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A Resolution of Territory

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A RESOLUTION OF TERRITORY

 

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I. Kisei

Hikaru almost, not-quite, but ok seriously, almost has sex when he's seventeen. Some facts:

1. Her name is Hanae, and she's shorter than him, but he thinks she's taller than Akari. He never does manage to arrange for both of them to be in the same room at the same time to compare, though, so he can't be sure.
2. She has red highlights in her hair, which is just past her shoulders and blunt-cut. It's sharp and severe, like her smile, which he likes from the minute he first sees her.
3. She wears rectangular glasses under her fringe, and she has long, almond eyes.
4. He meets her at a go convention in Tokyo. She's there accompanying her dad. "It's my birthday present to him this year," she explains, sighing, when the two of them come by for a shidougo appointment with Hikaru. "Because I always make fun of him for being obsessed with go. No offense, of course."

In retrospect, he thinks, there's basically no way a relationship that starts with one party dissing go could possibly work out, but then, at the time, he is young and easily swayed. The thing is, she has a very pretty face, and for whatever reason, she immediately seems interested in him, and this makes him feel kind of good. She ends up letting her dad wander around the convention by himself, and instead, she stands around all day talking to Hikaru throughout his shidougo matches. All day! Afterwards, they exchange numbers.

About a week later, Hikaru finds the slip of paper in his pocket and decides to call her, and then they go on a date. He finds out that she likes ramen but not soba, which he thinks might be a sign from heaven, and it turns out she makes video games for a living. How freaking awesome is that? Really freaking awesome, Hikaru decides. If he's going to have a girlfriend, he can't do much better than a video game developer, right?

("Intern," she keeps correcting.

"Whatever!" he says.)

They see each other fairly frequently, given Hikaru's schedule, which between leagues and tournaments and study sessions with everyone and Sundays at Touya's only gets worse and worse with each month. About three months into the whole thing, his mother suddenly stops him on his way out the door and asks him, "Are you seeing someone?"

She sounds pretty shocked and appalled.

"So?" he counters, shrugging on his bag.

"I just," she says, looking lost. "Really? You are?"

This annoys him, but then his mom always annoys him, so who cares what she thinks. He's having a good time here, and it's not messing up his games or anything, and Waya is totally jealous even though he says he's not. The point is, life is hectic, but it's good.

Anyway, this one time, Hikaru is at Hanae's place, and he's in a pretty crappy mood. Touya is off in Sapporo basically losing Kisei, and Hikaru can't yell at him till next week, and it's driving him up the wall. Hanae, laughing, tells him she has something that might cheer him up. It turns out what she's got is a new snowboarding game that isn't supposed to be out until next month. This, Hikaru thinks, is admittedly pretty awesome; how many people get to play video games before they're released, anyway? He's happy to let himself get distracted, but somehow, instead of playing the game normally, he finds himself crashing it repeatedly. Apparently he's snowboarding through a wall of rock or something? He's not sure?

"Okay, I've never seen that happen," Hanae says, slowly.

Hikaru beams. "I can do it again," he suggests.

"Hang on," Hanae laughs. "If you're going to do that, I'm taking notes." And she does -- lots of notes. Crashing Hanae's video game ends up being the most entertaining thing he's done all week.

After dinner is when it all falls apart, because she starts fidgeting during the boring movie and suggesting some pretty random things that don't make sense to him, and Hikaru really wishes people would just say what they mean, and finally she just puts her face in her hands and says, "What I'm getting at here -- what I mean is, do you want to, you know."

"Wait, wait, wait," Hikaru says, trying to catch up. "Are you saying you want to have sex with me?"

Still with her face in her hands, she nods morosely. "You can be so dense, sometimes," she adds, which slightly spoils the mood, or, you know, whatever there is of it.

The thing is, he could do it. It's not like he hasn't thought about it once or twice before. They've been going out for like months at this point, and he really does think she's attractive, and he really does like her, but there's just something that doesn't feel right about it. Like, it wouldn't really be fair to her, or something? He would feel like a really mean person afterwards, maybe? He just doesn't know if it's a good idea?

When he tells this to Waya, Waya noisily slurps the last of his soft drink, narrows his eyes and says, "What do you even mean, wouldn't be fair to her?" And then, jabbing his finger at Hikaru's face: "And does this mean you've finally broken up? Does this mean you're finally going to stop trying to make me jealous about her?"

"You're the worst friend ever," Hikaru tells him sincerely. "I'm going to kick your ass next week in the Samsung preliminaries."

Waya rolls his eyes. "Blah, blah, blah," he says.


●○●○●

 

It turns out, Hikaru doesn't even get a chance to play Waya in the Samsung preliminaries.

The next month, in match seven of the Kisei challenger set, Touya loses his title to Ogata-sensei, which is so ridiculous Hikaru seriously almost books himself a ticket to Nara to kill them both. Isumi-san ends up outplaying Hikaru in the first round of the prelims, and Hikaru spends the rest of the week in a deep funk, hating Touya and especially hating Ogata-sensei, for having three titles and also for being Ogata-sensei.

"That doesn't even make sense," Isumi-san tells him reasonably, as they buy hot tea from the vending machine; someone refuses to turn up the heat in the Institute building.

"It makes perfect sense," Hikaru retorts. He pulls himself together later that week to beat Ochi and Honda-san, but he still doesn't make it to the second round. Waya makes faces at him before he sits down to his match against Isumi-san, and Hikaru decides he hates Waya too.

He tries to send a few (hundred) angry messages to Touya berating him for losing his title, thinking it will make him feel better to yell at someone, but remembers belatedly that Touya claims to have been blocking Hikaru's number during important games since about a year ago. He doesn't respond to any of the texts either, so Hikaru guesses he must have been telling the truth. Ugh, it's just like Touya to overreact.

Basically, life sucks, and it's all Touya's fault.

Touya, when Hikaru finally sees him again, seems to disagree.

"What? How is it my fault you couldn't even make it to round two of the preliminaries?" Touya says, sounding weirdly horrified.

"Obviously it is!" Hikaru says, not really understanding how Touya can fail to see the connection.

"The preliminaries," Touya says, before slumping in his seat and saying, "Forget it, this is ridiculous. This is the worst month I've ever had. I can't believe you. Round one?"

"It's the worst month you've ever had?" Hikaru yells. "It's the worst month I've ever had. I had to watch you get beat up by Ogata-sensei on tv all last week--"

"Excuse me, I was the one playing the game--"

"When you lost the left, oh my god--"

"Well, then why don't tell me what you would have done instead?"

