It had been raining all night and day, and the air was damp. Shindou Hikaru hated the way it seemed to cling to his skin, cold and boring and wet.
Sai would probably have something poetic to say about the rain - in fact, he'd already said this morning that it 'painted all nature one shade richer in colour'. Hikaru couldn't see the good in that. So what if the rain made the green potted plants outside a darker shade of green, and the asphalt road a deeper shade of grey? They were still green and grey as far as he was concerned.
At least while Sai was admiring the rain, he couldn't ask to play Go. Hikaru had no intention of wasting a perfectly good Saturday afternoon on that stupid, boring board game.
"Hikaru!" reproached the ghost, looking as if he were about to cry. "Go is not stupid or boring."
"Right. Whatever." Hikaru rolled his eyes. Inside, he fought off another wave of nausea. Dealing with Sai was harder on the stomach than living on school cafeteria food. "Stop getting depressed. We can't go to the Go salon with all this rain."
Sai wiped away a stray tear that had begun to trickle down his cheek, and looked at Hikaru curiously. "What are you planning to do?"
"Dunno. It's not like we can go anywhere in this weather anyway." It was a pain, but at least it meant that he had an excuse for not playing Go. Hikaru quickly squashed that thought before Sai picked it up and started to get upset again.
"You could invite Akari over."
"I already spend too much time with her. Girls are boring." He made a face, then squinted suspiciously at Sai's tolerant smile. "Let's do something fun, okay? Mom won't be home until evening, so we can do anything we like."
"Well, we can do anything I like," he amended, walking over to the TV cabinet. "And I'm going to play Mortal Kombat, so you should just look at the rain or daydream about Go or something."
"Ooh, are you going to look at the people in the box?" Sai flitted over to Hikaru's side, the flap of his outer robe passing through the corner of the sofa as he did so. The ghost preferred to walk around obstacles like a normal person, rather than through them; but when he wasn't paying attention he'd pass too close to the furniture and Hikaru would see a pale image of Sai's clothing superimposed on the upholstery. It was freaky but kinda cool.
"It's called a television." Hikaru reached into the top drawer and pulled out his Playstation console. "And no, I'm not going to watch it. I'm going to play a fighting game, see?"
Setting up the Playstation took a long time with a ghost asking you questions at every step. Sai wanted to know what each button on the controllers did, and how the wires hooked up, and what wires were. ("They – transmit electricity. Like lightning, only smaller. No, I don't know how they put electricity into wires. Arrrgh, what does it matter? Plug them in and the game works. Stop asking dumb questions.")
Sai kept quiet for only a few moments before he asked about the games stored in the TV cabinet. Hikaru showed him his copies of Gran Turismo, and Tekken, and then, with a conscious air of having done more than enough towards satisfying ghostly inquisitiveness for the day, he loaded up Mortal Kombat.
Even then it was difficult to concentrate. Sai kept getting excited about every little thing, from the opening credits to the background music ("That sounds so strange, Hikaru; we never had any music like that back in Torajirou's time."). Hikaru resorted to ignoring Sai's voice as best as he could, and telling the ghost to be quiet whenever he got too annoying.
Sai clasped his hands in excitement as a fireball went spiralling towards Hikaru's character. "Ooh, what is that? What is that, Hikaru?"
"That's the enemy's special move. But my special move is stronger, so it's okay." Except that he seemed to be losing this round. He punched the controller buttons frantically for another minute, and stared in dismay as his life meter ran out. "Arrgh, now I've lost.
"I'm sorry. Am I distracting you from playing well?" Sai sat cross-legged on the ground next to the cabinet, looking guiltily at Hikaru.
"It would be good if you could shut up for a while," Hikaru said, choosing the 'Continue' option onscreen.
Surprisingly, Sai was silent for several minutes. It was so quiet that when Sai finally spoke again, Hikaru's attention wavered. Right in the middle of trying to avoid an enemy attack that ended up being a critical hit.
"Watch out, Hikaru! He's about to get you!"
His character collapsed to the ground with a keening noise. Hikaru spun around to glare at Sai. "Can't you go away?" he snapped. "You're such a nuisance! I wish Grandpa had burned that lame old goban."
