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Provocation Beyond Reasonable Doubt

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In all honesty, Yeong-ha has never really thought about Touya Akira that much. Over the times they met the only thing that has really registered about Touya is ‘skilled go-player’ and perhaps some vague version of ‘pretty’. They haven’t actually played that many games against each other, and whenever they met in passing at some international tournament, Yeong-ha has always been much more interested in other members of the Japanese team. Because while Touya is all ice and intensity and skill, Shindou is all anger and fire and passion and for Yeong-ha that is infinitely more entertaining. He got some marvelous games just by riling Shindou up and facing those angry eyes over the go board. And later there was Yashiro, who is just as easily riled but in different areas. Sure, Yashiro’s go is pretty interesting, but most interesting is a riled Yashiro without clothes and Yeong-ha has taken gleefully advantage of this fact. All in all, life was pretty good for a while and most international games, at least among/for the younger generation of players, always turned out splendid.

And then they suddenly didn’t. Because Shindou, after winning a couple of their games, has suddenly grown up. Things that would have previously sent him flying into a rage no longer make him twitch. He has gotten more serious and much calmer and now has much more trust in his go. It isn’t that he is any less fun to play, he still plays beautifully unpredictable go, but Yeong-ha feels the lack of all that anger almost like a physical presence. Shindou’s lack of hostility is actually bringing Yeong-ha off balance in their games on a level he can’t even explain. And if Shindou’s newfound zen was not enough, Yashiro has the nerve to break up with him. Break up, as if they were in any way dating. As if this was anything more than some temporary thing, and as if Yeong-ha was actually learning Japanese for any other reason than that it probably can be useful somehow.

To say that all this has put Yeong-ha in a bad mood would be an understatement. Yashiro is also the only reason Yeong-ha agreed to come when the Japanese go institute invited some Korean players to a three day long conference with friendship games. Because he really is too busy to take part in a tournament with friendship games, but not showing up could maybe give Yashiro the false impression that Yeong-ha is in any way avoiding him or licking his wounds and that would be truly unacceptable. Besides, even though Yashiro claims indifference, Yeong-ha has noticed his obvious jealousy when Yeong-ha flirts with other people, so he plans to go to Japan and seduce every woman attending the conference. He wants to make a point: he obviously prefers women and Yashiro should be grateful that they ever had sex at all. Whatever delusions Yashiro has about the nature of their relationship, Yeong-ha plans to crush them.

Which is how Yeong-ha is matched up against Touya Akira in a highly anticipated match that Yeong-ha isn’t really anticipating at all. He is not in the mood for Touya’s go no matter how skillful it is. So maybe he isn’t giving the go board his full attention as he and Touya carefully map out their territory in the beginning. At least not until one of Touya’s stones slaps down and totally catches him off guard. Yeong-ha does know Touya Akira’s go. Touya is, after all, a brilliant player and one you pay attention to. Yeong-ha has seen several of his games and sometimes has been duly impressed. But for the same reason Yeong-ha also knows what kind of player Touya Akira is not, and this hand is not something he’d ever expect Touya to play. The surprise actually makes him lift his eyes off the board long enough to realize two things. 1. Touya is not actually looking at the board, Touya is looking at him. 2. After all this time and the games they have played so far, he has actually managed to piss Touya Akira off. All Yeong-ha has ever seen from Touya before, even during their most intense games, has been calm. However, this actually unintentional snub against his go has managed to get under Touya’s skin in ways Yeong-ha has never seen before. And Yeong-ha starts really paying attention.

For the duration of the game he actually forgets Shindou’s new found serenity and Yashiro’s new found indifference and is absolutely focused on the slugging match he gets in to on the board. It is a pretty magnificent game and unexpected enough that Yeong-ha feels himself grinning trough some fights while the crowd is gasping in the background. He ends up losing, which is not surprising. One cannot be distracted when playing Touya, not even in the beginning. But the match has actually managed to change his mood for the better, and when faced with a tad flushed and a bit disheveled Touya during the after-game discussion his thoughts do actually for the first time touch upon the subject of sex and Touya in the same sentence. Upset Touya is clearly a superior Touya. And if Yashiro hated him flirting with girls, then flirting with Touya would probably drive him to apoplexy.

It isn’t a serious thought. This is Touya Akira, for god’s sake; he probably wouldn’t understand innuendo if it was explained to him using a dictionary and a series of in depth lectures with background and illustrated examples. He will without a doubt marry some girl whom he will politely bow to every time they go to their different bedrooms and if there are still miracles in the world he will perhaps have one child. Still, it isn’t an unpleasant thought to try corrupting Touya a bit and maybe see if he could make him flush like that again, and at the banquet that night he intentionally seeks Touya out.

He quickly realizes that this is a terrible idea, since that unfortunately means that he also runs in to Shindou and Yashiro. Shindou is relaxed and without even an ounce of hostility and he spends most of his time ribbing Touya for his unconventional play during the opening stages. Yashiro is in the background, quietly refusing to meet Yeong-ha’s eyes. In less than an hour Yeong-ha decides that he has had enough. It is time to do something productive. Inviting Touya to his room to ‘play’ can end in two ways. Either Touya will understand the innuendo and will react accordingly, which promises to be amusing, or he will not understand the innuendo and will take it as challenge to a game. It is not improbable that Touya will respond favorably to this challenge and thus give Yeong-ha an interesting game plus a reason to not be in the same room as either Shindou or Yashiro. Their very presence is making him grind his teeth right now and he can always wait with seducing all the women in the room until tomorrow.

