I'm very very sorry about this story. I know that it's the second worst kind of self gratification fanfiction, and originally I really did plan to never ever show it to anyone other than a couple of close friends. I wrote it months ago because I was frustrated about not being able to find any manga past volume ten, and because I was frustrated that Touya Akira (to whom my loyalty is unending ^-^ ) was acting like such a thick headed idiot. It seemed to me that a kid as smart as Akira would come to some natural conclusions if he spent much time thinking about the Shindo situation. The result is a story about how I thought the pro exam ought to go, and what I hoped would happen afterwards.

Since I wrote this, my shipment came from jamall.com and I know that the way the author handled things is much better than anything I could ever come up with, but I still think this story turned out well for what it is, and decided to post it even though it's a essentially an 'author fixes everyone's problems' fic. I did some editing to fix some of my incorrect conjectures, but it's essentially an alternate time line which splits around the end of volume 11. Feel free to flame to your heart's content.

a Hikaru no Go fic
by Michelle Thatcher

[insert disclaimer here]

He didn't understand Shindo Hikaru. It was impossible to
figure out the depths of his talents or the real level of his
ability. For two years now, they'd danced around each other,
Shindo unwilling to accept his challenges, Akira unable to
ascertain the truth.

The elusive Shindo. His capricious nature. His
mysterious strength.

Shindo had beaten him long ago. It had been the first
time the two twelve-year-old boys had laid eyes on one another.
Shindo, claiming to be a very skilled player, had challenged
Akira, the only other person near his own age in Touya Meijin's
go parlor to a single match.

It had been a strange encounter. Surreal almost. He'd
introduced himself to the new boy, and received no reaction at
all to his name; only an innocent challenge. A request for a
game. Always happy to encourage a new player, Touya Akira, the
son of the nation's top title holder, had cheerfully accepted
and had led his newfound opponent to a goban in the back.

It hadn't really been a defeat. Counting the komi, it was
really Akira that had gained the victory, but his confidence
had been deeply shaken by each of Shindo's moves. By the
clumsy amateurish way that he held the stones as well as the
precision of his strategy. By the way he unstrategically
placed some of the pieces as if merely trying to ascertain the
true level of Akira's skill and not caring about defense or

Shindo was a better player than he. He admitted it
freely. After the initial shock had worn off, he'd been happy
about the discovery of Shindo Hikaru. After all, a strong
opponent meant an opportunity for growth; a means of brining
oneself closer to perfection. In Shindo's play, he thought he
had caught glimpses of the Hand of God. If only he could find
Shindo and challenge him whenever possible ...

That was where his frustration had begun.

Shindo was slippery. He was unknown in the world of go,
and he did not come again to the parlor where they'd met. When
he did find him again, Akira had allowed himself to be angered
by Shindo's ignorance of go culture in Japan. They'd both said
unkind things, and this time it had been Akira who angrily
challenged Shindo. A challenge which resulted in a complete
and humiliating public loss for Akira.

Their last informal battle.

It had been difficult for Akira to swallow his pride to
approach his new rival after that, but he forced himself to
admit that perhaps the idea of Shindo making a good living as a
professional player had not been so farfetched or so
disrespectful after all. He obviously had the talent if not
the discipline or the exposure that a pro needed. Both of
those things could be acquired, though, and Akira felt more
than a little ashamed of himself for being so hard on the other

He'd tried to explain all of this to Shindo ... to ask him
for another game or two on the surface.

Of course, what he'd really been asking for was ...
friendship. A pleasant rivalry. Someone whose skill he could
respect. Someone his own age with whom to talk go and play go
and just to be around.

That's why it had hurt so badly when Shindo had refused;
had declared his intention not to play against him again.

Enraged, Touya Akira had spent the next several months
training and preparing and scheming to be sure that he met and
defeated Shindo at least once. The Kaio Jr High Go Club was a
hateful place full of petty scheming and terrible jealousy, but
he'd overcome all of it and even managed to talk the teacher
into making him third board, the position that Shindo had
inexplicably landed in for his own school team.

He'd never been so disappointed in his life. The game had
started out well enough, but only fifteen hands in, Shindo's
face had taken on a fierce determination and ...

And ...

And he had begun to play very badly.

Despite his confusion and bitter disappointment, the
Kaio/Haze team match had ended with a 3/0 victory for Kaio.

The strange thing was that Shindo had seemed truly
regretful of his loss, as if he hadn't deliberately thrown the
game for his own hidden reasons.

