Title: "When Gods Laugh"

Genre: TimeTravel_AU & Real!Sai_AU; Friendship with a lot of Angst and H/C.

Summary: This is basically the result of the phrase "Kami-sama has a twisted sense of Humor" dropped onto a pile of things about "Hikaru-no Go" that I like, dislike or find confusing.

Warnings: Everything gets so much worse before it gets better.

Disclaimer: No, I do not.


What do you have there, Nii-san? Oh, I should have known. Why would you want ANOTHER goban?'

'It's a wonderful piece of antique, Heihachi. Which is, according to the shop-assistant, inhabited by a ghost clad in white.

'You didn't believe him, did you?'

'Er – no, of course not. But if the ghost makes a fine kaya board so ridiculously cheap – '

'It is cheap because it is old and ugly. And filthy."

'Can you see the stains?'

'Exactly! I suppose they look enough like blood to inspire all those ghost stories. Utterly disgusting!'

'Can you hear my voice?'

'Why the – oh, stop that, Nii-san, it's not funny!'

'It wasn't – you heard that too, didn't you?'

'I… heard nothing.'

'My voice, can you hear it?..'

'Yeah, neither have I.'

And then there was darkness.

Kami-sama has a twisted sense of humor: just ask Fujiwara-no Sai, who simply hadn't wanted to die. Well, perhaps it was not exactly what he was thinking (kind of hard to pay attention when five layers of soaked silk are pulling you underwater and cold unforgiving liquid is rushing into you lungs); perhaps, it had been something more like "Shall I truly die now, when there are still so many games to be played?"

And indeed, in the next eight hundred or so years millions of games were played, – just not by him. In fact, whenever he tried to offer an advice, or even praise, the players inevitably ran screaming "Ghost!" So he resigned himself to watching silently.

Then there was Kuwabara Torajiro, who didn't run screaming; who was, in fact, fascinated by the Ghost's unprecedented ability, and – oh, joy! – let him play again. For two wonderful decades the Heian spirit was blissfully, selfishly happy. Then Torajiro fell ill: the spirit stayed by his side to the very end, fully prepared to follow beyond. Instead, a few drops of Torajiro's blood sealed the Ghost's terrestrial existence. Inside a goban. Which, as property of the "Go Saint" Honimbou Shuusaku, ended up in an antique shop. Where no Go was played at all. Ever.

Kami-sama has a twisted sense of humor: just ask Fujiwara-no Sai. Though, he probably won't be able to answer, trapped as he is inside a blood-stained goban hidden in a heavy chest in the farthest corner of Shindo Heihachi's shed.

Shindo Hikaru collapsed exhaustedly on his futon, leaving the mess of his sixteenth birthday party for some other time. Half a moku. One by one they were overlapping just a bit. Toya Akira. Ko Yeong Ha. Ochi. Isumi. Now even Waya. They were growing. He, on the other hand, felt like he was running in circles, like he had used up that tiny piece of Sai's wisdom he had managed to retain, and there was nothing left to power his progress. Hikaru's respect for Morishita-sensei was profound, yet the truth was Honinbou Shuusaku had been second to no one – save the legendary "sai" of NetGo: "Shuusaku learning modern joseki". Being taught by Sai and then forced to seek tuition elsewhere was akin to tasting the finest tea once only to have to settle for mere water. Sometimes Hikaru wished he could give up Go altogether, to try his hand elsewhere and cherish Sai's memory in all its untouched glory; but he knew he never would. Go was the only real thing he had left from Sai, bar the cheap fans he kept buying in the Association gift shop and a handful of kifus he had managed to coax from his memory. Sometimes Hikaru tried to timidly remind himself Sai had essentially taken over his life, and now he had it back. He always ended up laughing bitterly; apparently, he didn't want "his life back": he wanted Sai's friendship, and Sai's guidance, and the warmth of Sai's cheerful and passionate presence resting comfortingly at the back of his mind.

All it would have taken to keep Sai content was an occasional game. He could have randomly dropped by in one distant Go Salon or another. He could have gone to another Internet café. He could have somehow got a laptop. Damn, even sacrificing all his public games wouldn't have killed him: playing Sai exclusively was an honour some senior dans would have killed for and a brat with barely months of experience shouldn't deserve; yet, like a playground bully, he had robbed Sai of the very reason of his existence – the game he himself would never have discovered if it were not for Sai.

"Oh, kami-sama, why wouldn't you just let me go back," Hikaru sighed, closing his eyes and covering his face with a dog-eared collection of Shuusaku's kifus for a good measure.

And then there was darkness.

For a moment darkness swallowed Hikaru's vision as he was trying to pry an obviously old (and damn heavy) wooden thing from where it was probably long forgotten buried under loads of his grandfather's other possessions. The boy stumbled and landed gracelessly on his backside; the resulting racket brought Heihachi to the 'crime scene' and he hurriedly led the children away from the haunted goban harbouring a ghost clad in white. And, just in case Hikaru and Akari could also see and get curious about lonely drops of moisture rolling silently along the grid, from then on he made sure to keep the chest – and the shed – locked.

Shindo Hikaru is twelve and tediously working his way through his first year of secondary school. He is still failing social studies and plays in the school football team. He is mostly the same loud and immature manga-lover and video-games fan. The brief moments when he suddenly grows quieter and ponders over the purposelessness of his existence are attributed to 'that awkward age'.

Kami-sama has a twisted sense of humor, but Shindo Hikaru wouldn't know: he doesn't remember being fourteen, playing Go professionally and meeting Fujiwara-no Sai.