Disclaimer: I own nothing, make no money from anything, and am writing this purely for personal enjoyment.
Now with added section breaks! Sorry, I didn't notice they'd gotten lost in the upload.
Hikaru dropped to his knees in the middle of archives.
"Kami-sama! Please! Return things to the beginning. Return time to when I first met him! Or I will never play Go again!"
Hikaru instantly found himself floating in a formless void.
"You can't mean that."
Hikaru rather thought he ought to be terrified, but instead all he felt was relief. He was good at negotiating. He would have Sai back again.
"I do. Sai deserves better."
"Sai took more than a thousand years to finally fulfil his duties and pass on his knowledge. I think I've been more than obliging towards him."
"But he has been teaching, all the time. Every game of his that's on record is a lesson to thousands of go players everywhere. Isn't that far more valuable than just tutoring one person here or there?"
"Thousands of players do not have the potential to become an interesting opponent for me."
"But the really good players rise out of those thousands."
"It doesn't matter. Sai has moved on. It is impossible for me to bring him back."
Hikaru had enough experience with arguments to know he was winning this one. He pushed onwards. "Then turn back time. Let me return to when I first met him."
"Why should I?"
"I don't think I can carry on playing Go without Sai. I'm not a very strong person, after all. But if I'd had more time, then maybe I'd have grown strong enough to carry on without him."
"Five years. Would that be enough to ensure you don't give up Go?"
"Five more years. Eight in total."
"Fine. But you will commit to teaching Go. Not only the people I'll tell you about in dream-walks, but also the 'general thousands' you seem so fond of."
"Not a problem."
"And you will commit to developing your own game as much as possible."
"And once Sai leaves again you will resume playing in the public eye."
"No, that's it."
"You're going to send me back in time, now?"
"Yes. A few technical matters: you will be prevented from interfering with other strings of fate. Amongst other things, you will be unable to discuss the future you have lived with anyone, nor will you be able to tell Sai about our arrangement."
"What happens if I slip up?"
"Don't worry about that; you will be physically incapable of doing so. However if you fail to live up to our arrangements, the consequences will be most unpleasant."
"Very well. I will return you now to the point of your collapse."
"How am I going to explain that?"
"You'll have the mind of a fifteen year old in the body of a twelve year old, my little black-mailer. Explaining the collapse will be the least of your problems."
It was hard when dealing with parents to have to be the one to tell them that just because their child had recovered consciousness, it didn't mean they were all right.
Shindou Hikaru had answered what his name was promptly, if perhaps mumbled. Where he was, he answered with typical 'are you crazy' attitude. What date it was, he had clearly guessed. This had been the first indication – he had not even gotten the month correct. The second indication had been when he had reached for a glass of water and closed his hand around empty air.
"What's wrong with my Hikaru?"
"We think he may have suffered from a stroke."
"He can't have. He's just a child!"
"It's rare, but children do suffer from strokes as well. Luckily, he was admitted very quickly after the incident, so the prognosis on his rehabilitation is excellent."
"And the memory problems?"
"Shindou-kun has presented no ongoing difficulties. The memories from before the incident may come back on there own, and they may not. Unfortunately, all we can do is wait."
Sai was overjoyed at being able to contact the living world again. Truly, honestly, thrilled. But somewhat apprehensive too. Why was he attached to this sickly boy who didn't even own a go board? He didn't want to face another death.
The boy had offered to play a game by writing it on paper. He reassured Sai that he had plenty of paper and ink he could waste. Sai attempted to prod the first of the grids Shindou had ruled out. This wasn't Go. Nevertheless, it was better than nothing, and with his nose screwed up, he called out his first few moves. Sai was surprised to find Shindou was a competent player – amazingly so for someone his age and apparent lack of interest. He played easily, fascinated by the pencil with its little attached eraser and the pen that had magically produced its own ink. It wasn't until he noticed the irritation in Shindou's face that he really paid attention to the board.
He had allowed himself to be trapped. It had been nothing short of brilliant. A series of odd moves, moves that looked like slight miscalculations, only to emerge in its full brilliance later on in the game. It became clear why he had been attracted to the boy.
Sai stared at him in confusion.
"The first time I beat you, I want it to be for real."