That should have been the end of it. Touya Akira should
then have turned away and proceeded with his own plans to
train, and to rise in the world of professional go. Forgetting
an opponent like Shindo, however, had proved to be harder than
he'd ever dreamed. He did his best not to be interested in the
reports he heard of Shindo and his rapid rise through the ranks
of the insei. He'd denied any interest in the boy who had
treated him like such a fool.

Ogata-sensei in particular seemed to take great pleasure
in pointing out to him how Shindo was following him more and
more closely every day; walking the same path that he himself
had taken only one year ago.

The pro exams.

Other signs of his mysterious strength were all around. A
few months after Shindo, then only the sixteenth ranked insei,
had very narrowly lost to a professional player in the last
Young Lions Tournament, Akira's old club teacher from Kaio had
brought him a kifu of one of Shindo's least known and most
baffling games. A match against the young Korean Hon Suyon.
Days after that, he saw on the Go Association's website that
the pro exams were going very well for Shindo. He was one of
only four undefeated players going into game ten.

It seemed as if everyone were beginning to talk about how
much Shindo had improved over the course of mere months.

That was when Ochi had appeared before him.

It had seemed like the perfect opportunity to ascertain
once and for all the true strength of Shindo Hikaru. Ochi was
an insei like Shindo; undefeated ... like Shindo. Ochi's goal
of passing the pro exams undefeated was definitely in line with
Akira's goal of finding out exactly how far his only true rival
had come in the two years since his twin defeats. When he'd
gently approached Ochi about the current level of Shindo's
play, the insei had been furious; enraged by the mere
suggestion that Shindo was worth worrying about. The spoiled
young player claimed that he'd never been defeated by the
fourteen-year-old, and did not understand why such a fuss was
being made over him. He vehemently rejected Akira's offer to
help him prepare for the last day of the exams; the scheduled
time for his battle with that dark horse.

He'd cursed a time or two over that lost chance, but in
the weeks that followed, something had changed Ochi's mind.
Something had happened to shake his confidence. Something had
indeed changed in Shindo, and he was leaving a trail of
surprised and disheartened opponents behind him. Ochi wanted
Akira's help in preparing for the battle to come.

The truly strange part of the story was that Ochi had
already qualified for the pros. He'd made it to the last three
weeks of the exam with only one defeat and could easily afford
to lose the Shindo game without his position being the least
bit threatened. Why, then, was he so determined to win his
final match?

If he was reading his new patron correctly, the boy was
hiding a great deal of insecurity under that unfriendly and
competitive mask. He felt threatened by Shindo in a way that
even Akira never had.

Well, good, he had thought. Best to fan the flames.
Akira had resolved to put the fear of Shindo into this young
and talented player on the first night of their lessons
together. He'd used every tactic he could think of, fair or
otherwise in the three weeks given to him to make sure that
Ochi would match up well against his own greatest opponent.

He wasn't proud of that fact now.

Perhaps it had served him right after all that the player
that he'd personally molded into his avatar against Shindo --
his ruler to measure the other boy's current strength -- had
turned on Akira; had, in anger or shame, refused to recreate or
even record the game for him. Akira had to admit that the
whole experience had left a very sour taste in his mouth. Had
he been wrong to be so indirect in his dealings?


After all, Shindo seemed for the most part like a
forthright and open person. A little evasive about the source
of his abilities, but otherwise an ordinary teen-ager and a
friendly one at that.


"Hmm? Sorry, Father. What is it?"

Japan's Meijin smiled. "Is something on your mind, Akira?
Your last three moves have been ... unfocused."

He looked down at the goban and frowned. "Against any
other opponent I can afford to let my thoughts wander for three
turns, but against you, father, it's suicide."

"It's not like you, son. You have more concentration than
most players twice your age."

Akira bowed from his kneeling position, his hair brushing
past his chin. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean any disrespect.
It's just ..."

"Shindo Hikaru?"

He looked up startled. "How ... ? Why do you ... ?"

"Really, Akira. For two years I've watched you worry over
that boy. Is he such an enigma? I told you once that a love
of the game and a dedication to work were more important than
talent. You, my only son, are truly blessed with all three.
From everything I've been able to learn about this Shindo boy,
he too is blessed with a large measure of talent, but it has
been a short time since he learned the game. The level of his
dedication and love have not yet been tested. It may be that
you and he will some day compete on the same level, but I will
say this. That boy has the power to either motivate you to
your best strength or confuse you as you've never allowed
anyone else to do. In go, skill can only take you so far. If
you lose the emotional battle, the game too is lost."