So he smiles and puts his hand on Touya’ shoulder, leaning close.

“It was a very engaging game.” he murmurs. “Why don’t we go play another one? My room is free.”

He chooses to speak in Japanese and purposefully mixes up the verbs. He is pleased with how dirty it sounds.

Touya, sadly, does not take any heed of the innuendo. His eyes narrow for a moment but he seems to dismiss the entire thing offhand. That in itself is not surprising. Neither is the fact that Yashiro’s fingers tighten so hard around his glass that it threatens to break (well, it may not be surprising, but it is still intensely satisfying). What is surprising, however, is Shindou’s reaction. If Yeong-ha is startled when he hears glass shattering, it is nothing compared to when he turns around and meets Shindou’s eyes. Because Shindou Hikaru, who has been polite, calm and unengaged towards him in all their meetings lately, clearly wants to punch him. Really, seriously wants to punch him in the face. Shindou is obviously not paying attention to the glass he dropped. He simply grabs Touya’s arm and pulls him backward, dislodging Yeong-ha’s hand in the process, eyes hostile. And Yeong-ha suddenly remembers some whispered rumors going around that he hasn’t been paying attention to, about Touya and Shindou and their whole rivalry. And something clicks.

Touya does not seem to get it at all though, and he clearly does not like to be manhandled; he turns towards Shindou and yanks his arm free. “Shindou,” he says, his voice changing from bewildered into pissed off, “what the hell are you doing?”

Maybe Touya doesn’t get it, but Yeong-ha does, and he realizes, standing among three people in various stages of outrage, that this probably is the best idea he has ever had.

To say that Yeong-ha’s mood dramatically improves in light of these developments would be the understatement of the year. He smiles pleasantly at Shindou with a greater equilibrium than he has felt in ages. Shindou’s mouth tightens. He is for the moment absolutely ignoring both Touya’s anger and his question, all his focus on Yeong-ha. He smiles without any warmth and slowly and clearly enunciates

“How unfortunate, Touya can’t play you for the moment”

“What do you mean, I can’t play?!”

Yeong-ha is pretty sure that the only thing stopping Touya from doing something drastic to Shindou is the amount of people milling around in the room. As it is, Touya closes his eyes briefly and says,

“Shindou, can I talk to you for a moment. Somewhere else.”

His tone is absolute ice and that does actually get Shindou’s attention. For a minute they seem to be having a whole conversation just with angry looks, and then Shindou shrugs.

“Sure,” he says sulkily. “Whatever.”

Yeong-ha can see the tightness in both their backs as they walk off, and feels that a victory has been won. This is not a Touya he has ever seen before, but it is a remarkably much better model than the usual stiff, formal version. Shindou and Touya walking off do leave him with Yashiro, though, who is looking at him like he just offered to murder kittens. Which is just perfect.

“What the hell are you doing?”

Yashiro is basically grounding out the words, and Yeong-ha smiles without sincerity.

“Why does it matter? I can’t see how that is any of your business.” Yeong-ha manages to avoid ending with “anymore”. Because it was obviously never any of Yashiro’s business and he refuses to sound like some scorned high schooler

Yashiro pales a bit and clutches his glass tighter.

“You asshole,” he says, teeth clenched. “Why do you always-”

He doesn’t finish the sentence. He just stands there, looking angry and hurt, which is obviously excellent. Yeong-ha tries to feel sufficiently happy about this, but all he feels is an angry tightening in his stomach. Suddenly he just wants to leave, but walking away without a word would mean retreating, and that is unacceptable. So he smiles again.

“I’m sorry, I am sure we can find some other time to talk about my general behavioral quirks,” he says mildly. “If you’d excuse me, I need to go and find Touya-san about that game.”

He says it in Korean, even though his Japanese is far superior to Yashiro’s skills in Korean, to make a point. He really is done coddling Yashiro and his issues. Then he turns and leaves.

He stands around in the lobby for a while in indecision. But he is just making himself angry by lingering on… anything, and he really does want that game, especially if he can get it at the expense of Shindou’s peace of mind, so he decides to go hunting for Touya.

He knows that both Shindou and Touya have rooms at the hotel instead of spending the night at home, but as the elevator reaches the floor that the Japanese players reside on, he realizes that he has no idea which room is Touya’s. He considers going down again and asking the reception for Touya’s room number, but Touya’s and Shindou’s totally inability for voice control saves him the trouble. The corridor takes a turn so that he can’t see them when he steps out of the elevator, but they are clearly having a fight just around the corner. Yeong-ha’s respect for Shindou goes up a notch. Not only is he a brilliant go player, but he apparently also has the superpower of making Touya yell in public. He stays still and listens with keen interest. To call it eavesdropping would be unfair, considering that you could probably hear Shindou and Touya in China at this volume. Unfortunately, he catches only the end of the argument.

“…acting like a total irrational idiot. What the hell is wrong with you?!!

Touya’s voice is getting progressively louder as he goes, but Shindou matches him pretty well.

“Wrong with me?! See if I will ever try to do you a favor again, you asshole!! Screw off, I’m going to bed!!”

Considering that it is seven in the evening, this decision seems a bit premature, but seconds later Yeong-ha hears the telltale sound of a door slamming. Immediately after, Touya Akira comes around the corner and walks right into him.

Touya is still clearly angry and off balance and he obviously did not expect Yeong-ha here at all. There is something about an upset and ruffled Touya which makes Yeong-ha want to poke at him a bit, to really ruffle his feathers. But he does have a mission, and it requires getting Touya into his room, which Yeong-ha will not achieve by making him angrier, so he manages to curb his natural impulses.