"Oh, I will," Hikaru grits. He pulls out a chair and sits himself down all in one motion. "You freaking moron."

"Say that after you've come up with something worth saying, please," Touya says wearily, and Hikaru snorts. As if he ever doesn't have something worth saying.

Hours later, after he's beaten Touya about the head with all the ways he could have and should have won (and Touya is always so mysteriously ungrateful about this), he goes home to whine to his mom. This is when he realizes, all of a sudden, that on top of everything else that has gone wrong this month, he also doesn't have a girlfriend anymore, and this, obviously, is somehow Touya's fault, too.

Lame, lame, lame.

His mom is sympathetic about his losses, and sympathetic also about Hanae.

"I'm a little confused, though," she says, frowning as she ladles out a bowl of soup. "What's the connection again?"

"Forget it," Hikaru says, waving her away with a martyred sigh. "You wouldn't understand anyway."

 


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II. Tengen

The second time Hikaru almost has sex, he's eighteen, and he's beginning to suspect, during those moments between matches, between study sessions, between seeing Touya at his stupid fan club -- oh, excuse him, go salon -- every week, that maybe he should be getting on with this whole relationship sex whatever thing. Then again, every time he thinks that, he gets distracted by the fact that go is kind of still more interesting.

Also, he only gets busier from year to year. Not only is he 8-dan, he's -- well, he's Tengen as of this year, which is kind of totally absurdly ridiculously completely awesome. He wishes Sai were around so he could show his title off, but to be honest, dangling it in Touya's face feels pretty good, too.

(Touya generally tells him to please shut up already, he's said it a zillion times -- which is a deeply satisfying answer -- but on days when he's in a better mood, he sometimes just smiles, uncaps a goke, and says, looking away, "Yes. I know. I was watching."

This is not a bad reaction either, all said and done.)

Anyway, sex. It happens -- or rather, doesn't happen -- one week when Hikaru is in Nagoya, playing a qualifying match for Kisei. Someone has to take it away from Ogata, and Hikaru figures it may as well be him. After he wins his match, he's standing by the vending machine guzzling iced tea when one of the dudes in the building randomly starts talking to him. Blah blah blah, I really like looking at your games, blah, really pleased to meet you, etc., maybe sometime I can bother you for a game of shidougo?

"Oh, sure," Hikaru says generously. "Anytime."

The dude suggests right now, and Hikaru looks at the clock, then thinks about it, looks at his watch, then thinks some more. Well, it wasn't like he had a really hard day or anything, and this guy seems to be, like, a fan or something, and man, he still doesn't meet that many people who are fans of him. It seems like everyone's a fan of Touya, which is just unfair. "Yeah, okay," he says, and allows himself to be driven to this guy's apartment.

Well, it turns out, the whole thing is all some convoluted way of picking him up. Hikaru finds this completely appalling.

"What do you mean," he all but shrieks. "You mean you were lying about reading all my kifu? That is so mean of you. I feel betrayed! Betrayed!"

"No, oh my god, no, I really do think you're an amazing go player," Okazaki (this is his name, apparently) says, fluttering his hands desperately. "I just also find you attractive."

This makes Hikaru pause. "What do you..." he says, very slowly. "What do you... mean..."

Okazaki stares. Hikaru stares back.

"I think you're hot," Okazaki says, also very slowly, like he's talking to a small child.

Hikaru thinks about this statement for a moment. He feels he has to clarify something. "You're a guy."

At this point, Okazaki decides to take a seat, so Hikaru, not to be outdone, also sits down. "Explain," he demands, and Okazaki does, in small words and short sentences, and with lots of breaks during which he apologizes and says he just needs a moment.

After he's done, Hikaru sits back and lets enlightenment wash over him. "So people like you really exist," he says, feeling he has come across something pretty profound. "Wow."

"Wow is really not the word I'm looking for here," Okazaki says miserably. "Do you think we could pretend we've never met before and maybe you could leave?"

So Okazaki is kind of a bust too.


●○●○●

 

Hikaru spends some time considering his life after this, and he comes to the conclusion eventually that he might, after all, like boys too. Could this, he wonders, be why he's almost nineteen and still hasn't managed a successful relationship? Waya doesn't give him a chance to catch him alone at the next study session, so he has to grab him at lunchtime something like two whole weeks later, herding him into an empty room and assuring him it's urgent, seriously urgent.

"I think I might like boys," he announces.

Waya looks at him askance, then says, "Urgent? Really?"

"Why don't you ever think anything I say is important?" Hikaru whines. "Why do I tell you anything?"

"Because--," Waya begins, then appears to relent. "Well, okay, fine. I'll be nice. Is this something you've actually been struggling over?"

"Well, I figured it out a few weeks ago," Hikaru says, and then proceeds to explain.

"So the answer is no," Waya says. "Figures. Can we get food now? Why did you feel I needed to know, anyway? Should I congratulate you? Is there a boyfriend? I'm still not jealous, by the way, Shindou. Hang on, do you have a crush on me?"

"Oh, gross," Hikaru yelps. "Why would I have a crush on you?"

"Okay, jeez, just checking," Waya says.

Hikaru doesn't really want to give Waya two shocks in one day, but since Waya was really unfazed by the first announcement, he tentatively floats his theory regarding his lack of love life over lunch. Waya is unfazed by this too. He finishes his bite, drinks some soda, then keeps eating.

"Well? Say something," Hikaru prompts.

Waya chews, swallows, wipes his mouth messily with a napkin. "What's your schedule like next week?"

Hikaru ticks items off on his fingers. "Unofficial rematch against Serizawa-sensei on Monday, Morishita study session on Tuesday, helping out Shirakawa-sensei on Wednesday morning and then a league match on Thursday in Shizuoka. Asia cup prelims are on Friday, there's a study group at your house Saturday afternoon, Sundays are always with Touya, then next Monday is free except for a meeting with Yashiro, 'cause he's in Tokyo next week. I think we're all flying to Korea the week after, though. Why?"

"And? You study every night?"

"Of course, what kind of loser do you think I am?"

Waya rolls his eyes. "You're busy. You play go. Normal people have days off, and probably go entire months without leaving the city, never mind the country. Maybe that's why you don't have a girlfriend." He takes another bite, chews, then swallows again. "I'm sorry," he says, waving his hand dismissively. "I mean boyfriend. Whatever. Anyway, that sort of thing takes time."