'The first time', huh? Now there was the ambition suitable for a great Go player – to meet and match his opponent at their best. He nodded and made the only apology acceptable in the circumstances.
"Shall we play again?"
"Let's. And I promise I'll get a board as soon as possible. It might have to be plastic stones and a folding board, but it'll look more like the real thing."
Kami-sama was truly being kind to him.
Akira supposed that no one ever considered themselves to be arrogant, but it had come as an unbelievable shock to him to realise that he had been smug. Not about his skill – the constant comparisons to his father and Ogata and the like were sufficient to let him know he still had a long way to go. No, he had been smug about his potential; about his dedication. Then one day Shindou Hikaru had walked into his father's salon and come close to destroying his world.
A child the same age as him, but hugely stronger. A child whose game was so beautiful it took his breath away. A child who could recreate from memory whatever famous game he happened to casually mention as if the task were no more complex than recalling someone's name. A child who lived, breathed, and slept Go like he had always imagined was true of himself, but now was aware was not.
A child he would any day catch up with and beat.
He was surprised to see his grandson come to visit. Since the incident, Hikaru had shown a marked reluctance to leave the house, so for him to come out alone was unusual.
"Is something wrong, Hikaru?"
"No, Grandpa, I just want your advice. Well, I guess more your help than your advice..."
He let Hikaru babble to a halt. He found himself more tolerant of the few annoying habits that had survived the incident, simply because they were reminders of old Hikaru. Eventually Hikaru took a breath and began again.
"I've been playing go."
"Since the... for the last few weeks?" He corrected.
"No, for a lot longer than that."
He looked at Hikaru in concern. His mother hadn't said that his memory problems extended to delusions, but...
"Look, why don't we play a game. The rest of this conversation might make more sense after that."
Well, if his grandson was finally willing to participate in one of his favourite activities, he shouldn't discourage the boy. He set up the go board, and was intrigued to see Hikaru kneel confidently before it.
"How many stones do you want?"
He caught sight of a quick grin before Hikaru concealed it.
"Do you mind if we play evenly first, and determine the handicap after that?"
Twenty moves into the game, he was relieved. He was never much good at dealing with new beginners, and he dreaded having to restrain himself for Hikaru's sake. Fifty moves in, he was confused. Hikaru must have been telling the truth – no one learnt to play this well in such a short time. A hundred moves in, he resigned. The game had been a slaughter, and not in the direction he had been anticipating.
"Why didn't you tell me you could play before?"
"I guess I was embarrassed at enjoying an old person's game like go," Hikaru shrugged.
"Now..." Hikaru looked around the room and back. "Do you follow the professional world much?"
"Now, Touya Meijin has asked me to become his student."
"How on earth does The Touya Meijin know you?"
"He has a son my age who is very strong at go. After I played him a couple of times, he introduced me to his father."
"So you want advice on whether to accept?"
"No, I know I want to accept. I want advice on what to tell Mom and Dad."
"You don't mind that go isn't 'cool' anymore?"
"For the chance to play with people like Touya Meijin, I would be willing to give up far more than just my image."
The intensity in Hikaru's eyes thrilled him. His grandson – his grandson was going to do this? Then the very least he could do was support him in every way possible.
Hikaru was never the same person after the incident. If only she had not left the attic, if only she had paid more attention when Hikaru had started acting strangely, if only...
He himself reassured her it wouldn't have made a difference, and that she had done an amazing job getting him to hospital as fast as she had. Strangely, it made things worse. Her Hikaru wouldn't have even noticed she was feeling bad. Her Hikaru wouldn't have taken that kind of care in talking to her.
It seemed evil to mourn that her friend had become a more considerate person, but as she stared down at the birthday gift he had apologised for not wrapping himself, her eyes started watering. Her Hikaru gave her presents that his mother had bought and wrapped. Her Hikaru wouldn't even have remembered it was her birthday without multiple reminders. Her Hikaru was fun and energetic and careless and clueless. Her Hikaru needed her just to get through the day with his head attached. Her Hikaru was an exuberant puppy, dragging her through life by the leash.
This Hikaru had moved beyond her.
She tried to be glad for the positive that had come from his disaster, but still, she mourned.