“Touya-san. I was looking for you,” he just says smoothly. “I apologize, I didn’t mean to disturb you. I just came to ask about that game, but I seem to have put you in an awkward position.”

Touya’s eyes flash and his back straighten. He clearly does not like the implication.

“I’m the one who should apologize,” he says stiffly. “I was the one who walked straight into you. I would like very much to play another game. I should have made that clear in the dining room.”

Yeong-ha smiles pleasantly.

“I’m glad to hear it. How about my room, then? There is perhaps less chance of interruptions.”

He says it a bit pointedly, and for a minute he thinks that was a mistake, considering how Touya’s eyes darken. But then Touya shrugs, accepting.

“If you wish. It’s sure to be an interesting game wherever we are.”

There is a self-assured challenge under all that politeness and he meets Yeong-ha’s eyes straight on. For a minute Yeong-ha forgets both Shindou and Yashiro, because the only thing in his head is Oh, I’m going to decimate you, you arrogant little punk. Touya, he is starting to realize, can be just as infuriating as Shindou in some ways. The thought thrills him.

When they come to his room, he shrugs off his suit jacket and pours himself a glass of wine from the mini bar, offering Touya one too. Admittedly, this is partly just to see if Touya will take his drinking as another insult, but sadly, Touya seems to have regained his footing and just declines with a quirk of the mouth. They settle in front of the board, already set on the floor, and Yeong-ha feels the thrill of anticipation. Ulterior motives or not, he really wants this game, he realizes, as much as he wants to rub that arrogance off Touya’s face.

It is a great game. Despite Touya’s calm facade, he is obviously still upset, and that shines through his game like a beacon. Yeong-ha has played Touya before, has both won and lost, but he has never enjoyed it as shamelessly as he does now. Anger doesn’t makes Touya’s game better, but it does make it different, and even if Yeong-ha is the calm and precise player this time around, he almost gets overwhelmed a couple of times. He wins, but it is a very close thing and he finds himself almost mourning when Touya actually resigns, wanting to get some more fights from their intertwined patterns.

“Thank you for the game,” he says, and means it.

Touya nods, seemingly caught somewhere between displeasure at the loss and genuine appreciation of a good game. “I was careless here,” he says. “I went in too quick.”

Yeong-ha smirks, but can’t dispute the analysis. “I find you much more appealing to play when you are a bit careless.” He says instead. ”Maybe you should try that more often.” Touya, perhaps startled, lets out something between a snort and laugh.

“I find it a bit doubtful that I would rearrange my playing style after your whims, Ko-san,” he says, amused. I am afraid you will have to find someone else to aggravate.”

“Well, there is always Shindou,” Yeong-ha says breezily. “Speaking of which, is that who has been calling your phone repeatedly the last hour?”

Touya gets that pinched look again and looks down on his phone with obvious displeasure. He has kept it on vibration, but during the last part of the game it has been repeatedly giving off buzzing sounds. With an annoyed gesture he brings the phone to his ear.

“Shindou, what is it?” There is a pause. “What do you mean ’where are you?’ What’s it to you?” A sigh. “I went and played a game. What? Yes, of course with him. In his room.” Another pause, during which Yeong-ha can hear Shindou’s loud angry voice from the receiver. “What the hell is with you today?! Why does it matter if I’m in his room? I’m hanging up!” With that, Touya forcefully pushes the end button and stares down at the phone in outrage.

With a start Yeong-ha suddenly remembers what he actually wanted out of this. The game made him forget why he originally wanted Touya here, but now he remembers. He is fairly sure Shindou will be up here in a couple of minutes, maybe with Yashiro in tow, seething with anger. It is absolutely Yeong-ha’s duty to make him even angrier. Sadly, no matter how capable Yeong-ha considers himself to be, he doesn’t think he can convince Touya to make out with him within the nearest five minutes, but there must be other ways. It just demands some quick thinking.

He gets up, taking the wine glass with him, and moves around the board, pretending to look at the game from Touya’s side. But when he is right behind Touya he tips the wine glass so that the wine spills all over Touya’s shirt, staining the white material a faded red. Touya yelps and Yeong-ha curses. He feels he sounds very genuine.

“I really apologize,” he says, scrubbing inefficiently at Touya’s shirt. “That was extremely clumsy of me! Please, give me your shirt. I’ll have it washed. Take one of mine.”

The wine has apparently pulled Touya out from his anger and he immediately defaults to extremely polite. “It’s alright,” he assures. “My room isn’t far. You don’t have to-“

“No, truly,” Yeong-ha says, pulling out a shirt from his closet. “Please.” Touya accepts, probably since it is only polite to accept at this point, and goes into the bathroom to change. Yeong-ha is a bit worried that Shindou will arrive before Touya is done, but luckily, he does not. Touya comes back with the shirt on and sits down in front of the board again, and Yeong-ha snatches the stained shirt from him and puts it under his other dirty laundry. Then he contemplates the scene before him with a great sense of accomplishment. Touya Akira is seated on his floor with messy hair, an untucked shirt that is slightly too big and glaringly obviously not his own and an empty wine glass beside him, where Yeong-ha ‘accidentally’ deposited it when he spilled the wine. Yeong-ha doubts he can make the scene more suggestive without giving Touya a hicky. It is almost a piece of art. Touya, bless him, seems totally unaware. Yeong-ha suspects that Touya has a tendency to switch into tunnel vision, which makes things like these totally zap by his head.