He looked again at the goban; the board that he and his
father had placed millions of stones upon since he'd begun
learning go at the age of two. "I just ..." Would his father
think him petty if he knew the truth? About the lengths he
would go to? Had gone to with Ochi? "I just wish someone
would tell me how strong Shindo really is. I hear so many
different stories and I don't know who to believe."

"Have you asked Shindo?"

"The last time we spoke he said ..."

His father was not an impatient man, but he could sense
when what his son needed was a prompt. "Yes?"

"He said that someday he'd catch me. I can't imagine why
he said that when ... when a year before that he had beaten me
so quickly. And the time that I went to his school go club he
... he said that he wouldn't play me again until he was ready.
He refused to even listen to me, and now ... Now he's passed
the pro exams, and I just ... don't know what to think. Two
years ago he seemed surprised that there *was* such a thing as
a professional go player."

"His existence weighs heavily upon your mind. I
understand that. You must do what you can to find peace. You
say that he's passed the examination?"

"Yes. He won the final round yesterday."

"Then perhaps you should pay him a visit."

"I ... I couldn't. I hardly know him."

"You are never far from Shindo's mind either. I'm sure of
it. As the closest thing you have to a peer in your own age
group, I think it would be entirely appropriate for you to drop
by his home. Perhaps you should take a gift to congratulate
him on his new pro status."

"I couldn't possibly ... I don't even know where he

Rising, Akira's father walked to the phone and began to
dial. "Yes, hello," he said after a short wait, "Touya Kouyo
here. I wonder if you could give me the home address listed
for Shindo Hikaru. Yes, he was an insei, I believe, but I hear
that he placed second in the exams." He wrote quickly on the
pad near the phone's base. "Yes, thank you. Goodbye."

He turned back and the look on his face was kind, but
determined. "You should go," he repeated, as he held out the
small sheet of paper. "You must find your confidence again.
Face this. Whether you or Shindo are the superior player, you
must think only of how to improve your own will and strength.
Put this to rest. Make Shindo into a friend and rival or put
him out of your mind for all time. No more obsession. Do you

"I ... father, I .."

"Do you understand, my son?"

Slowly and reluctantly, he reached for the offered
address. "I understand," he admitted. "I'll go."


The hardest part was finding an appropriate gift. Flowers
certainly didn't seem right for one fourteen-year-old boy to
give another, and chocolates were rejected for the same reason.
Neither of them were old enough for sake, and he didn't know
what sort of snack foods Shindo liked. In the end, he found
himself at a bookstore in the games section. His choice was
either perfectly appropriate, or very ironic, but he couldn't
resist the large hardbound volume full of the kifu of Shusaku
Hinonbo. Shindo seemed to know more than any man alive about
the playing style of the Go Sage, but it was an attractive
book, and the commentary (by an eight dan that Akira did not
know personally) might be interesting to him. The clerk seemed
more than happy to gift wrap his purchase, and before he knew
it, he was reading the address in his father's neat hand to an
anonymous taxi driver.

He must have read the kanji on the Shindo family mailbox
eighty times before proceeding down the walkway of the small
but neatly landscaped home. It would be the first time he'd
seen Shindo since the Young Lion's tournament, and the first
time they'd spoken since the day of his internet challenge to

On both of these occasions, he had been ... his behavior
could have been interpreted as ...

He didn't know what it was about Shindo that seemed so
frequently to bring out the worst in him. This whole thing
might be easier if the door was slammed in his face.
Encouraged by the prospect, he knocked softly.

The person who opened the door could only have been
Shindo's mother. She was pretty and plain, and just beginning
to turn plumpish. Her hair was pulled back, and she wore the
slippers and apron of a traditional housewife. "Yes? Can I
help you?"

It didn't matter how long you were in the public eye, who
your father was, how many tournaments you played in, or how
many times you were photographed for 'Weekly Go Magazine,' some
social situations will always leave you stuttering. "Ah ...
Excuse me, but ... is Shindo here?"

"Hikaru? Are you one of his friends from that go club?"

"Go club?" Hadn't Shindo left his school club months ago
to pursue the status of a pro?

"Yes, the one in the Go Association building downtown.
Hikaru is there every Sunday. He's very interested in go.
There are a lot of other children there, and he likes to
challenge them."

The Association building? Was it possible that the mother
of Shindo Hikaru didn't know what an insei was? "Uh, no,
sometimes I play there, but I'm not ..."