"Speaking of which," Hikaru says, suddenly suspicious, "Waya's older than me and less busy, and you never talk about your love life. You really don't have one, do you? You really were jealous, weren't you? Weren't you?"

Waya turns four shades of beet red. "Don't ask prying questions," he says. "And I'm not a title holder, you little bastard. I have to make ends meet for rent by taking on teaching jobs all the time. Of course I'm busy, I've got my hands full trying to keep up with you assholes."

Hikaru squints. "So Waya's a virgin, too."

"God, shut up," Waya hisses.

"Well, I guess I don't have to worry, then," Hikaru says. "I guess I'm normal."

"You? Normal?" Waya says. "Please."


●○●○●

 

The thing is, when Waya isn't busy being infuriatingly smug, he's a pretty reasonable guy, and he's right about Hikaru being way too busy for anything except go. Hikaru goes to Korea and plays pretty well in the tournament, but gets crushed just before the semi-finals by Wang Xin. He spends the rest of the time hovering obnoxiously over Touya's shoulder and picking apart all of Touya's games every night until Touya finally sighs, and says, "Is this revenge?"

Hikaru has no idea what he's talking about.

"For picking apart your--" Touya starts, then apparently thinks better of it. "Never mind. Anyway, your suggestion is stupid. Look."

They fight so loudly all the time eventually three different guests from three different countries all suggest imposing a restraining order on Hikaru. "No way," Hikaru and Touya say at the same time. Well, Hikaru says, "No way," and Touya stiffens up and says, "Absolutely not." Same thing, whatever.

"Well, you're just going to have to be quieter, then," some official tells them. They try pretty hard, and they do an okay job at it. Somehow, they survive Korea.

Back in Japan, having neither of them won the cup, sadly enough, they return to their usual schedules. During a slight lull in the madness, a month after Korea, Hikaru agrees to go up to Kyoto for a convention.

He takes a train to meet up with Yashiro the first evening, and they have dinner over the latest kifu from the Meijin matches, then play a good game together in the local go salon. "I feel like I've seen an awful lot of you these past two months," Yashiro says, as they're cleaning up the stones.

"You make it sound like you wish you hadn't," Hikaru tells him, annoyed. Yashiro only laughs.

The entire next day he spends in the convention being tired as hell. He tries not to yawn while narrating the Ookubo-Ishihara game, then tries not to fall asleep while playing shidougo all afternoon and evening. The young Kansai Institute pro at the next table over finishes his four-way match early, but sticks around chatting to Hikaru until all of Hikaru's opponents leave. Hikaru doesn't even have any idea what the dude is saying; all he knows is that he won't seem to shut up about how cool he thinks Hikaru is, and at this rate, Hikaru is never going to get to bed -- and suddenly, he has a flash of insight.

"Hang on," he says, interrupting the young man -- Taniguchi, he thinks? -- halfway through a long-winded compliment on Hikaru's endgame technique from last month's televised NHK matches. "Are you trying to pick me up?" He's getting better at reading these cues, seriously.

The young man splutters.

It's slightly depressing that the only two men who have ever shown interest in him mostly just want to sleep with him, Hikaru thinks, but maybe there's something to be said about having sex once and moving on. After all, he has to defend his title in a few months, and all signs point to the challenger being Touya; even if Taniwhatever wanted to be his, oh my god, boyfriend, he'd probably have to say no. Anyway, as if he knows the guy.

"Okay, well, why not," Hikaru says, feeling adventurous. One time, whatever.

They get off to a slightly rocky start because Taniguchi is shaken by Hikaru's straightforwardness, but eventually they negotiate their way to Taniguchi's room, where all the right things seem to happen, because Hikaru ends up on his back breathing way harder than he's done since he gave up sports.

"Let's do it again," he suggests.

"Give me a few minutes," Taniguchi pants.


●○●○●

 

He feels somehow, deep in his gut, that this is probably not an incident he wants to report in detail to Waya. Still, the next time they meet, putting their shoes away before the study session, he can't help but drop a hint. "Guess who had sex last weekend?"

"Oh my god," Waya says. "I really don't want to know."

Hikaru beams sunnily at him but doesn't say anything else.

"See, what I don't get," Waya says, aggrieved, "Is why you chose me to tell all your gory secrets to. What am I, your relationship counselor? Aren't you like best friends with Touya now? Why don't you inflict him with these confessions? No, stop, why are you trying to shut me up? Of course Morishita-sensei knows you're friends, what do you think he is, stupid?"

Hikaru gapes. "Morishita-sensei knows we're friends?"

"I can't believe you think anyone in Japan could have missed it," Waya says, staring at him. "Is it supposed to be a secret? Are you guys actually pretending to be enemies?"

"N-nooooo," Hikaru says. He doesn't think so, anyway. "I just didn't realize Morishita-sensei knew. Wow. Cool. I'm glad he hasn't kicked me out of his class."

"God," Waya says, turning away from him towards the door. "You really are something." It seems like this is going to be the end of the conversation, but then, just before opening the door, Waya stops and sighs. "All right, fine, I'll bite. Tell me, then. Guy or girl? And does this mean you have a whatchamacallit girlfriend boyfriend thing again?"

"Hah," Hikaru says, victorious. "Guy! And, no, it was only the one night at the convention."

"Wait," Waya says, slowly. "Are you actually gay?" Then, like it's just dawned on him, he adds, looking horrified, "You actually slept with someone, didn't you?"

There follows a rush to the kifu room, where Waya demands a lot of things, and Hikaru has to answer his stupid questions, and then Waya warns him of all the dire things that are supposed to happen to gay go pros in Japan, and Hikaru starts tuning him out. How is Waya lecturing him on sex? How is Waya lecturing him on sex? Ugh, Hikaru can't even believe how scarred he's feeling, and says so.

"You're feeling scarred," Waya says. "I'm never going to be the same again. I still can't believe you're actually having sex."

"Can't we just, you know," Hikaru says miserably. "Pretend like I never said anything?"

"Yes, yes, absolutely, yes," Waya says. "Let's never talk about this again."


●○●○●

 

Never talking about it again turns out to be pretty easy to do, because soon after that, everything gets crazy again, and Hikaru barely has time to think of anything besides go. He flies to China for a week, where he insists on matching up against Wang Xin unofficially and has his ass handed to him three times out of five, and then he accidentally drops out of the Fujitsu Cup while he's busy climbing his way over old geezers in the national leagues.