Touya Kouyo remembered Akira's complaints about Shindou-kun's handling of the stones as he watched them play. Akira had been wrong, though, it wasn't like a beginner – it was much too deliberate for that. Shindou-kun cradled the stones until he could place them on the board and push them into position. In fact, when Shindou-kun became overly involved, he seemed to forget and tried to handle them normally – with unpredictable results. Once he started looking for it, he could see it everywhere. The way Shindou-kun watched the mug of hot chocolate from the table to his mouth. The way he picked books up with both hands. The way he always held the banister when using the stairs.
By the time the review was over, he had made up his mind.
"Shindou-kun, could I have a quick word with you?"
Touya had to restrain himself from smiling at Shindou's look of suspicion and apprehension.
"Shindou-kun, I don't like to pry, but if you are to be somewhat under my care, then I probably need to be informed. Is there something wrong with you, medically?"
He had expected an angry denial, given the efforts Shindou-kun had gone to hide it from everyone, but he was surprised instead by a thoughtful silence.
"I had a stroke a few months ago. It wasn't very severe – there isn't any brain damage or anything – but I haven't been fully rehabilitated yet."
"You aren't getting ill, or at risk for having another stroke?"
"They don't really know. They never determined what caused the first one, but apparently it's fairly common that they don't. As far as they can tell, aside from the obvious, I'm perfectly healthy. They check me every couple of months to make sure."
Touya closed his eyes. It might have been worse.
"I'd like to know exactly what I need to look for and what to do if it happens again."
"I'll get you a contact number. You're not going to tell anyone else, are you?"
"I'll discuss it with you before I do, if I feel they need to know. Unless it's an emergency of course."
As Shindou-kun was just about to leave, he paused and turned back.
"The stroke... it also scrambled my memories a bit. Some stuff just isn't there, and other stuff I know, but I don't know how I know. Like just after, I didn't know where my classroom was, but I remembered that I'd missed a social studies test."
"So your previous go instructor?"
"Yeah. I mean, I remember that I wasn't supposed to tell anyone and that he had to leave for some reason, but other details..."
"I'll make sure you're not plagued about it. You have a right to your privacy regardless."
"Thank you, Touya-sensei."
When the Meijin approached him and asked if they might talk, Shinoda quickly cleared a suitable time. While shepherding youngsters through the insei program had kept him somewhat immune from the awe and fear most professionals had for the top players (hard to fear someone you remember in tears over a lost pet), there were some players who had earned their deference.
"What can I do for you, Touya-sensei?"
"I've recently taken on a new student. He's the same age as my Akira."
"He wishes to become an insei for this year."
'for this year?' The phrasing was odd.
"How strong is he?" Shinoda asked.
The Meijin paused, and then pulled out two kifus.
"This is a game he played against Akira. He took white."
A strong game, and the newcomer had won against the person said to be the strongest in his generation.
"And this is a game against Ogata-kun. Shindou-kun took black."
He took it, and froze. It was an even game, and black had won. A twelve year old had beaten Ogata. And this wasn't a teaching game.
"Are you serious?"
The Meijin didn't take offence at his disbelief.
Eventually he stopped staring at the kifus at made eye contact again.
"I don't know if you are aware, but I have discouraged my son from playing other children his age, because I felt it would discourage them in their games."
"That is why I also advised him not to become an insei. But... "
"But...?" He prompted gently.
"Well, Shindou-kun wants to make friends, I think. But he also says it's unfair not to let the other students practice against them."
Shinoda didn't answer quickly. This really would be letting the tigers play with the kittens.
"There will be some who will be discouraged. But...those students who have the willpower to become professionals will benefit greatly from playing against these two on a regular basis. And, while I don't know how much benefit it will have on the Go of these two, I do firmly believe the whole experience will be beneficial for them."
Shinoda's lips quirked.
"Also, it will give the rest more time to resign themselves to only having one professional spot to compete for next year."
The Meijin still looked unconvinced, but Shinoda knew him too well to believe he would stand in the way of his students wishes. Shinoda started preparing the paperwork immediately – his life had just become substantially more interesting.