He felt his stomach beginning to lurch just before he caught a glimpse of Sai's eyes, wide and stricken. The words GAME OVER flashed across the television screen in bold.
"Just leave me alone," he said. Then because he didn't quite know what to do, he turned and stomped upstairs to his bedroom.
It was a horrible afternoon. Hikaru lay on his bed facing the wall and tried to ignore the mute, miserable huddle by the window. This wasn't at all an easy task, even when Hikaru grabbed a bunch of old Weekly Jump issues and tried to concentrate as hard as possible on the adventures of Yu-Gi-Oh.
Even when he was deliberately not looking at Sai, he could feel him. Definitely in his stomach, which wasn't sick enough to throw up (maybe he'd developed a tolerance to Sai's depression attacks over time), but queasy enough to make Hikaru uncomfortable. And likely to stay uncomfortable for a while longer.
Maybe he could even feel Sai in his heart. But that was so ewww, it sounded like something Akari or a girl would say. Better to say in his chest. If Sai's thousand-year-old ghost sorrow could make Hikaru throw up repeatedly, it stood to reason that it could make Hikaru's chest feel tight and painful, as if something had bunched up inside.
He already wished he hadn't yelled at Sai. But so what? It was the ghost's fault for making him lose the fight. Hikaru's chest seemed to hurt even more at that thought, so he lay on his side and went back to reading Weekly Jump.
It took a great deal of effort to keep doing that until five o'clock, when his mother came home and knocked on the door of the room, asking him to put away the Playstation console. Hikaru shuffled downstairs and cleaned up. The television screen had gone flat and dead in the meantime, and Hikaru viciously pulled the plug on it.
His mother looked worried and decided to let him have ramen for dinner. But he didn't feel like having any. He felt ill. Throughout dinnertime Sai hovered in the background as usual, which irritated Hikaru. Why did the ghost have to keep following him around? Couldn't they at least hang out in different rooms for a change? Just because Sai lived inside his consciousness didn't mean they had to be together all the time.
The way he was picking at his food didn't escape his mother's notice. When the meal was over, she said: "Are you well? Maybe I had better take you to the hospital."
"I'm all right," he mumbled.
She placed her hand on his forehead. "You don't seem to have a temperature. Maybe you had better go to bed early tonight, and we'll see how you feel tomorrow."
He went up to his room and found Sai standing by the window again. Hikaru looked at the ghost and sighed. "What am I supposed to do with you?"
"I'm sorry," Sai said unhappily. "I know you never asked for this – and indeed, I do not know what God is looking for in bringing us together. I will try to be less of an intrusion, I promise."
"I didn't mean what I said earlier. About burning the goban." He shifted uncomfortably when Sai looked up at him with those sad-but-a-little-hopeful, luminous eyes.
Dealing with the ghost was difficult. Whenever Hikaru had a fight with Akari he could just ignore her and go home, and the next day things would be all right again.
Sai was around all the time, and he couldn't just be ignored. But it wasn't like Hikaru hated it or anything.
He turned and stared out the window, feeling awkward. "I dunno, it's nice having someone besides Akari to hang out with. And you help me with my history tests and stuff. So I guess I'd be sorry if you were gone."
Outside, the rain had stopped. It'd rained so long and hard that the whole world looked sopping wet, but even Hikaru liked the way it made everything look clean and fresh.
"Hikaru, Hikaru." He glanced up, and saw that Sai had the gentle smile he sometimes had that reminded Hikaru that Sai was an adult after all. Well, in a manner of speaking. "It's okay. I also enjoy being with you, in this era."
"You do?" Hikaru looked up at him doubtfully.
"Well," Sai bowed his head and pouted, "it would be nice if we could play Go more often."
Hikaru groaned, but mainly out of habit. "We'll try to go to the Go salon tomorrow. In the meantime you can talk to me about Go if you like," he offered. "Like, those games you played with Shusaku and everything."
It was almost worrying how predictable Sai was, Hikaru thought, watching the ghost clap his hands and radiate little pink hearts. He was grateful for it, though. Having Sai around was complicated enough as it was.
Still, it wasn't a bad sort of complication.