Touya yells at him for like a whole afternoon for not paying enough attention to his international competitions -- "If you don't have time for them, then stop signing up for them," he says, digging his fingers into his temples so hard Hikaru is afraid he's going to kill himself -- but then Touya falls out of the Meijin league amidst a series of crappy losses in July, and Hikaru gets to dish out the same to him. That's pretty satisfying.

Perhaps most importantly, though, as summer rolls into fall and Hikaru turns nineteen, Touya wins the last of the Tengen knockout rounds, and suddenly they're looking ahead two months to their first title match in November.

"God, oh my god," Hikaru keeps saying to everyone who will listen, "This is going to be so good. This is going to be so exciting. This is the best birthday ever. Are you guys all going to watch me on tv?"

"Can't anyone shut him up?" Waya says, during one of Morishita-sensei's study sessions.

Morishita-sensei thwaps his thigh with a fan and roars, "If you could get this excited about beating Touya, Waya, maybe you'd be in the leagues by now, too!"

"Nobody gets as excited about beating Touya as Shindou does," Waya mutters, then coughs into his fist. "I mean, I'll definitely beat him next time I play him... whenever that is..."

"That's more like it!" Morishita-sensei barks.

Hikaru spends one free afternoon rescheduling his grandpa's life to make sure he can be in front of the tv at all the critical moments, which is kind of exciting in that way where nobody seems to think Hikaru is capable of calling the dentist. God, whatever, even if he says the wrong thing on the phone sometimes, stuff always works out eventually.

"I can't sit in front of the tv all day," his grandpa warns him. "I'll get back pains."

"But I can sit in front of the goban all day," Hikaru chirps. "Come on, do it for your grandson, here, look, I'll even let you win our game today."

October passes in a blur, practically without Hikaru's even noticing it, and then suddenly a chill is sweeping over all of Tokyo, and it's November, already the evening before the first game. He calls up Akari just before dinner and insists she come over for a game, for tradition's sake, and she shrieks at him on the phone, "Tell me these things earlier! I have a date tonight!"

"I'll finish the game really fast," Hikaru promises.

"I wonder why that doesn't tempt me," she says, but is good enough to come over for an hour and play speed go with him. He tries pretty hard not to slaughter her but still wins by seven moku. "Why do I do this for you, again?" she says.

"I'll let you win next time," Hikaru says, feeling slightly better now.

"That doesn't help either! I'm leaving now, Hikaru. I'm late!"

"Thank you!" he yells after her as she disappears down the street. "I owe you!"

"You owe me forever," she calls back, before turning the corner. Hikaru thinks forever might be stretching it a little.

His mom comes out of the kitchen wiping her hands on a towel and says, "Was that Akari-chan just now? I'm glad you two are still friends."

"Friends, yeah," Hikaru says vaguely.

"Isn't she attending Waseda these days? Is she on break?"

"Yeah," he says. "What? I don't know. Whatever, hey, is dinner ready yet?"

He spends the rest of the evening reading kifu, then goes to bed early, and he feels like he's barely hit the mattress before the alarm is ringing, and it's the morning of the game. Breakfast, suit, bag and wallet; before he knows it, he's stumbling into the familiar elevators of the Go Institute and out into the hallway, where he toes off his shoes. The Room of Profound Darkness is right around the corner, and there's Touya, in the chair just outside, silent and still. He's perfectly composed, and his eyes are shut; he looks like he could have been sitting here for hours, just meditating.

He doesn't open his eyes when Hikaru approaches. It's one of those days. Hikaru steps around him to get a soda, guzzles it down, then throws it away. He takes a deep breath, then tightens his grip on his fan.

"All right," he says, quietly, and enters the Room of Profound Darkness.


●○●○●

 

In the silence before the match starts, they seat themselves. Touya's familiar hands reach across the board to pick up his goke. Their eyes meet for a moment, and they smile flickeringly before looking away again.

"Well." The match official clears his throat. The new shodan sitting beside him fidgets, her earrings jangling in the quiet. "Shall we begin, then? The thirty-third Tengen title match, best of five: Touya Akira 9-dan challenging Shindou Hikaru Tengen."


●○●○●

 

He wins the first match, one that starts out comfortably with both of them playing familiar joseki which then spirals into a whole-board conflict in the mid-game. Then he loses the second a week later, but it's close.

A few weeks after that, he loses the third match, too. The game starts easy enough, but Touya breaks out of joseki within the first five moves, and in the chaos that follows, Hikaru somehow ends up losing ground, getting pushed around every time they fight, and watching Touya steal his eyes before he has a chance to protect them. He pulls it together and makes up for some of it in the late mid-game in a vicious battle over the center, but it's just not enough, and the game ends with his three and a half moku loss.

During the Morishita study session that follows, they go over his losing game in detail. For once, Morishita-sensei is nice enough not to shout at him about beating Touya already. Instead, as they try and re-try different paths the game could have taken, he says, "Well, Shindou. It wasn't a bad game."

"I know it wasn't," Hikaru says, annoyed, as he places out another permutation on the board. "But I have to do better next time. I have to win next time."

He spends the next Sunday forcing Touya to replay every hand with him like a million times. "I was thinking like this," he starts, going over the better things he came up with on Tuesday at his study session, and they go from there: discussing, moving pieces, switching sides and replaying, whatever they can think of.

"Here," Touya says. "You were a little too eager here. You left yourself open in the lower left."

Ichikawa-san comes by with tea three times before Hikaru realizes it's already gotten dark out. He looks up to see Touya looking tired and worn out, but still staring intently at the goban, and then he realizes sheepishly that they haven't even gotten to play a game yet today.

"We can--," he starts, before Touya stirs and starts placing stones again.

"How about this?" Touya says. "If you'd played here, I'd have to respond here... and then... like so. See?"

"Hm," he says, watching it unfold under Touya's hands. "But then, ok, right, you have me playing here, but what if I..." and he grabs a fistful of black.

Later that week, he stops by the Dougenzaka go salon, thinking he could use a little break, and that playing some old geezers would do him some good. Coming here might help him get his mind off things, he explains. He's kind of in a pinch; it's been a rough couple of days.

"You're in a pinch?" Kawai-san yells, and suddenly he's pulled like a whole mountainload of paper out of his pockets and is shaking it all in Hikaru's face. He's spitting with fury; like, spit is literally flying from his mouth. "I'm in a pinch! I lost fifty thousand yen because of you, you little twerp!"

"Oh my god, what are you even talking about," Hikaru complains, trying to shield himself behind a chair. "It's my title. Stop spitting on me! Master, make Kawai-san stop spitting on me!"