They'd all heard about Touya Akira, of course - he was whispered about as being potentially the best in their generation. Waya himself had doubts about someone who refused to test his skills against his age mates. But someone had obviously had a change of hearts, because he and another Touya-Meijin student were currently powering their way through the lower class. Well, to be strictly accurate, currently they were approaching Isumi, Nase, Mashiba and him.
"Yo! I'm Shindou, this is Touya."
"Pleased to meet you," contributed Touya, coolly and correctly.
"Oh, don't mind him, he's just shy."
Touya shoved Shindou's shoulder, mortification in every line of his body. All at once the image of arrogant formality fell away, to be replaced with that of awkward boy unsure of his welcome.
"Nice to meet you. I'm Waya."
The rest of them introduced themselves.
"Want to join us for lunch? It's McDonald's today."
"Sounds like fun. We can watch Touya try and eat hamburgers with a knife and fork."
"I do not! Just because you—I'm sorry, I didn't mean..."
"I know. So, when are we off, then?"
Waya frowned at them, but before he could ask any questions, Isumi interrupted.
"I'll be two seconds. Why don't you go put on your shoes so long?"
They drifted off. By the end of the month when the two of them moved up, lunch had become somewhat of a standing practice. They were 'The Group'. Everyone who was here wanted to become a professional, of course, but they were the ones who had serious expectations of making it in the next year or two. Touya turned out to be pretty impressive, but it was Shindou who was terrifying. A child his age being able to play the way he did – it just didn't feel real. If he wasn't such a genuinely nice guy, it would be tempting to hate him for his power.
Waya managed to impress Morita-sensei with his increased dedication to improving. He was not going to give anyone cause to wonder what they were wasting time hanging around him for.
Tsutsui set out the board nervously. He had told himself over and over again not to expect anyone to join him, but still... he hoped. He'd put up the posters, hadn't he? There was a whole batch of first years, surely some of them would want to play go?
A disreputable looking first year slouched in.
"I'm Shindou Hikaru. I was wondering whether you'd mind me hanging around sometimes."
"Hanging around... sometimes?"
"Well, I won't be able to come every day, and I'm not eligible for any of the competitions, but..."
The conversation was getting weirder as it went on. In an attempt to keep it at least somewhat comprehensible, Tsutsui interrupted.
"Why aren't you eligible for competitions?"
"Well, you see... I'm an insei."
An insei? Wanting to know if it would be all right to hang about? How could he admit to a person like this that the club didn't really exist?
"If you think it would be discouraging to the other members, I understand," Shindou said after the long silence.
"It's not that! It's... well... you see, there aren't any other members."
"Is that all? We'll have to arrange teaching functions then, with tea and cake perhaps. If we're beginner friendly, we should attract some people who aren't sure what they want to do, particularly the girls. Do you want to start organising that now, or do you want a game first?"
"A game?" repeated Tsutsui weakly.
"Should we try at five stones and see from there?"
"Oh, look out, it's the brain-damaged kid," said one of the seniors in the soccer club.
Sato set his expression, but Shindou didn't even look at him.
"Could you please give me room to pass?"
"Did you understand that?"
"Couldn't make out a word."
That much was unfair – Shindou had barely any problems with speaking any more. But the teasing was his own fault. He might not be able to play soccer at his previous level of skill, but that wasn't any reason just to give up. If he just made more of an effort to fit it in, to hang out with the rest of the guys, to be more like the friend he'd been before the stroke, then he wouldn't be having these problems.
They parted down the middle, forcing Shindou to walk between them.
"Do you need a hand getting to where you need to go?"
In a move that Sato would never be able to decide whether it was co-ordinated or not, one stretched out a foot just as another pushed him roughly from behind. Shindou went flying. He hit the ground and went skidding the final meter to the top of the stairs. His head dropped, and his legs somersaulted over and then out of view. A few dull thuds, and finally silence.
"What do we do now?"
"You, go fetch a teacher. We'll say we found him like this. I'll go check on him."
"I can't! They'll find out, they'll know..."
"Alright, I'll go. The rest of you get out of here."
They all scurried off.
"I'll stay with Shindou, Captain."
"Good man. I'll be as quick as I can."
Sato walked slowly down the stairs, terrified about what he might find at the bottom of them. At last, Shindou groaned, and brought his hand to his head. Sato's shoulders dropped in relief, and he hurried the last few steps to kneel beside him.