Mother Shindo smiled at his shyness and invited him
inside. He crossed the threshold mechanically and looked
around. The inside was much like the outside; modest but very
clean. "Is Shindo here? I ..."

"Hikaru!" she called musically. "There's a boy here to
see you!"

There were muffled noises from the upper level.

She smiled at her guest. "I swear. It always sounds like
he's arguing with someone." She took a deep breath. "Hikaru!
Come down!"

Upstairs a door opened and someone took to the steps.
Shindo Hikaru appeared around the corner of the first landing,
and his eyes met Akira's. He froze, understandably shocked by
the presence of the young two dan.

"Hikaru, you have a guest."

"Touya, I ... um ..."

Akira couldn't fault the other boy. He too seemed
momentarily to have lost his power of speech. He and his
sometime adversary stared at each other as Shindo's domestic
mother rattled on about finding them some snacks. Needing to
break the spell, Akira bowed stiffly to the boy on the landing
who smiled tightly and continued down the stairs.

Removing his shoes, Akira allowed himself to be ushered
into the parlor and onto the couch by Mrs Shindo before she
disappeared into her kitchen and began producing cooking
noises. In the parlor, however, the silence stretched on.

Finally Shindo intelligently said "So ... um ..."

Smiling at his own awkward foolishness, Akira held up the
bag from the bookstore. "I wanted to congratulate you," he
said quietly. "On passing the exams, and ..."

"Ah, thank you very much, Touya. I ... look forward to
playing against you."

"You do?" Akira blurted in surprise.. "Really? I mean,
you ..."

"Well, yes. I really ... I've been looking forward to it.
Training very hard, so ... I hope I won't disappoint you

"Ah, well ..." Akira wasn't sure how to respond. He
*had* been greatly disappointed by Shindo the last time they'd
played, but sometimes that game seemed so much like a dream
that it was hard to believe it had ever really happened. So
many pros and strong insei and amateurs were beginning to take
notice of Shindo as they had taken notice of Akira himself a
few years ago.

And now they were both to be pros.

He was still holding the book. He held it out a little
further. "This is for you."

"Ah, thank you. I don't really know ..." He took the
handle of the plastic bag slowly and looked indecisively at the
whole arrangement. "Should I ..."

"Please open it. I hope you like it."

He removed the bag clumsily, and Akira mentally kicked
himself for leaving it in the store plastic. That was class.
"No, it's alright if you tear the paper."

Shindo smiled sheepishly and wedged his thumbnail under
one of the seams. It was the work of seconds to free the
contents from their bright packaging. "The Kifu of Shusaku
Hinonbo," he read. His face lit with excitement. "Ah! There
are Kifu?"

"But ... surely you've seen these before! I mean, your

"Um, of course I've seen some of Shusaku's moves, but-" he
waved his hands in front of him as if to ward off some kind of
interrogation. "It'll be good to see some of his older games.
I mean ... Thank you."

Akira was truly puzzled. "Older ... games?"

"Ah, well ..."

He looked relieved when his mother came back with a rice
ball and tea tray. "Mom, this is Touya Akira. He's a second
dan. Um ... a go pro."

She set the tray down with an efficient movement and
smiled. "Oh! So there are pros who are Hikaru's age? I see
now why you were able to pass your exam. I'm still a little
worried, though. I wish you'd work harder on your English and
math." She turned to Akira conspiratorially. "He's gotten
much better at history, though. His teacher was very pleased."

Shindo seemed more than a little embarrassed. "Uh, Touya,
this is my mother,"

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Shindo-san."

"Such a polite young man! You two get along, please. I'm
going to start dinner." She bustled back to the kitchen and
the sounds of food preparation resumed.

Akira smiled. It must be nice to be cared for by someone
so cheerful. Clueless, perhaps, but pleasant and obviously
affectionate. "I don't suppose you'd like to ..."

Shindo looked interested, but he also seemed to be
struggling with himself.

"Like to ... have a game? Just for practice."

Shindo looked up and to his right. He concentrated on a
spot between himself and the wall. It wasn't as if he was
considering so much as ... listening. Akira felt irrationally
shy for a moment, as if he were intruding on something

And then the moment ended and Shindo was smiling at him
cheerfully. "Okay! Lets go upstairs."

He felt a strange sort of elation as he rose to his feet.
Hikaru poked his head through a door and yelled "Mom! We're
going to my room."

"Alright, but don't make a mess." she answered.

