Touya Akira doesn't "hang out." Hikaru isn't surprised; Touya also doesn't know the rules to baseball, can't play volleyball, and hasn't a clue about when Shounen Jump hits the shelves. Neither can he quote lines from movies or name any popular bands. At one time, Hikaru would express shock and disbelief whenever one of those revelations came to light, and might have even made a big deal about it, or even teased his childhood rival. But Shindou Hikaru is older now, and many things about him have changed.
What hasn't changed is the fact that Touya, by youth standards, is weird.
It isn't that Hikaru doesn't understand how go can threaten to consume one's life -- especially one with such passion for the game. In fact, Hikaru probably knows better than most how go can suddenly appear and take over, coming before things like going to the movies or visiting the arcade.
But the difference between Hikaru and Touya is that Hikaru still does these things. He still hangs out with friends, still reads manga, can easily switch the topic of conversation from kifu to the latest chapter of One Piece.
Touya, on the other hand... well, taking Touya out of his element can be difficult: His friend and rival has to be coaxed or dragged into doing anything outside of go. Hikaru supposes he can understand the shyness. It has to come from spending years in the company of adults and suits and good manners. It is unlikely that Touya Akira will ever bury his nose in a manga, but taking him out to spend time with people his own age? Yes, Hikaru can imagine that -- if only there was a way to get his rival started. Hikaru intends to do just that.
He has been working on this not-so-secret project for some time. He calls it Operation: Break Touya's Shell. (Waya says Hikaru is lame and reads too much manga.) He begins by proclaiming he will bring Touya to every ramen stall in Tokyo in a period of less than two months. ("How exactly will this help your cause?" Isumi asks and before "cause" is out of his mouth Waya jumps in with "Anyone who hangs out with Shindou must hang out with ramen!") Then he does just that, and can hardly believe that Touya put up with all that ramen, as he tells Waya while they are stuffing their faces after a study session. The accomplishment doesn't seem that significant, but Hikaru insists it is because they were surrounded by people who were not playing go.
And then Waya asks, "But what about when he rides on the train or takes a bus? He's surrounded by non-players all the time. He did go to school, too."
Hikaru's immediate response is to slam his hand down on the table of their restaurant booth and snap, "It's still progress, okay?!"
Waya is unaffected, but that's because he says Hikaru is easy to handle. Whatever that means. "Fine, so you dragged him all over the city and made him eat stupid ramen. What next?"
"... I'll think of something," Hikaru mutters, staring down at his cheeseburger. Waya drops the subject, because Waya doesn't care much for Touya and doesn't want to talk about him, anyway.
Still, Waya does have a point and Hikaru knows it. Hikaru often toys with the idea of asking his rival to join him, just to hang out and laze around, or to head to a mall or an arcade. But he knows that bringing Touya to Shibuya would be like throwing a cat into a pit full of dogs.
... It doesn't mean Hikaru isn't going to try it one day, but for today, the beach seems like a safe choice. It isn't a go salon and it isn't a restaurant but it isn't a dance club. It's a start.
So Hikaru waits until Saturday morning, until they are finished their first game and have discussed it. He watches as Touya reaches forward and begins to scatter the stones, ruining the pattern of black and white. When they put the lids back onto the goke, Hikaru makes the move.
"You don't have any tutoring today," he says, "so we should go to the beach."
Touya gives him an odd look; it's a little suspicious, a little curious, and a little uncertain. "Why do we need to go there?" he asks, in a voice he might have used to say, "Why are you asking me?"
"Because I feel like playing go in the sun," Hikaru says, only to see Touya's eyes light up at the prospect of playing -- it's something safe, something familiar, something he knows he'll enjoy.
But Touya's expression quickly switches back to a look of resolve. "Well, there's always a park, if you want to play outside."
Hikaru always expects Touya to put up a fight, though, so he presses onwards. "It's summer and today's my day off. I want to spend some time at the beach."
"Well go, then," Touya replies. He looks a little annoyed, like he is ready to stand and leave a potential argument behind even though it's supposed to be Hikaru who storms out, not Touya.