"Shindou! Are you alright?"
"Don't try to move. The captain has gone to call for help."
Shindou maintained he had simply being going too fast and lost his balance at the top of the stairs, first to the medical staff who seemed to be concerned about another stroke, and later to the teachers who found the behaviour of the soccer club somewhat suspicious in the circumstances. Sato never quite worked up the courage to apologise to him, and Shindou took to staring through them like they didn't exist at all. He'd never know if he could've regained his friend, but he learnt a lot about himself.
Isumi watched Shindou as he related a prank he had played on Ogata's new car.
"Anyway, I'm just finishing tying the fuzzy pink dice to his mirror, when I hear voices in the entrance way. Now there's no way I can slip the keys back into Ogatasensei's jacket without him noticing, and if he gets to the car and finds them missing, I'm dead. I scuttle round to the door just as Touya here comes out. As any selfrespecting mischief maker would, I hand him the keys. So there he is, standing with Ogata-sensei's keys in his outstretched hand, just as the man himself walks out. Now it's perfectly obvious when Ogata-sensei spots the dice, because he freezes and makes this little choking sound. Then he turns around and sees his keys. By this time Touya has figured out what's going on and has that full deer-in-the-headlights look."
Shindou paused to let the laughter die down.
"But the best bit it was happens next. Ogata-sensei takes a deep breath, and then..."
"And then thanks Touya for the thought, but he doesn't think it's quite suitable for the car."
The group degenerated into howls of laughter, while Touya mock glared at them all.
"I don't think anyone who tries to camouflage his hair as a skunk has any call making comments about my taste."
"Hey! My hair's cool."
"If you say so."
They traded a few childish insults in their well-practiced way, but Isumi wasn't concerned. The restaurant was used to them, and the only thing that they ever seriously argued about was Go.
Isumi couldn't believe the change in this year. The top students had always been friendly, but never before had they been friends – they were all too aware that the other students were competition. Potential rivals at best; the person who destroyed your career at worst. Part of him thought that it was easy for Shindou to ignore that – nothing short of a national disaster would prevent him from being promoted to professional status. But the rest of him knew it wasn't that. Shindou honestly thought of being a professional as simply the best available method to let him play better Go against better opponents.
"If I win because my opponent was made weaker, that won't do the smallest thing to make me stronger," he had replied to one bitter comment. "If you just want to be the highest rated player around, you can always join a beginner's class."
The reprimand hadn't earned him any favours, but it had reminded Isumi about why he had started studying Go – because he loved the game. The insei program and becoming professional was the means, not the ends. Go was the drug and his addiction was in full force.
Mitani hesitated at the corner. He wasn't prepared to go back and grovel to that go club owner, but the only other clubs that would let him play were the type even he knew better than to risk. Which is why he found himself here, debating whether to goin and see this Go prodigy for himself. A group of girls came up behind him, and he would look stupid if he just stood here. He sauntered in, ignoring the stray glances.
Shindou's lectures were open to anyone – the posters said so. Of course he wasn't really here for the beginner's lesson in opening theory. It was the games afterward that he was targeting. He was a good player. He did deserve to win.
The lecture managed to surprise him. It was somewhat disorganised, but Shindou's enthusiasm was magnetic. The information was simple – it was supposed to be for people who had only started playing this year – but Shindou explained the consequences and motivations for each move with enough depth to make Mitani reevaluate some points in his own strategy. Despite himself, Mitani was impressed.
He didn't get to play Shindou after all – he was too busy supervising the beginner games. He had to make do with playing the official club captain. He won, of course, but there was something there, something interesting in the overall vision of Tsutsui's game. It was enough that the next day, when he was stuck with no money and nowhere to go, he headed back to that classroom. It wasn't a Shindou day, so there weren't anywhere near as many people, but the people who were there were on the whole the better, more serious players. Fujisaki, one of the girls, immediately made up a book for him and speculated about how they were going to organise their competition boards with him there. He waved off her words, but didn't stop attending.
The club was surprisingly kind of cool.
At the school go tournament, Itou was in the process of clearing some area for them to try something out when a little bleached brat walked over from another table to object.