"Kawai-san," the master chides, looking up over his copy of Go Weekly. "Stop spitting on Shindou-kun."


●○●○●

 

The fourth match is held in Fukuoka, in a sleek, modern hotel just opposite the airport. He has jitters all the previous night. Just before they begin, Hikaru has this moment of clear-headed insanity where he suddenly thinks that if this is the game where he maybe loses his title to Touya Akira, he might as well make the game really worth losing, right? Right? Then the match official announces time, and they bow and begin.

The first move is Hikaru's. He sits very still, considering, for almost ten minutes before putting his fan aside and dipping his fingers into the goke. Might as well go for it, he decides, and plays his stone: 11-10, just one space shy of tengen.

If nothing else, he thinks, it should be an interesting game.

He ends up winning by one and a half moku.

Afterwards, it's hilarious; nobody seems to be able to stop asking him about the opening. "Why now?" everyone wants to know. "Wasn't it risky? Why now?"

"God, I don't know, I just thought I'd try it," he tells them all, trying to wave them away even as he beams helplessly into the cameras.


●○●○●

 

This time, when they review the game at the study session, Morishita-sensei just grunts and says, "Huh. Interesting."

"It's not too bad, right?" Hikaru prompts, pleased despite himself.

"Interesting," Morishita-sensei says again.

"A lot of things could go wrong, though," Saeki-san says, as he keeps placing out the moves from the kifu. "It was a pretty risky decision."

"Ahahaha," Hikaru says. "I know."

Saeki-san gets to around the twentieth move, then pauses, a stone balanced between his fingers. "Actually, I was thinking about this part," he says. "If Touya-kun had chosen tenuki and played ... here, for instance, instead of fighting -- what do you think? The influence could have helped him later, with the middle."

Hikaru's thought of this one already, and he waits for Saeki to finish placing stones before he points and says, "Can he really afford not to fight? Look, I'd just do this." He demonstrates: click, click, click.

"Hm, that does make it tough," Saeki-san says. "Then, let me try..."

"If you win the next match," Waya says, peering at the board, "You'll be made 9-dan too, huh?"

"Yeah," Hikaru says. "It's all on the next game. Touya's been 9-dan for two years already. I really need to catch up." He clenches his fists against his knees. "Can't let him beat me in the next game. Can't let him have that title."

Saeki-san looks up from the board and laughs. "That's the Morishita-school spirit," he says. "Defeat Touya -- at all costs!"

"Well, yeah," Hikaru says.


●○●○●

 

On Sunday, when he walks into Touya's go salon, the first thing out of Touya's mouth is: "Explain yourself."

Hikaru grins. "Hi," he says pointedly, throwing his bag in the general direction of Ichikawa-san's counter. It lands -- just barely -- and he follows Touya into the back. When he gets there, he sees that Touya has already laid out on one of the boards the first five moves of game four.

"Awesome," Hikaru says.

For the next five hours, they try out all the millions of permutations of first-hand-next-to-tengen ("That's not a term," Touya protests) opening sequences they can think of, over and over and over again, until eventually Hikaru realizes they've skipped right through lunch, and also, he is actually sick of talking about his cool first move. "Are we done yet? Can't we play yet?" he whines.

"Wait. No," Touya says. "What if I did this? What if I stopped you from creating your shimari? Now what do you do?"

"Oh my god whatever," Hikaru says, feeling martyred. "Didn't we try this one already?"

"No--" Touya begins.

"If we don't play a game right now," Hikaru interrupts, "I'm going to die on your goban and then go home and never come back again."

Touya makes an unattractive snorting noise, and Hikaru adds threateningly, "I'm serious."

"Fine," Touya laughs, uncrimping his fingers from the side of the goke. "One game. But I'm not done here. Don't think I'm going to forget."

"You never forget," Hikaru sighs. "That's why you're so annoying."


●○●○●

 

December speeds past in no time at all. Between tournament games and study sessions and his mom being out of the house all the time Christmas shopping, he barely even sees his family all month. On the fifteenth, Hikaru wins his Meijin league match against Hatanaka-sensei with a half moku lead. Touya thinks it was a crappy game, but whatever, Touya dropped out of the league, as if he has any right to criticize other people's league games.

"By one loss!" Touya says indignantly. "Anyway, my international record puts yours to shame."

"Ko Yong-ha still has a better record than you in the under-20s," Hikaru points out, and they put off arguing momentarily to direct their combined irritation towards someone else.

"Another game," Touya suggests, eventually, when it becomes apparent that thinking mean things about Ko Yong-ha isn't doing either of them much good.

"Yeah," Hikaru says, rolling up his sleeves. "And this time I'm going to crush you by like sixteen moku."

Touya makes a face that says pretty clearly what he thinks of this.

"You don't think I can?" Hikaru says. "Just watch. This is just an appetizer for what's coming up for you next week in game five."

"I'm terrified," Touya intones flatly, but he's smiling, and he has that look in his eyes. "Nigiri, then, Shindou."


●○●○●

 

A few days after that, Hikaru stops by his grandpa's house in the afternoon, mostly to dust off the old goban in the shed, but finds himself suddenly downstairs instead, fielding about a million accusations. Hikaru hasn't come by in over a month, how could he not call after he lost those two games in a row, how could he play such a risky game in the fourth match?! Does he want his grandpa to die of a heart attack? Is that it?!

"Oh my god! It's fine, it's fine," he says, handwaving frantically for calm. "Don't worry about it! I'll win the last one! I promise!"

"So stop playing such crazy moves on such important games!" his grandpa shouts. "My heart can't take it!"

"That's why I said it'll be fine," Hikaru laughs. "Just stop worrying! Everything will be okay!"

His grandpa gives him a shrewd look, then sighs a big blustery sigh. "You're lying to me," he says, groaning as he lowers himself down to sit on the porch. "I can't believe you're old enough now to start lying to your poor old grandpa."

"What are you talking about," Hikaru says, rolling his eyes, "I've been lying to you since I was a little kid. Anyway, I'm the pro here. Your job is just to watch me on tv. Don't coach me!"

"Mannerless little brat," his grandpa grouses, and thwacks him behind the ear. "You weren't raised right."

"Ow," Hikaru whines. "Hey, you are going to watch me on tv, right?"

"Of course I am, you fool!"

His grandpa knocks against the pitted wooden side of his old goban with his knuckle. "Before that, though, you owe me a game. Why do you always have to go to the shed before saying hi to your grandma and me, anyway? You could at least come in the house first."