Then, with a beautiful sense of timing there is a very angry bang on the door. It is either Shindou or a very angry member of the room service staff. Yeong-ha opens it with enthusiasm.

Shindou stands outside glaring and furious. Yeong-ha briefly contemplates if Shindou himself actually understands what he is so angry about or if he is just acting on pure instinct. Touya has clearly not caught on. Yashiro is there too, probably trying to calm Shindou down, but he still refuses to look at Yeong-ha, which is absolutely not bothering Yeong-ha at all. Yashiro will not destroy this glorious moment for him. He smiles at Shindou.

”Well, Shindou-san,” he says with relish, “to what do I owe the pleasure?”

Shindou glares some more.

“I heard,” he says through clenched teeth, “that you were playing a game. I just thought I’d come and take a look.”

Then he stares at Yeong-ha with a challenge, like Yeong-ha would deny him entry into the room after such a convincing argument. Luckily for Shindou, Yeong-ha really, really wants him to come into the room, so he only opens the door wide and makes a welcoming gesture. He is seriously considering smacking it closed right in Yashiro’s face, but that would be petty and Yeong-ha is absolutely in no way petty, at all.

Shindou just elbows past him, going into the room. He briefly looks at Touya, opens his mouth and then actually properly looks and freezes. The room is dead silent. Touya turns around when Shindou comes in, obviously still angry, sees Shindou’s face and goes from angry to worried in a second.

“Shindou,” he says, “are you alright?”

Shindou is still frozen; his mouth is open but he doesn’t appear to be able to get any words out. He doesn’t actually seem to be breathing. It is a highly amusing sight.

“Shindou!” Touya says again, a little sharper this time and that does seem to get Shindou out of his paralysis.

“Touya,” he says very, very carefully, the threat of death clearly audible behind the words. ”What happened to your shirt?”

Touya blinks at him and looks down, clearly just remembering his wardrobe change.

Yeong-ha very nearly snickers out loud but manages to contain himself.

“Oh, you can’t blame Touya-san for that,” he says cheerfully. “I am afraid I… made a bit of a mess on the one he was wearing so I gave him one of mine.”

Yashiro chokes in the background, Touya is still staring at Shindou like he is going nuts and Shindou is making the sort of face that makes Yeong-ha sorry that he didn’t bring his camera. If there is a point where it is actually possible to die of rage, Shindou is clearly heading there at max speed.

“He spilled wine on it,” Touya informs Shindou testily because he clearly needs to ruin all good things in life. “What the hell is wrong with you today?!”

Shindou calms a bit with this extra information, but not much, and his voice is rising again. Shindou is really excellent at yelling.

Wine? Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you came here to play go. So what? You come here to play go, and let yourself be plied with alcohol, and then magically lose your shirt?! You don’t find that mildly suspicious?!”

Touya is getting angry again too and while he is obviously trying to moderate his voice, he is clearly failing.

“Why would I find it suspicious?! Suspicious of what? What could a random instance of wine on a shirt possibly mean? This is not any form of, of- go conspiracy!”

Touya is not only angry, he is also pretty clearly bewildered. Yeong-ha wonders if it simply is the fact that they are both men that makes it impossible for him to grasp what Shindou is getting at, or if he simply has been so socially sheltered that the whole situation does not register. While seduction probably isn’t the first thing you consider when another player of your own gender invites you to his room, and while Shindou is clearly oversensitive, Yeong-ha has been throwing innuendos around all night, and most people would have picked up on them sooner or later. In the past it has even been a good way of throwing some of his opponents off balance when he felt so inclined. But Touya seems to be protected simply by the power of oblivion.

Yeong-ha decides to break into the conversation. While Touya and Shindou’s argument promises to be amusing, they have this highly annoying way of being so absolutely focused on each other, even when they are fighting, that you inevitably feel left out. Yeong-ha started all of this to make Shindou look at him with anger again, and it is time to get some payoff.

“Now, Shindou-san,” he says mildly. “I wanted Touya-san to come so I could play a game against him. We haven’t had that much time to play over the years.”

That does succeed in getting Shindou’s attention and there it is again, that look of absolute and total loathing directed right at him. Honestly, Shindou should sell all those emotions on a bottle as a stimulant.

“Shindou, stop being an idiot and let’s just leave.”

That is Yashiro. Yeong-ha pointedly ignores him, and fortunately, Shindou does too.

“The game is right there,” Yeong-ha continues. “You wanted to look at it, right?”

Shindou wobbles, seemingly undecided between picking a fight and looking, but his inherent love for go wins out. For one microsecond Yeong-ha considers just giving this up for a proper game discussion, because it was a very, very good game, but he waves the thought away. It is not every day you get this kind of opportunity.

“You lost?” Shindou says. It is aimed at Touya, and he almost sounds personally betrayed at the revelation. “You idiot, you went in too strong in the center. What the hell where you thinking?!

Prying Touya and Shindou’s attention from each other is clearly hard work.

Touya, who not ten minutes ago made the exact same judgment of the game, is flaring up, but Yeong-ha quickly cuts in.

“That probably lost him the game,” he agrees before Shindou and Touya can go off at each other again. “But it was still a clean play, it just needed a better follow-up. I must say, Shindou, it is pretty nice not to have to deal with your sloppy defenses.”

Which is a total lie, because Shindou’s defenses are always very interesting, but that is not really relevant here.