"And you are?"
"Shindou Hikaru, from Haze."
"And? What board are you playing?"
"I'm not, but..."
"Well, let me tell you how things work around here. The stronger players get to use the equipment first. Some brat who can't even make the team of some hopeless school like Haze keeps his mouth shut."
"So if I can beat you in a game, you'll leave people alone?"
"If you could. But why would I waste my time proving I'm better than you?"
"If I lose, I'll... do whatever you say for the rest of the day."
"Alright. Whoever loses will be the winner's slave."
They both sat down at the table he'd just procured for himself.
"Itou, you can't take a bet like that!"
Touya Akira himself seemed to have been attracted by the fuss, and visibly frowned at the last comment. Itou was a little nervous around Touya. He apparently had an open invitation out for anyone who wanted to play some teaching games with him, but Itou felt that was giving a first year ideas above his station. Still, he was the Meijin's son, and rumours of his strength were quite scary.
"What are you doing?"
Itou opened his mouth before realising the question had been directed at the other boy.
"Eh...Just a friendly game with... err...Toudou-san over here?"
"You're... you're hustling!"
Itou was so amazed at the normally stoic Touya sounding so horrified that it took him a little while to process what he said.
"I'm not... well, I guess I am, but, really it was perfectly justified."
"So you won't have any problems explaining it to my father then?"
"You're going to rat on me?"
"The bet wasn't for money, was it?"
"No, of course not."
Touya looked around at the audience that was starting to build up around them.
"We'll discuss this later. For now, don't you have a team that needs your encouragement, coach?"
"Err.. yeah. Excuse me."
Touya watched him out of sight before turning back to Itou.
"If I may offer some advice, Sempai, I suggest you check the last edition of 'Monthly Go' – the article on the Young Lion's tournament."
He followed the brat before Itou had a chance to tell him what he could do with his advice. His curiosity was aroused, but he had too much pride to find a copy. Luckily his friend had overheard and had no such compunction. Within minutes he was staring at the headline: 'Thirteen year old Insei storms to victory. Is Shindou Hikaru the new Shuusaku?'
Maybe he should just enjoy the game of Go without worrying about strength so much.
"If you're online, try and catch a game by TheStudent. They're really entertaining."
"Who is he?"
"Oh, just some amateur third dan. But his style is so absurdly aggressive that he either loses horribly or absolutely crushes his opponent."
"And this is entertaining?"
"It's hilarious. It's not just his game, either. He attracts quite a gallery nowdays, and it's somewhat of a thing to come up with the wittiest commentary."
"I'll keep an eye out, but I'm not sure I see the attraction."
"You'll see. Some of the moves the guy tries can be fascinating. You know, if he just played a little more conservatively, he'd be good enough to be a pro."
"Yeah, and I'd be good enough to be a pro if only I played better."
They'd retired to a private room to discuss the matter. Shindou-sensei had agreed to absent himself, leaving the Meijin as his advocate. Everyone agreed it would go more smoothly if he wasn't present.
"Gentlemen, you'll have to accept that Shindou-kun is serious about resigning his titles. What is up for negotiation is how much association he can have with the institute in spite of that."
"We can't let him partially resign. That would be entirely disrespectful to the other players."
"Personally, I think the other players would just be glad to finally have a chance of winning something."
He had to hide a grin as the rest of the room expressed their disapproval at the sentiment.
"Gentlemen, if I may?"
"Please, go ahead, Touya-Meijin."
"As much as I wish it were otherwise, I do acknowledge that our existence does depend on giving the public an interesting show. For the average public, the inevitable victory of Shindou-kun is boring. But, if we can convince him to simply enter the cups, then his fans will start watching them, which will attract more sponsorship. In the mean time the titles will return to being hard fought and uncertain battles."
He decided to contribute to the argument. "Sadly, Touya-Meijin is correct. After the initial flurry of interest, viewership of the title matches has been steadily declining. Even scheduling a potential fifth match has become difficult, as it almost never reaches that stage."
"But really. The boy wants to reinvent his go? What kind of reason is that?"
"Sometimes you need to step back, before you can move forward. I'm sure you can appreciate that."
"But his Go is brilliant!"