●○●○●

 

Finally, just about a week before the new year, Hikaru flies out through a snowstorm to Hokkaido for his fifth and final game against Touya. It's set in a hotel that seems to be the tallest building around, standing like a monolith in a land of ice; the two of them are shown to the small room that's been set aside especially for them.

The match official clears his throat as they seat themselves across from each other at the goban.

"The thirty-third Tengen title match, best of five: Touya Akira 9-dan challenging Shindou Hikaru Tengen. Game five of five. Allotted time per player is four hours, with five minutes of reading time. The komi is six and a half moku." He pauses, sets his clock, and says, "Please begin."

They bow their heads simultaneously over the board. There's a pause, thick with silence, then Touya digs his fingers into the goke and slams his first move onto the board: tengen.

Hikaru almost laughs. Seriously? he wants to ask. He thinks about it for several long minutes, tapping his fan against his knee. Then he reaches into his own goke and plays 11-12: an approach.

There's a round of sharply drawn breaths in the room.

They look up across the board at the same time, and Touya narrows his eyes at him. You want to fight? Hikaru thinks smugly. Let's fight.


●○●○●

 

Touya immediately caps him at 9-12, another weird move, and after that, the opening develops quickly and aggressively. Hikaru snags two corners, Touya going after the other two, then Hikaru invades the lower-right, and they really start to battle it out. The key is to keep their first central moves in play; everything hinges on that.

It's a thick game, and Touya reads deeper than almost any other opponent Hikaru has ever faced. He has to think fast, stay on his toes, avoid the complicated snares Touya sets for him, and somehow keep his shapes alive under the onslaught.

The hours tick by; they break for lunch.

Then they're back again, and halfway through the mid-game, Hikaru loses a group on the right. He sits for fifteen minutes reading it before letting it go, and there's a palpable sigh in the room from the onlooking officials and timekeepers.

Never mind. It hurts, but he can't give up here; he'll have to look for weaknesses in black, play riskier and more aggressive, and hope he can outread or outmaneuver Touya at some other critical juncture.

The game continues. Black and white begin to press heavily up against each other; slowly, territories are resolving themselves.

Eventually, it's a soft connection in the upper left that does it; Touya bites, and Hikaru drags him into an all-out fight for the corner, which brings them right into yose.

When the last hole is filled and the last stone placed, they look up at each other, do the mokusan again, and then again. Then finally, slowly, Touya inclines his head.

"I've lost," he says.

With komi, it's a two and a half moku win for white.


●○●○●

 

The thing is, Hikaru hasn't really thought about how he'd feel if he actually won. Right now, he mostly feels like he needs a little air.

It seems like there are reporters everywhere -- more of them here, actually, Hikaru's given to understand, than would usually be at such a far away match, even if it is the final in a title-challenging set. It's because they're so young, or something; Touya would be setting a record here with his second title, and Hikaru, meanwhile, has his first defense and his 9-dan promotion on the line.

The game discussion seems to have happened without Hikaru's even being aware of it. What did he even say during it? Touya has vanished in the interim.

"Um, hang on," he says to some reporter -- he should know this one, actually, is it Takemura? Kosemura? Something-mura, anyway -- as he gets up out of his seat. "I'll be right back. I have to go to the bathroom."

His back complains, like it always does after eight hour games, and he has to wander around the huge, arched hotel hallway for something like five minutes before he finds a human being to ask for directions to the bathroom.

Once there, he leans over the pristine marble counter and splashes his face with water. He's sweaty all over; his heart is still pounding from that race to the finish, or is it just the giddiness from winning, now? He can't tell.

Someone else comes in and starts running the other faucet. When he looks up, he sees it's Touya.

"Oh, I was wondering where you went," he says.

Touya looks worse for the wear too. Hikaru sneaks a glance in the mirror and they look like doubles printed in different colors, both of them with limp hair and pallid complexions under the big, luminous bathroom lights.

"It was a good game," Touya says, meeting his eyes in the mirror. "I was proud to have played it."

Hikaru beams hugely. "Yeah, wasn't it?" he says. "It was fun."

Touya smiles at him, then looks down again as he rinses his hands in the sink. His hair falls over his eyes, but his smile is still visible as he says, "It was. It was a lot of fun."

He falls silent then, and Hikaru just watches him wash his hands for several moments. It occurs to him eventually that he's staring -- at Touya's smile, at his long hands, and at his worn-down fingernails that were only recently placing the final moves of their game -- and that he should look away, but he finds suddenly he can't. Without warning, it comes over him: this idea, that Touya is maybe just the most attractive person he's ever seen in his life. Maybe, he thinks, mouth dry.

"Hey, Touya," he says, shutting off the water in his sink.

Touya looks up at him. "Hm?" he says.

Hikaru leans in before he can think better of it.

Touya's lips are soft and dry and still, and his eyes flutter startlingly open, then shut, then open again. For a second, they're frozen there; it's like time stops, like the moment before gravity catches hold.

Then Touya slowly lifts his hand to Hikaru's collar, grabs a fistful of his shirt, and kisses back.


●○●○●

 

Obviously Hikaru hasn't given this whole thing a lot of thought. In fact, he maybe hasn't given it any thought at all. It was sort of spontaneous. Off the cuff. It occurred to him before he realized what he was doing. If anything, he really did expect Touya to kiss him back. Still, he can't help but be surprised by the intensity.

Touya has both hands fisted in Hikaru's shirt now and is pushing him up against the counter, kissing him so hard Hikaru has to flail and grab Touya's shirt just so he can wrench him away for a second to breathe. They gasp for air at the same time, staring, and then Hikaru pulls him in again.

Long seconds pass; minutes; it's hard to tell.

They breathe, kiss, breathe, kiss. Touya is pressed all the way up against him now, and Hikaru's heart is beating so fast he thinks it might skip over into humming soon. Now their faces are cheek to cheek. They pant heavily, and the sound of it echoes. In the resounding quiet, Hikaru thinks madly that this, obviously, this is why sex and relationships and all of that stuff haven't worked out for him until now. Obviously, this is why. Obviously, it was going to have to be Touya, all along. Obviously.

Then, suddenly, Touya pulls back, his long fingers still digging into Hikaru's hair, and he says, hoarsely, "Let me."

Before Hikaru can ask what he means, Touya's other hand is fumbling at his belt, and Hikaru yelps, "What, here? Now?"

Touya's forehead smacks into Hikaru's in a painful thunk. "No," he breathes. "You're right."