Touya makes an insulted sound. Oh sure, innuendoes don’t even register with him, spill wine all over his shirt and he is the model of politeness, but insulting Shindou’s go is clearly stepping over the line.

Shindou basically snarls.

“Really, because I am pretty sure those defenses destroyed you in a couple of games.”

“Sure,” Yeong-ha says pleasantly. “Absolutely. Destruction. I am merely voicing my regard for a mind clearly much better organized than yours. Can you blame me for wanting to play actually beautiful games from time to time? ”

The great thing is that if he ever tried this around a Shindou that was not up in arms over Touya, it would have never worked. Shindou plays great games. Great, beautiful, exiting games and with time he has become more confident in them. Any insult of this caliber would have only been met with honest amusement. But here Touya in all his ruffled, unbuttoned glory is acting like some sort of Shindou kryptonite, making Shindou completely lose his head.

“There is nothing wrong with my games,” he snarls, and even for Shindou that is a pretty week comeback.

“That is the dumbest thing that I have ever heard,” Touya says at the same time, like he can’t actually endure staying silent during this offence against Shindou’s honor.

“Oh, please. If his games were so uninteresting to you, you wouldn’t be so obsessive about them. It’s always good to know there is something you take seriously, even if it’s games.”

That is Yashiro, and suddenly Yeong-ha’s amusement is dying down and he can feel anger starting to turn in his stomach. It not like he cares ifYashiro feels compelled to butt into an argument where he isn’t welcome, but somehow it just takes the fun out of it. It makes him want to push this further, to maybe make this a bit more serious than it is.

Shindou has, of course, already pounced on the bone Yashiro threw him with a vicious joy.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Does it take too much of your time to obsess about my terrible games? Do you want me to stop winning for a while so that you can take some time off?”

Shindou doesn’t think to question how the hell Yashiro knows anything about Yeong-ha’s obsessive tendencies, but Touya does, and he stares at Yashiro in bewilderment. Let him. Yashiro is unimportant in this. Yeong-ha is going to go to war and he is going to metaphorically crush Shindou under his shiny new shoes. Luckily, Touya is obviously the perfect weapon for that.

“Shindou,” he says mildly, dropping even the pretense of a “san”. “There is no need to be upset. You play very adequate games. But you have to understand that I really appreciate the opportunity to get some well thought-out and properly played game once in a while, and Touya-san IS rather decorative in front of the board.”

Shindou opens his mouth in outrage and Touya stops staring at Yashiro and stares at Yeong-ha instead like he just started to talk about pink bunnies.

“Plus,” Yeong-ha continues. ”You should be grateful, really. I mean he is rather uptight and you clearly aren’t providing any stress relief, so I thought I’d offer my services. Not to criticize your technique or anything, but it did only take me a game to get him half naked.”

And, alright, that maybe goes past innuendo and into open insult territory but Yeong-ha is not feeling charitable right now. Yashiro is staring at him with utter horror and for a minute he thinks that Shindou is actually going to punch him, but this is averted by the fact that Yeong-ha has finally said something that does not go over Touya Akira’s head. It’s like the temperature free falls in the room. This is probably as close to absolute zero that Yeong-ha will ever come and he is honestly a little impressed.

“Excuse me?” Touya says.

Oops

Shindou makes a sound that sounds suspiciously like glee.

“Is that what this was about?”

Touya, Yeong-ha surmises, is pretty angry over this; one could probably call him downright furious. Not the pleasant, hot anger which he displayed in the hall but an ice cold variety that Yeong-ha has certainly never encountered from him. Yeong-ha takes a few moments to consider the possible headlines if one of the Japanese delegates actually tries to kill a Korean pro during an international conference. He feels something very close to awe at the thought.

Fortunately for the pride of both the Japanese and the Korean Go Institutes, Shindou is still in the room and Shindou will one way or another always get Touya’s attention. Right now he is pretty obviously feeling remarkably smug and feels the need to share this with the world.

“See! I told you you couldn’t trust him!” he crows. “But no, you never listen to anything I tell you!”

Touya for the moment forgets everything and wheels back to Shindou. But it isn’t with anger this time. Touya is searching Shindou’s face, like he is trying to figure something out.

“Wait,” he says. “Why are you so angry about this?”

“What do you mean, why am I so angry?!” Shindou’s voice rises again. “Did you just miss that, that he-“

Touya cuts him off mercilessly. He is looking at Shindou with an absolute intense focus. Yeongha wonders idly if either of them remembers that there are other people in the room.

“That is not what I am asking Shindou. Why are you so angry about this? He might be a good enough player but it is hardly a surprise that he is unpleasant.”

Shindou opens his mouth, still outraged. “I-” he starts, and then stops. Then he sort of freezes again. Yeong-ha seriously wonders if this is the first time that Shindou has even questioned his own motives. He does not seem like the most self-reflecting of people. Whatever it is that Shindou has realized, he suddenly doesn’t seem to want to talk anymore.

“No, no”, Yeong-ha ha says gleefully, because this is truly prime time entertainment right here and he is feeling neglected. “Please do explain, Shindou”.

Both Touya and Shindou turn to him at the same time.

“Shut up” , Shindou says, furious again. “There is something wrong with you.”

“This does not concern you,” Touya says, voice absolute ice. “One would think you get enough attention through your go that you wouldn’t need to be so desperate for it from other places.”

Yashiro snort in the background and Yeong-ha realizes that he actually hates Touya Akira a bit.

Before he has time to actually reply though, Touya forgets about him again and grabs Shindou’s arm. Suddenly all the cursing about Touya and Shindou he has heard throughout the years makes sense. They are extremely annoying.