The mysterious Shindo Hikaru tucked the book under one arm
and balanced the tea tray on the other as he pointed the way
toward the stairs. Akira wasn't sure what he'd been expecting,
but he was fairly sure Shindo's bedroom wasn't it. There was a
mid-priced goban on the floor covered with stones, but no other
indication that this was the bedroom of the hottest young
professional go player in Japan. No trophies or exhibition
ads, just photographs of family and friends and a couple of
anime posters.

The goban displayed a game just moving into yose. "Oh! I
don't want to interrupt if you're in the middle of something."

"That's alright. I was losing anyway."

Shindo set down the tray while Akira studied the board
more carefully. The black stones were well placed, but the
white stones ... they bordered on brilliance. "Who were you

"Umm, myself!" Quickly and deliberately, Shindo erased
the evidence on the goban before Akira could really understand
it. Almost as if ...

"Shindo, what's ... going on?"

"What do you mean?" He was a terrible actor. If Akira
hadn't already suspected that something was strange about the
board, Shindo's manic defensiveness would have put the seed of
doubt into his mind by itself.

"You said you were losing. How can you lose against

"I lose against myself all the time."

"Then you win just as often."

"Oh, no. I lose every day. I've never won yet." He
finished separating the stones and set the filled pottery jars
on the goban. "Only one pillow. I've never had another player
up here. You use this one, and I'll use the one from the bed."

Suddenly it seemed safer to lose his strange suspicions in
the mundane details of beginning a match. He positioned the
pillow at the distance he preferred, then poured himself a cup
of tea. It smelled sweet. Shindo's mother might be strange,
but she knew how to blend a good tea. The first sip gave him
courage. He thought of the white hand on the board that had
just been cleared. "Shindo, play like you did when we met.
Like your first tournament with the Haze club. I've been eager
to play that Shindo again." Eager and scared. Still, he'd
found the courage to say it. He looked up from his tea to see
Shindo shaking, his hands clenched into fists. "Shindo? Did I
say something wrong?"

"Two years," Shindo muttered. "Two years, and I've worked
so hard, and I play every day and get better, but ..."

"Shindo, are you alright?" The eyes that met his were
angry or hurt, but certainly full of some strong emotion.

The cup of black stones was thrust towards him. "Play!"
his opponent snapped.

"Shindo, I ..."

"Just play! One game. On one condition."

"What is it?"

"We play this one game, and when I beat you-"

"Really, Shindo, I-"

"No. It's a bet. If I win this one game, you won't bug
me to play you like this if we play professionally. You won't
challenge me like this in any official matches and you have to
promise that no matter how badly you think I'm doing, you can't
ever ever look at me like you're disappointed, or tell me to
stop messing around or be frustrated with me ever again.

"Shindo ... Yes. Fine. I promise. I don't really
understand this, but I'll respect your wishes." He took the
offered stones. "Should we nigiri?"

"No. Just play."

Feeling as if he had reached another critical point in his
life, Akira placed his first stone.

His opponent looked up again. Up and left towards the
bed. Into that middle distance between something and nothing.
Then he looked down at the goban and placed a white stone.

He felt a thrill that even his hardest matches hadn't
created in him for some time, and decided quickly on a second
hand. Shindo's play was rapid. Always mere seconds after his
own. Twelve hands in, Akira recognized the style. It was most
like ... like 'Sai.' Like the internet player that had beaten
him so soundly last June. What had that insei said? 'As if
Shusaku Hinonbo had learned modern strategy?'

He began to consider his moves more carefully. During his
game with 'Sai,' he'd been absolutely convinced that his
opponent was the Shindo that he'd been truly chasing all this
time; had felt again as if he were watching himself cut off at
every turn by a small hand that clumsily held a stone between
thumb and forefinger. Why was it that Shindo didn't like
playing like this? Even after fifteen hands Akira was already
exhilarated and totally convinced that he couldn't win. Why on
earth would Shindo be reluctant to bring a strength like this
to the world of the pros? Was there something he could do to
convince him that young players of this ability level would
rejuvenate the world of Japanese go? The world that he loved
so much?

Twenty hands, thirty hands, forty hands passed. He was
proud of himself for keeping up as well as he had, but had been
unable to gain any ground against Shindo's impenetrable white
wall. He knew he should concede, but to finally be able to
play against this amazing opponent was what he'd dreamed of for
a long long time and each hand that he forced white to defend
rather than attack he considered a triumph all its own. He
heard himself laughing with the heady rush of falling stones
and looked up only to see a mild look of trance-like
concentration on his opponent's face. It was a shock. Shindo
wasn't enjoying this game as he was. If there was one thing he
admired in the games he *had* seen Shindo play, it was that he
always brought a fierce concentration and deep enjoyment with
him. But now ...