They both close their eyes and just concentrate for a second on not dying. Breathing would help. "You have to go back," Touya says eventually. "They'll want you to finish the interviews." Then he pulls away again, and when Hikaru looks up, he finds Touya staring searchingly into his eyes. "Come to my room afterwards?"

Hikaru doesn't need to be able to read cues to read this one. "Wait for me," he says decisively.

And Touya smiles, the kind of sweet and unguarded smile he rarely shows anyone. "Always," he laughs.


●○●○●

 

The interviews are probably the longest, most tortuous experience of Hikaru's life. Every time he thinks they've finished, they come up with another question. How many questions can they possibly have, anyway? How interesting can they possibly find him? Hundreds of people have won titles before in the past, right?

"How does it feel to have beaten your lifelong rival, Touya Akira 9-dan, to have gained not only your second year in the Tengen seat, but also your own long-awaited promotion to 9-dan?" someone asks.

And that's the other problem -- besides the fact that Hikaru is sure seven other people have already asked this exact same question -- is that people really need to stop asking him questions that are turning him on. "I, good," he says vaguely. "It's good. Great."

They pause, like they're waiting for him to say something more -- maybe a sentence with more than two words in it -- and he manfully resists the urge to tear his hair out in front of the cameras. His mind blanks. "It was a really good game," he says at last, plagiarizing shamelessly. "I was proud to have played it."

The cameras go off again.

 


●○●○●

 

III. Touya

Touya opens up for him immediately, and the minute Hikaru has leaned the door shut behind him, Touya is on him, heavy and warm, his fingers working in the spaces between the buttons of Hikaru's shirt. Their noses bump, and Touya kisses him again, hard and brutal, before Hikaru can catch his breath. His head thumps against the door, and Touya presses in with his whole body, keeping him there. The kiss lasts forever. When finally they break apart, both of them gasping for air, Hikaru pants lightheadedly, "Yeah. Yes. Let's do it."

Then it's a race to shed clothes as fast as they can. Hikaru's shirt comes off, possibly without all its buttons, then his tie, then his shoes. Touya's hair and skin are still damp and warm from the shower, and he's slipped into one of those cheap hotel yukatas, so all Hikaru really has to do is pull, and he comes open: smooth skin beneath rough cotton. Meanwhile, they stumble in a tangle of arms and legs and heavy breathing over the doorjamb and fall onto the tatami, missing the futon by a few feet.

They somehow work out how to get Hikaru's belt open, and it's all downhill from there. For a second, just after Touya has jerked Hikaru's pants off his ankles at last, they pause, breathe, stare at each other. Then Touya is crawling forward, parting Hikaru's knees, and saying, "Let me. Please."

"Yeah, of course, whatever you--," Hikaru manages, before Touya, in one swift and surprising motion, suddenly dips his head down and sucks Hikaru into his mouth.

Hikaru nearly comes on the spot; only the fact that he's already on the floor keeps him from falling down and braining himself. For several long moments, there is just nothing in the world except Touya: Touya's long, go-callused fingers wrapped around the base of Hikaru's cock, his wet lips, his tongue, his still-damp hair brushing up against the inside of Hikaru's thigh every time he dips his head. "Oh my god," Hikaru says. "Oh my god stop oh my god, do you want me to come on your face, god, stop, oh my god-- I, ah, ah-- ah--"

They take a little breather after that, Hikaru stretched out on his back and staring up at the ceiling, panting hard. He thinks about the last time he did this, but can't seem to summon up any details; not that it matters. "Hey," he says, suddenly, with a thought. "Is there any--"

Touya is sitting up and still dabbing daintily at the corner of his mouth with a tissue. "Yes?" he says.

"Ugh," Hikaru responds coherently, and lets his eyes roll back up to the ceiling, a less provocative view by any standard.

"I was going to say," he says eventually, when he's collected himself again somewhat. "I was going to say, I think you should fuck me --" and he feels, rather than sees, Touya's entire body stiffen up "-- but I can't think. I was going to ask."

"You would let me?" Touya asks.

"Lotion," Hikaru says. "Or something."

He manages to get himself propped up on his elbows again so he can look Touya in the eye. "Let you," he scoffs. "Please."

Touya literally shudders, which is the most delightful thing Hikaru has ever seen. "Mm."

They end up making a huge mess of things, hotel lotion everywhere, and Hikaru on his back because the only way to do this is face to face. Touya holds his gaze the whole time he's pushing in, and Hikaru has to keep reminding himself to breathe. Breathe. And then, at last, Touya is in. They hold there for a moment, their eyes unfocused and their jaws slack, before Hikaru pulls himself together long enough to demand hoarsely, "Well?"

Touya blinks, then laughs.

And then he's moving -- they're moving, rocking together, their breaths shallow and uneven. Hikaru has one hand tangled in Touya's hair, and Touya's every thrust is like, driving him into the floor, god. He feels Touya everywhere, over him and inside him, every shudder and every breath. Touya's nose is inches from his, and he's panting, his breath hitching with every roll of his hips. It's impossible, just impossible, for anything to beat this, Hikaru thinks; only then Touya is kissing him again, and suddenly there's nothing left of Hikaru to think with. The moment stretches on forever. When they break, the look on Touya's face is basically the greatest thing Hikaru has ever seen, period.

Before he knows it, Hikaru is coming again, so hard he thinks he might strain something; for sure he blacks out for a second. And by the time his vision clears and he's breathing again, Touya is coming too, a sudden whole-body reaction. His hips jerk erratically, his breath hitches, and he shivers all over, before sighing, "Oh, oh," and collapsing awkwardly into Hikaru's chest. "Oh."

They separate, then lie there for a while, drifting on the edge of sleep.

Eventually, Touya stirs; he reaches out, and his sticky hand brushes against Hikaru's face. Their eyes meet, half-open, in the dark.

"I think this is the best day of my life," Hikaru confesses.

"I think it's the best day of mine," Touya replies.


●○●○●

 

It's lucky Hikaru refuses to travel in his suit, because otherwise he wouldn't have another change of clothes. Some time in the middle of the night, he throws his suit into the sink in Touya's bathroom (just before Touya puts out a hand and says, "Oh, I don't think..."), and now it's possibly ruined, but that's just as well.

"I have a zillion yen now," he says confidently, "And at least if I just throw the suit away, I won't have to explain to my mom why I'm missing like all the buttons off my shirt."

He's also sore as hell, and spends most of the morning at breakfast trying not to look as though he just spent the night having gay sex with his eternal rival.

"You both look really worn out," Whatevermura comments, when he passes by them in the breakfast buffet. "I guess that game was pretty intense, huh?"

