"You're such a jerk," Waya says, after Akira slaughters him in an oteai match. But he says it fondly.