"Brilliant, but stable. It isn't reaching anywhere new, and he is no longer progressing. If he stays where he is, sooner or later the younger players are going to start passing him by."
"Thinking of your son, there?"
"Perhaps. Or perhaps someone who hasn't even come to our notice yet. Or even no one. Shindou-kun wants to be the best player he can possibly be. If this is the sacrifice he thinks he needs to make to reach that goal, I can only admire him for it. Isn't constantly striving to be better one of the highest ideals of Go?"
"Whoever heard of a twenty-year-old resigning?" grumbled one of the others, but it was half hearted.
The first argument would be the deal-maker, but he had to admire Touya's skill in bringing up the second when he had. The first one did the work of convincing them, and the second gave them a sop for their idealism. Another nudge wouldn't hurt.
"Touya-sensei has also been too delicate to mention a vital reason to keep Shindousensei affiliated to us."
"Well, enlighten us, then."
"Shindou-kun will not stay out of the professional world for long, I think we can all predict that. When he starts entering international cups, do we want him playing for us, or for some other country?"
The shock on their faces amply repaid any of the slights they had given him for his own lack of expertise at the game.
"They wouldn't. Would they?"
"China would give him guest-professional status in a heartbeat. In fact, I won't be surprised if his retirement triggered off a bidding war."
"What exactly is he asking for?"
"He wants to continue his current classes at the institute—"
"Which are those?"
"Err... an open study session for insei's, both a dan level and a high-kyu level class for underage amateurs, and a totally open lecture where he does game analysis of interesting matches in the preceding week."
"Good God, where does he find the time?"
"That, on top of his current schedule? No wonder he wants to retire. He can't need the money, surely?"
"Actually, he does them all for free. The lecture is the only one has a fee, and that goes just to cover the costs of the venue. The center donates the resources for the others."
"I think we will all agree he may keep his classes, if he wishes them."
"We certainly couldn't find anyone to take them over."
"Err... the privilege of recommending students to insei or pro exams."
"Might as well. I mean, he could always simply ask a friend to do it for him, but if he's playing for us in cups, it'll look silly if we didn't allow it."
"Access to the archives and the discussion room and such."
"He really isn't asking for much."
"I still think this is a bizarre situation. But then, all of the top players are strange, and it is part of our job to cater to them."
He choked. The room fell deathly silent while they all waited for the speaker to realise his faux pas.
"Oh, my apologies Touya-Meijin. I didn't mean to imply that you were... I mean, of course you are a top player, but..."
"It's alright, I'm not offended."
They argued about details, but the bulk had been surrendered without argument. Shindou-sensei would be allowed to resign his titles without having to resign as a Professional Japanese Go player. He would be given the time and the space to develop his new style in peace.
"Stylistically, the games of Shindou Hikaru are divided into three distinct phases, commonly known as the 'Title' style, the 'Cup' style and the 'Institute' style. The transition between the first two phases is in many ways the most interesting period of his career, not only because he deliberately moved to a way of playing that was at the time less successful, but also because of the Sai Kifus. For those of you who haven't come across them before, the Sai kifus are a collection of some fifty games where Shindou-Kisei played himself. Black, marked on the sheets as 'TheStudent', played in a fledgling version of the 'Cup' style, while white, marked as 'Sai', played in the 'Title' style."
"So did he win or lose?"
There was general laughter.
"Actually, that's a good question. White won forty-four of the fifty-two games
recorded, which works out to about eighty five percent. Yes?"
"I've heard the Cup style referred to as 'trick play writ large', but Shindou-Kisei would hardly be able to fool himself. So how did the games work?"
"Amazingly enough, Shindou-Kisei seems to have had enough concentration to do just that. That will be one thing we can look for in the games we work through, but the expert consensus is that the games look amazingly unforced. But of course a constant in all of Shindou Hikaru's styles was his super human depth reading, which would have helped reduce the conflict. Any other questions? Yes?"
"Why did he label white as 'Sai'?"
"That, my friend, is one of the most hotly debated mysteries of Shindou- Kisei's life. The truth is, no one actually knows. If you're curious about some of the more popular theories, I recommend 'The life and times of Shindou Hikaru', which is in the library.
To move on, we'll open with one of his last professional 'Title' matches—"