"It was," Touya says smoothly. He barely flushes when Hikaru glances at him. Who knew Touya would turn out to be such a good liar?

The flight home is subdued. They're seated across the aisle from each other, and they play speed go on Hikaru's magnet goban until the flight attendants tell them they have to stop, they're making it impossible for people to get up to go to the bathroom. Hikaru is momentarily depressed until Touya comes up with the brilliant idea of playing a slower game.

They're in yose, filling in gaps, when the pilot announces their descent into Narita International Airport. Touya is ahead anyway by around six moku, including komi, and unless he screws up pretty bad, Hikaru isn't going to make up the difference. "I lose," he says.

"One day too late," Touya laughs.

Hikaru packs away his goban in the front pocket of his backpack, then turns to look across the aisle at Touya, who meets his eyes with a little smile. "Well, just make sure it's you again next year," Hikaru says easily. "Duh."

For a second, Hikaru glimpses the familiar sight of Mount Fuji scrolling past the windows behind Touya's head, the weather being unusually fair, and then they're spiralling slowly, slowly, slowly down onto the runway, back home at last.


●○●○●

 

Morishita-sensei shows his delight by thumping Hikaru on the back so hard Hikaru feels like he's being beaten by a block of concrete. "Well done! Well done!" Morishita-sensei enthuses. "I knew you could do it!"

Kawai-san is, if anything, even happier; he's made up his debts from last month and then some. He shows his gratitude by destroying Hikaru's hair. As usual.

His grandpa accuses him of not caring for his health -- "What?" Hikaru says, indignantly. "Like it's my fault when he plays a first-hand tengen!" -- but congratulates him on a successful defense of his title. "9-dan, huh?" he says, stroking his chin. "I never thought we'd have a go pro in the family. You must have gotten some of my good genes."

"Whatever," Hikaru says, rolling his eyes.

Even his mom and dad are proud of him and take him out to ramen at his request.

"We could do sushi," his mom suggests, tentatively. "You have ramen all the time."

"No, ramen! Ramen!" he insists.

The next time he goes to Waya's place, Waya welcomes him in by looking him up and down and saying, "Well, if it isn't Shindou Tengen, back from a successful defense." which makes him feel awkward for one brief, unhappy moment before Waya and Isumi and Honda and Nase reveal that they've all pooled their money to buy Hikaru a laptop.

"A cheap one," Waya says apologetically, "But we figured it was about time to dropkick you into the twenty-first century."

"In other words," Isumi-san says, looking embarrassed, "Congratulations."

"Oh my god," Hikaru says, delighted. "How do I, oh my god. You guys are the best!"

"If you break it," Waya warns, "I'll kick your ass."

"I tried asking the store associate how durable it was to dropping," Nase chimes in mournfully. "He wouldn't give me a straight answer."

"Please be careful," Honda-san adds. "It's a computer."

Hikaru glares balefully at them all. "I'm not that stupid," he says.

They all stare back at him, expressions carefully neutral.


●○●○●

 

The first thing he does in the new year is play a game of NetGo with everyone he can possibly convince to play with him. This takes some maneuvering, as well as some explaining -- his username is SHIKARU, thanks in part to the fact that some douche has already taken HIKARU and in part to the fact that he clicked ok on the suggested alternate username before looking -- but eventually he manages to get Waya, Hatanaka-sensei, Isumi-san, Kadowaki-san, and even, terrifyingly, Ogata-sensei to play with him.

Touya helps him set it up, so he plays the first game with Touya, seated cross-legged on the tatami next to Touya's computer desk. Touya keeps giving him weird looks all throughout the day, till he finally explodes, late in the afternoon, "What? What are you looking at? Am I doing something wrong again?"

"No," Touya says, and turns back to his own screen. "No, nothing."

The second thing he does is shock his mother by announcing he's moving out.

"What?" she says, dropping whatever she was holding (a yam or something) onto the floor. "Did you say--?"

"Yeah," he says, flipping through the paper looking for the apartment rental ads. "I'm going to be twenty this year, and other kids my age are already in university. It's about time."

"Yes, but you don't have to," she protests.

"I'll still be in Tokyo, of course," he says loudly, ignoring her. "So don't worry. And I'll come home all the time."

"Then what's the point?" she says. She leans over and picks up her yam again, then comes around to look at the paper with him. "You don't have to move out, Hikaru. Who will take care of you? You'll starve yourself to death."

"I do okay when I'm away on business trips," he says. "Anyway, I'm thinking I'll get a roommate. We'll manage."

He gets the apartment, then tells his roommate. His roommate takes the news stoically.

"You didn't consult me?" he says.

"Well, come and take a look at the place, anyway," Hikaru says, feeling distinctly annoyed by the way this isn't really going as planned. "It's nice. You should see it."

"I have a house," Touya points out. "Most of the time, I'm the only one in it."

"Yeah," Hikaru says. "Doesn't that suck? Come live with me. It'll be amazing. We'll play go all the time."

"I feel living with you would be a very unwise decision," Touya says, but allows himself to be taken to the apartment anyway.

"See?" Hikaru says, pushing him through the doorway into the empty, sunlit room. "Isn't it nice?"


●○●○●

 

Several months down the road, Waya corners him by the cubbyholes just outside Morishita-sensei's study session and jabs a finger into his face. "You're living with Touya," he says, narrowing his eyes.

"Oh, yeah," Hikaru says. "I forgot to mention." He casually sticks his shoes into the cubbyholes, then turns to gauge Waya's reaction.

Waya is all bug-eyed for a second, before he seems to pull himself together. "Well," he says, clearing his throat and heading for the door. "I guess it's none of my business."

Then, just before he enters the room, he turns back and makes a face. "Man, Touya?" he says.

Hikaru beams at him.

"Never mind," Waya sighs. "I don't want to know."

"Yeah, you're always saying that," Hikaru says cheerfully. "I decided maybe you really didn't."

Waya rolls his eyes, and the door slides open, revealing Shirakawa-san and Morishita-sensei by the window, already talking about something they have placed on the board. "Ah, Waya. Shindou," Morishita-sensei says, looking up. "You're finally here."


●○●○●

 

The study session runs long, and by the time they're done, the sun is almost setting. Touya is sitting by the goban near the window when Hikaru gets back to the apartment. He has a book in one hand, and he looks up as Hikaru dumps all his stuff in the pile by the door.

"Ah," Touya says, smiling. "You're back, too. Shall we play a game?"