”Shindou,” Touya says with that absolute and unquestionable focus again, “we’re not done talking yet.”

Shindou seems to shiver a bit under those eyes, but he doesn’t look away.

Yashiro shifts uncomfortably in the background. Yeong-ha can relate. It’s like every time Shindou and Touya interact, it has to be this intensely focused battle or something.

“Maybe I should just go back to my room.”

Yashiro has clearly decided to escape from Shindou and Touya’s impromptu face-off. Coward.

”Really?” Ko says. ”And leave all this fun? There is a problem to solve! We have yet to explain the mystery of why Shindou goes into hysterics when Touya-san undresses around other people.”

Now Touya is looking at Yeong-ha with loathing, but Shindou has clearly had enough for the day.

“I have a problem with you being a creep!” he says with great dignity. “And I think we all should leave right now.” With that, he grabs Touya’s arm and tugs him along. Touya is not cooperating though. Shindou manages to get him out the door, but Touya is clearly diggings his heels in. The door swings closed behind them, but does not shut.

Yashiro, clearly not prepared to stand around here, makes a move towards the door, but Touya’s voice makes him freeze.

No! We are not going anywhere until you tell me what your problem is!”

I have no problem!” Shindou yells, clearly setting the tone for another Touya/Shindou shouting match. “I was showing some friendly concern, that’s all. You’re being nuts! Can we not have this conversation in the hall?”

“If you have no problem, then why does it matter if we have it in the hall?” Touya says snippily and Yeong-ha feels saddened by the abysmal level of Touya and Shindou’s argument techniques.

Yashiro makes a move towards the door again, whether it is to shut it to be spared the most awkward discussion in history of time or to escape Yeong-ha doesn’t know, but luckily Yashiro needs to go around Yeong-ha to get to the door, and that is clearly not happening. Yeong-ha will let nothing interrupt the beauty of Touya and Shindou yelling at each other. Yashiro makes an outraged huff as Yeong-ha simply steps in his way.

In the meantime, Shindou clearly has decided that Touya is not going to let this go and made the tactical decision to attack instead of defending.

“I don’t get why you act like there is anything wrong with me, when you are the one who takes off with some, some-”

“Go player?”

“Yes, but that is not the point.”

“Then maybe,” Touya says with a voice that is deceptively calm, “you could get to whatever the damn point is?”

“I am trying to!”

There is a pointed silence. Meanwhile Yashiro is clearly struggling between the benefit of just punching Yeong-ha and escaping and the utter awkwardness of being forced to push past Touya and Shindou to get out.

Shindou’s voice can be heard again.

“Ok, look,” he says. “I was trying to be considerate. Like, you… you never notice things that happen around you. Clearly this guy is a creep, and you didn’t even get it.”

“Because you have spent so much time avoiding playing him in secluded areas?!”

But he isn’t a creep about me!”

Yashiro suddenly starts laughing, because clearly he is a dick without any connection to reality. Ko is getting pretty annoyed.

Touya and Shindou, however, take no heed of any outside noise.

He is the biggest creep about you!” Touya explodes, and isn’t that interesting. Though Yeong-ha is feeling a bit insulted.

“No he isn’t,” Shindou says sulkily. “Have you noticed me wandering around in his room with no shirt on? No, because that has never happened!

“Shindou,” Touya’s voice cuts off and his tone promises danger. “I really hope for your sake that there is a point somewhere to this conversation. If you think I am behaving inappropriately, then say so. I sincerely doubt that you are afraid that I will be attacked during a private game, so I assume the problem is that you think I want to be?”

Both Shindou and Yashiro choke this time. Yashiro is making the best horrified expressions. He has obviously completely abandoned his flight towards the door for the moment.

“What? No! I mean. Well. You don’t want to! Obviously! Because you’re not allowed to take off with some second rate-“ Shindou sounds outraged.

“Hey!” Yeong-ha says, because there is literally no area in life in which he could be described as ‘second rate’.

“Not allowed?” Touya explodes at the same time, and yes there is that yelling again.

Yeah, not allowed!” Shindou roars back. It is a miracle that no one has thrown them out of the hotel yet. “You have made a- a commitment to rivalry, so you can’t just go and-“

“I’m sorry,” Touya snarls, “I wasn’t aware that my commitment to rivalry included shirtlessness, did we forget to cover that part somewhere along the way?”

There is an absolute silence in the hall; Yeong-ha is pretty sure Shindou stopped breathing.

“Wait,” Touya says, and he has gone from pissed to intense in seconds. “It includes shirtlessness?!”

“You are making it sound dirty!” Shindou complains, and it is sort of adorable that he thinks that he will be able to get out of this situation with any sort of dignity. “I just… Like, you just can’t go off and… and get another rival and you can’t go off to some other go player’s room and STRIP, it’s the same principle. I am just saying-“

“Shindou,” Touya says, and his voice sounds like he is challenging someone to a game. “Shut up.”

Then the door suddenly slams shut from the force of a body slamming against it and a muffled yelp from Shindou can be heard. Then there is a very long silence, though Yeong ha is pretty sure he could hear some pretty interesting noises if he put an ear to the door. Yashiro has started to slam his fist into his forehead. Yeong-ha almost pities him. And it is actually very annoying that Touya and Shindou are practicing their special brand of idiocy to have a disgustedly volatile version of a happy ending right outside his door. Yeong-ha did not spill red wine all over Touya’s shirt to hear Touya and Shindou make out in the hall. This demands action.