"I don't wanna go alone!" Hikaru says, giving Touya a pleading look. This seems to placate him; Touya's expression softens. "You'll come with me, won't ya? We can just chill and play some go and maybe go for a swim."
Hikaru knows it's coming before Touya even opens his mouth to admit, "I can't swim."
So he just smiles in such a way that Touya will know he is not being teased. "You won't have to."
"... Fine," Touya says -- and because he's Touya, he immediately runs through a list of things they might need.
The beach trip goes more smoothly than Hikaru expects, though he isn't sure just what he was expecting. For a sunny, summer Saturday, it is surprisingly empty. Hikaru and Touya spend the afternoon sitting on a blanket under a beach umbrella, and manage to play two or three games before Hikaru is approached by a younger teenager holding a volleyball and invited to join a match. A friend had to leave, the kid says, would Hikaru please like to fill in? At first, Hikaru thinks about declining, but Touya insists that he play. Hikaru agrees, but notes that Touya shies away from becoming part of the game himself.
Baby steps, Hikaru reminds himself. It's a start.
The volleyball game goes on for about an hour, and the entire time, Hikaru is sure Touya is mostly watching him.
The last serve is volleyed as the sun begins to set. As Hikaru waves goodbye amidst laughter and thank-you's, he sees that he and Touya are now the only ones around.
"Did you have fun?" Touya asks when Hikaru returns to the blanket. There is sand sticking to him and he is sweating.
"Yeah," he pants, dropping down next to Touya. "I haven't played on the beach in months." He spies the umbrella resting next to their bags, and figures Touya must have put it away once the sun was no longer a threat.
"Well," Touya says matter-of-factly, "summer does only come around after some months."
Hikaru makes an annoyed face. "I know that. I only meant that I haven't done this in a while."
"I know." Touya's gaze drops to the travel-sized goban they've brought, to the game they haven't yet cleared away. Touya's win (by two moku) is still on display. Belatedly, Hikaru wonders if Touya might have attempted a joke, but doesn't get to ask. "Do you want to play again?"
"After I take a dip in the water," Hikaru says. "I'm all sticky." Then on impulse, "Want to learn how to swim?"
Something in Touya's face closes up. Too fast, Hikaru thinks, and mentally kicks himself. Not that he thinks Touya is that fragile, that scared, but still.
"Ah, no, thank you," Touya says eventually. He looks down, dark hair obscuring his face. He is looking at the game, but Hikaru knows he has studied it thoroughly already.
Hikaru hesitates, but then gets up again. "Okay, then I'll be back."
He enjoys the cold water but tries to remind himself not to be too long. He has already left Touya alone once today; he feels somewhat guilty about that. Hikaru doesn't swim far out.
When he surfaces from a dive he hears "Shindou!" from the shore. He looks back, sees Touya motioning, and swims back until he can stand. He walks closer until the water only reaches his knees. "What is it?" he calls.
Touya is standing in the wet sand, though Hikaru notices that he steps back out of range once the water creeps up and touches his feet. "Your cellphone was ringing."
Hikaru wants to ask if Touya answered but knows he didn't. He's cooled off anyway, so Hikaru returns to their blanket, grabs a towel, and checks his voicemail. His mother has left a message and he returns her call. She doesn't want him to come home too late. Oh, he's about to play another game of go? Well, just don't come home too late.
"It's getting dark, anyway," Touya says when Hikaru hangs up. "Soon we won't be able to see the board."
"Ah," Hikaru agrees, and helps Touya as they pack up. Soon they are walking back to the train station. Strangely, Hikaru feels as though he hasn't exactly accomplished his goal for the day, but Touya looks content.
"You were right," Touya says suddenly, when they are sitting together and watching the outside world zip by them. "I had a nice time." He doesn't say thank-you, but Hikaru thinks it is implied.
"Eh," Hikaru scratches the back of his head, feeling more awkward than victorious, "it was cool, yeah. We should do something together some other time soon, too."
Unexpectedly, Touya replies, "We should."
Hikaru grins. Maybe next week, he will take Touya to a movie.