He studied the board. He was too far behind to ever come
back now. As much as he wanted to see more of 'Sai's' moves,
he knew this needed to stop. He sensed it somehow. Shindo
loved the game. Shindo had been eager to play against him. He
had somehow killed that eagerness by putting stipulations on
this 'friendly' match.

He had to puzzle this out. Under cover of deliberating
over his next move, he considered what he knew.

Shindo Hikaru had two distinct hands. The hand that had
beaten Akira in his favorite parlor was one. From the clumsy
way he'd held the stones that day, he could guess that Shindo
really hadn't played much if at all before that game. Strange
as it seemed, perhaps Shindo had needed to run before he could
crawl. For whatever reason, he had started out as a brilliant
player able to perfectly imitate the style of Shusaku Hinonbo.
There had been no learning hand. No handicaps or neighborhood
education seminars or permissive old men in salons for that
Shindo Hikaru. Just waking up one day with a firm grasp of
strategy and territory and the relationship of black stone to
black line to white stone. A prodigy. A way of knowing
exactly how the greatest go player of all time would react to
every opponent. He couldn't deny that unfailing instinct that
had twice defeated him. Three times if you counted the
internet game which he was now certain had indeed been against
this opponent.

That was Shindo's white hand, and it was formidable

But how would the awakening of ability like that effect a
person? Especially one who loved the game as much as Shindo
seemed to? Wouldn't it create a desire to stop playing as if
you were another? Wouldn't it cause in a prodigy like this boy
a burning need to develop his own style? If Akira had been in
that position, wouldn't he feel exactly that way?

Shindo's black hand.

Through the third captain incident and a series of
accidents and kifu, he had come to know this weaker Shindo too,
if weaker were really the right word. From his first official
tournament with that Haze team to the Young Lions tournament,
the Hon Suyon game and finally Ochi, Akira had seen that black
hand grow. It had grown just like any other beginning player's
hand in gradual steps, but as should be expected of a player
capable of taking on the abilities of an ancient Hinonbo, it
had grown at an astounding rate until that black hand of its
own accord had gained a record of 24/3 in the latest pro exam.
Shindo was justifiably proud of his black hand's growth, and it
had, by itself, brought him into the spotlight of the go world.
This, then, was the mysterious strength of Shindo Hikaru.

And from Shindo's own admission, Akira guessed that the
white hand and the black hand battled nightly. Of course,
Shindo claimed that he'd yet to win while playing against
himself, but how could a teen-ager expect to defeat a 150 year
old master even in his own mind after only two years of
experience. The truly amazing thing about Shindo really did
seem to be his capacity to grow rapidly and well.

"I have lost," Akira admitted. "You win. I'll never mind
playing against your true hand again."


"Your ghost. Didn't you call it that? My obsession with
it will end here. I'd like to see now how far the 'real you'
has caught up to me. Isn't that what you promised me last
summer? That if I kept chasing your ghost, the real you would
catch me someday? Has that day come?"

Hikaru shook his head and smiled in gradual realization.
"Not yet, but I'm working hard! It won't be long now!"

Akira beamed at the enemy and the friend that he believed
he was finally beginning to understand. He cleared the black
stones from the goban and handed the ceramic cup to Shindo.
"Show me," he said. "Play."

"Touya-san ... Are you sure? I mean, I'm not really ..."


Shindo nodded. The love for the game igniting the spark
in his eyes once more. "Alright then!" He scooped the white
stones into their cup and passed it to Akira. "Nigiri?"

"No, just play. Do you want a handicap?"

"No way!"

Both boys laughed, the world of professional go forgotten
if only for a moment.



"Is it alright if I want to ... challenge your ghost
sometimes too? As long as it's just a friendly match?"

"Um ... well, that's ..."

"Well, it's not fair if only you get stronger playing
'Sai,' is it?"

"How did you ...?" Once again he looked up into that
baffling space above his left shoulder. Wasn't he taking this
double persona thing just a bit too far? "Well ... no. I
guess it's not really fair. Sometimes it's alright. If you
want to lose so badly, I mean."

"Someday I'll catch up to your ghost, Shindo."

His answering smile was just a little too triumphant and
vicious. "Oh, I hope so. I really do."

The new game began in earnest. 'I did it, father,' he
thought. 'I put the doubts behind me. If you aren't careful,
I'll achieve the Hand of God before you.'

He returned his full attention to teaching Shindo a