“Not that I want to interrupt this delightful fairytale romance,“ he says, raising his voice and pushing the door open again at the same time, slamming up against the two people outside, “but suspicious activity in the hall might attract nosy go journalists and that would be dreadfully sad.”

There are two insulted huffs at the same time. Touya and Shindou clearly do not appreciate his selfless intervention.

“Oh, go die,” Shindou says, but there is a distinct lack of anger in his voice. He sounds dazed.

“I am just trying to be helpful,” Yeong-ha says pleasantly. “Though if you want to explore this whole shirtlessness rivalry in the hall, who am I to stop you. I am sure it would make a lovely cover photo for any go publication.”

“Well, how fortunate for us,” Touya says, and though he has that same kind of icy quality in his voice he is sounding very breathless, “that we have chosen to partake in suspicious activity outside your door Ko-san, because if any nosy go journalists wanted to be privy to all suspicious activity among go players they would have to pitch a damn outside your room. This is just a drop in the sea.”

Yeong-ha notes with some amusement that he is pretty sure Touya Akira just called him a tramp in more polite terms.

“Fuck,” Shindou says, and there is something like marvel in his voice “you are just so hot!”

Yashiro looks like he really wants to slam his head against the wall. Yeong-ha sympathizes.

“Come on,” Shindou says. “Forget about him! Let’s go!” And then, seemingly remembering that Yeong-ha is not the only person in the room, he adds, “Uh, Yashiro… Right. We’re leaving.”

“Yeah,” Yashiro says, sounding pained. “Sure. Uh. Great. Because the hall is probably not that great for... stuff.”

Yeong-ha was wrong before, because this is clearly the most awkward conversation in the history of time.

“Have a good night.” Touya is as always polite but his voice still has that very intense quality, he clearly has no time to be embarrassed when there is Shindou and shirtlessness involved. Yeong-ha can hear their footsteps disappear down the hall.

And then they are gone and Yeong-ha suddenly realizes that he is alone in a room with Yashiro and that is really not a place he wants to be right now. There is a long awkward silence.

“Well,” Yashiro says testily, “are you happy now?”

“Am I happy that Touya and Shindou made out outside my door?” Yeong-ha says equally irritably. “Oh, absolutely. Young love is so appealing to me.”

Yashiro is glaring at him which admittedly is a step up from when Yashiro was avoiding looking at him at all cost.

Well, if you hadn’t started it, it would never have happened, would it? Did you think trying to hit on Touya would be a good idea?”

“Well, he is very pretty.” Yeong-ha says mildly, because that is one of those answers that don’t answer anything and drive people insane. “And also kind of nuts,” he adds as an afterthought, because this has been a new interesting revelation to him.

Yashiro turns his head away and glares at the wall instead.

“Whatever,” he says. “If you are done being a jerk, then I’m leaving”

“Well,” Yeong-ha can feel that dangerous anger creeping up on him again. It’s not like he cares that Yashiro happens to be an asshole. Yeong-ha simply dislikes rude people. “I appreciate that you stayed around long enough to indulge me being a jerk,” he says sweetly. “I always suspected you were into that.”

Shut up.”

Then Yeong-ha get slammed up the wall, and for a minute Yashiro is pressed up against him, but then Yashiro lets him go and turns away.

“Shit.”

“Wow,” Yeong-ha says. “Well, after that coherent argument there is really not much to say, is there.”

It is generally in his nature to keep pushing things; he has never been good at letting them go.

“Fuck you,” Yashiro says, and he is still so very angry. “Why does everything have to be a game to you?! Why aren’t you capable of taking anything seriously?!”

There is a million ways to answer that question that would infuriate Yashiro to no end. As fighting goes, Yeong-ha knows he will win over Yashiro nine times out of ten, since he has been polishing his skills of making people lose their temper since childhood. He opens his mouth to say something eviscerating, but instead something horrible happens. He tells the truth.

“Kiyoharu,” he says, and the worst thing is, he can hear the sincerity in his own voice. “I take some things seriously.”

It is the first time he has ever called Yashiro by his first name, and it is terrible. There has to be some way he can leave this room with dignity, so that later he can kill himself by slamming his head against the wall as a punishment. Yeong-ha generally hates the truth. It is a messy, painful thing that only can be used against you. It is much better to avoid it at all costs. Now Yashiro will have this perfect embarrassing thing to hold against him, which means Yeong-ha has inevitably lost this whole conversation. At least he thinks so until he looks up and sees the look on Yashiro’s face. He doesn’t look smug or even angry anymore. He looks red, flustered and distinctly mortified. Yeong-ha blinks at him. Yashiro gets even redder, and when he speaks, it comes out pretty jumbled.

”I…? What? You.” There is a pause and then Yashiro blurts “Don’t call me by my first name” trying for angry but sounding embarrassed instead.

Yeong-ha realizes with sudden clarity that he has made a total tactical misjudgment of Yashiro. If there is actually one thing that does work on him, it’s the truth! Yashiro, under all his teen thug surface, wears his heart in his sleeve and can’t understand people who don’t. But he has also simply gotten used to Yeong-ha’s total aversion to truth and suddenly being faced with honesty has clearly pushed him completely off balance. Yeong-ha smirks.

“I’m sorry,” he says, slowly prowling over towards Yashiro. “What was it you didn’t want me to call you, Kiyoharu?” Yashiro sputters and Yeong-ha stops right in front of him and leans in.

“Kiyoharu,” he says again.

Yashiro, or maybe more appropriately Kiyoharu, has clearly reached the end of his rope and for the second time today Yeong-ha feels himself get slammed up against a wall, but this time in much more pleasant circumstances

“I told you to shut up,” Kiyoharu says almost plaintively and then Yeong-ha gets kissed desperately, and he feels Yashiro’s body heat all along his own body, almost burning his skin. He tugs Kiyoharu in and feels a tremendous sense of smugness, because there is no way in hell Ko Yeong-ha is going to lose at sex. And maybe his chest feels much lighter now, but that is just a weird coincidence and has nothing to do with anything.

He is humming the next morning as he packs his things. He still has a farewell lunch to go through before he leaves, but that suddenly doesn’t seem especially tedious. Kiyoharu has fled back to his room early this morning, outraged. But it was the good version of outraged, and honestly, like anyone would notice that Kiyoharu suddenly has taken to wearing scarves. Yeongha was even kind enough to lend him one.

When he opens the door to go down to the ceremony hall, the first thing he sees is a paper bag. In it he finds his shirt. It is a bit torn and conspicuously missing several buttons. Yeong-ha strongly suspects it has been ripped open. He really liked that shirt too. Shindou and Touya clearly have no respect for other people’s property and clearly have uncultured ways to get naked.

Yeong-ha decides that this is a war declaration which he certainly is not going to turn down, so he calls down to reception to get their room numbers. Touya opens the door to his room, looking a bit flushed and slightly ruffled. Considering that it’s Touya, he might as well be half naked and panting. As soon as he sees Yeong-ha, his eyes go darker, and Yeong-ha realizes that Touya seriously dislikes him now. This makes him so much more interesting.

Yeong-ha smiles pleasantly at Touya.

“Touya-san,” he says mildly. “I am very grateful that you returned my shirt, but some buttons seem to be missing.”

Touya’s expression doesn’t change.

“Yes,” he says. “Imagine that. These things happen.”

There is a challenging silence.

“It was a pretty expensive shirt,” Yeong-ha points out.

“So was the one you threw wine on.”

Which Yeong-ha has to admit it probably was. But it was still ugly so obviously Yeong-ha’s loss is much more painful.

“Well,” he says, “I suppose it was. Though perhaps I actually did you a favor. I can still have it washed, if you insist.”

Touya doesn’t have time to reply, because at this moment Shinodu shows up behind him, beaming. Not even the sight of Yeong-ha seems to get him down. He has the smug air of a man that has just got something the rest of the world is never going to get, and the smile he gives Yeong-ha is positively dazzling. Yeong-ha could have explained to Shindou that he doesn’t actually want Touya, but he has the feeling that the sentiment would be lost on Shindou. Telling Shindou that there are people in the world who don’t want Touya is probably like telling him that some people don’t need to breathe or are unaffected by gravity. It is a pointless endeavor. And his presence is not entirely unwelcome, because for the first time this morning Touya seems somewhat off balance, and Yeong-ha notices with some amusement that the bridge of Touya’s nose colors a very pretty pink just because Shindou is standing there.

“Shindou,” he says somewhat politely in greeting, and then promptly turns his attention back to Touya just to be annoying. “Anyway,” he says smoothly, “I do hope we play again, Touya-san, our game was very entertaining, especially since you got a bit emotional.”

“Of course,” Touya replies, going back to stone-faced, “I can understand your need for a bit of a handicap.”

Yeong-ha doesn’t know which is saddest, the fact that Touya is incapable of insulting people without referring to go, or that it actually works. He goes through a short mental struggle against the urge to throttle Touya. And it doesn’t get better with Shindou cooing,

“Aww, Touya, cut him some slack, he can’t spend all his time obsessing about my games.”

Clearly, this is subpar warfare and actually Kiyoharu’s fault for giving Shindou the ammunition, but it is still really infuriating. For a moment Yeong-ha wonders if he should go down to the meeting hall and tell everyone that Touya and Shindou fornicated in the hotel hallway just to be petty, but he quickly realizes that there would be no point. There are two kinds of people in the go world: The ones who are already convinced that Touya and Shindou are sleeping together, and the ones who will always think that these are just some nonsense rumors. Nothing Yeong-ha say will change anyone’s mind. And as for the Japanese Go Association, Touya and Shindou are their golden children reclaiming Japans international honor, and they would probably let them get away with a public orgy as long as it wasn’t leaked into the press. After all, this is how Yeong-ha has managed to stay off the radar all these years (plus, public orgies aren’t all that they are made to be). Yeong-ha forces himself to stay pleasant. Losing his temper is losing after all.

“A handicap would very welcome, Touya-san! So kind of you to offer, really. Am I to assume that me walking around with a ripped-open shirt will be a suitable distraction?”

Touya just looks at him like he is stupid , but Shindou’s eyes briefly darken. That is obviously still a bit of a sore spot. Just as Yeong-ha is about to press his advantage, he sees Kiyoharu coming down the hall, looking deadly embarrassed in a very bright colored scarf Yeong-ha lent him wrapped around his neck. As tempted as Yeong-ha is to stay and include Kiyoharu in this riveting conversation, he senses that it is probably a better idea to give him a bit of a break right now. So he bids Touya and Shindou his goodbyes and leaves. As he walks away he can hear Shindou’s voice ring through the hall.

“Oh, hey Yashiro, are you- Holy shit, what the hell are you wearing?!”

Yeong-ha is pretty sure that the international tournaments are going to work out awesomely from now on.