Hikaru used to think ghosts were cool and creepy.
Not anymore. Now, he knew they're just really annoying; trying to do homework while listening to Sai whine about Hikaru's lack of a goban was really, really distracting.
"Hikaru!" Sai cried, somehow right next to Hikaru's ear. Hikaru jumped, pencil abruptly dragged across the worksheet, then glared at Sai.
"What?" he asked, flipping the pencil and carefully starting to erase the line (and trying not to erase the answers already put down).
"I wanna play Go! Can't we, please, Hikaru? Please? Please?"
"I haven't magically gotten a goban since last time you asked, jeez!" Hikaru replied, giving Sai a flat look. "Besides, I'm busy."
"But Hikaru!" Sai whined, at a volume that made Hikaru wince and nearly stab himself with his pencil as he clapped his hands over his ears. "I wanna play! Right now!"
"I don't have a goban! What do you want me to do, draw it on the side of the box over there or something?" Hikaru demanded, scowling.
"Yes! That would work!" Sai agreed excitedly.
"I still need to finish my homework," Hikaru started, only to have to cover his ears again as Sai started wailing fit to wake all the other dead in the world. "Okay, fine, just stop making that noise!" Hikaru snapped, loudly.
"Yay!" Sai chirped, smiling as happily as if he hadn't just been being the most obnoxious person ever. (Even Akari wasn't that obnoxious, and that was something Hikaru had thought he'd never, ever see.)
Hikaru made disgusted noise, tossed his pencil down on his desk, then got up and tromped over to the empty box his PlayStation had shipped in. He picked it up and unfastened the bottom, ripped down the short side, then took the mangled box back to his desk to dig out his scissors.
Five minutes later, his homework had been shoved to the side to make room for the big square side of the box, and Hikaru was bent over it, tongue poking out in concentration as he drew straight lines on it.
"Ne, Hikaru, those lines are really crooked! They should be straighter!" Sai commented, peering at it from over the side of the desk.
Hikaru gave him a dirty look. "You're really nit-picking that?"
"Yes! How can I not? Playing Go on crooked lines would just be ridiculous, Hikaru, so you should make them straighter! As straight as you can!" Sai exclaimed, hands flailing earnestly.
"Are you— Okay, no, you're totally serious, aren't you." Hikaru stated, standing and planting his hands on his hips. "Fine. Stay here," he said, as firmly as he could, and stomped out of the room, returning with his Mom's meter stick a few minutes later.
He laid it over the cardboard, spent a minute fussing to try and get his previous lines to, well, line up, then sighed and flipped the cardboard over and started drawing on that side instead.
"There," Hikaru said, capping the sharpie and propping the meter stick against the side of his desk. "A goban."
"You should mark the hoshi," Sai told him. "The we can play!"
"What are the hoshi?" Hikaru asked, somewhere between flat and curious despite himself. "And where are they?" he added, uncapping the sharpie again with a faintly annoyed sigh.
"The hoshi are key points on the goban," Sai explained, "and are here at 4-4, 4-10, 4-16, 10-4, 10-10, 10-16, 16-4, 16-10, and 16-16." He pointed at each point as he named it, pausing just long enough between each to let Hikaru make a little dot at each, and beamed at Hikaru when he finished. "Now we can play!"
"Sure, I guess, if you'll leave me alone afterwards," Hikaru agreed.
"Of course!" Sai concurred with a flutter of his fan. "Now, where do you keep your go-ke, we can't play without the stones!"
Hikaru stared at him for a moment, then sighed. "I don't have any."
"What? Hikaru!" Sai cried, eyes filling with tears. "You said—"
Hikaru groaned and buried his face in his hands. "You seriously don't give up, jeez," he muttered, voice muffled by his hands. "Shut up, okay? I'll... I dunno, I'll make some stones. Okay?" he asked, looking up to eye Sai warily.
"Yes!" Sai agreed, cheerful again in the blink of an eye. "More of this cardboard?"
Hikaru eyed the remnants of the box, then shook his head and grabbed one of his school notebooks and tore a handful of blank pages out of it. "I'll just cut these up. Some should be black, right?"
"Right," Sai confirmed, smiling happily. "Oh, Hikaru, this will be so fun!"
"Glad you think so," Hikaru muttered, concentrating on coloring a few pages solidly black (on both sides, because he was afraid Sai would complain if he didn't). It took him a while to finish coloring them, and then cut all of the paper up into what Sai proclaimed was the perfect size for the goban he'd drawn out, but finally he had two piles of paper. "There!" he exclaimed triumphantly, putting the scissors down and massaging his hand a little.
Sai cheered happily. "Now we can play!"
"Black goes first," Sai said, smiling. "You be black, Hikaru."
Hikaru frowned at the makeshift goban, pretty sure he'd played really, really badly, and hoping Sai wouldn't be too disappointed. "So?" he offered, after the silence dragged on for another minute.
"You're quite the beginner," Sai commented, somehow managing to make it sound like a compliment.
"Uh, yeah. Is that bad?"
"Not at all!" Sai smiled. "Everyone must be a beginner before they can become better, after all."
"You're just trying to be nice," Hikaru accused, crossing his arms and huffing in annoyance.
"I'm being honest, Hikaru. For instance, you opened by playing the 10-10 hoshi; it's an interesting move, but it's hard to back up so early, because your opponent will usually be concentrating on the corners and edges. Like I did, playing here, here, and here, while you went here and here. And then I had more implied territory than you, see?" Sai indicated each move with his fan, then roughly sketched the edges of their respective territory.
"And that's... bad?" Hikaru asked. "Because I lost, right?"
"You did," Sai agreed. "And yes, the aim of the game is to have the most territory. Already you can see I have more, so playing here or here would have been good attempts at cutting it up and getting more back your direction."
"But why are those better moves than what I did?"
Sai smiled. "Because they may have minimised your losses," he replied. "Let me show you..."
Hikaru spent the next hour replaying the game per Sai's instructions, and only remembered his homework when his Mom called him down to dinner. (He completely ignore Sai's request for another game afterwards, since he did have homework due the next day. And also, one game was plenty.)
Hikaru groaned in frustration as Sai suddenly appeared between him and the TV, sleeves swinging wildly as he demanded - at the top of his lungs - a game of Go. Of course, he thought, dropping the controller, just when I'd almost won this time. Vaguely, he heard the sound of the game announcing his death through Sai's whining, and flopped backwards on his bed.
Of course, Sai just took that as an invitation to come closer and start poking him with his fan. "Hikaru! How can you just lay there when the goban is empty? Get up, get up, come play!"
Hikaru scowled at Sai. "No way, you'll just kill me on the goban like you just did in my video game!"
Sai blinked, then twisted to blink at the TV. "Is that what that was? A game? I though it was one of your anime!"
Hikaru slapped a hand over his face, frustrated and completely unsurprised at the same time. "Yeah, it was a game."
"Oh." A pause. "Well, now you're not playing it, so you can come play Go, right? Hikaru!"
"Hikaru!" Sai howled, looking utterly distressed, "I wanna play!"
Hikaru rolled off his bed, landing with a loud thump. "Jeez, fine, stop it already!" he groaned, clutching at his stomach.
"Yay! You can be black!" Sai chirped, somehow suddenly already kneeling at the slightly battered cardboard goban, which Hikaru had left on the floor half under his bed.
"When am I ever white?" Hikaru grumbled, crawling over and plopping down opposite Sai. "Never, that's when," he continued as pulled the board from under the dust skirt, then leaned down to stick his arm under the bed to sweep the small plastic containers he used as go-ke for the paper "stones" out from under it. He pried them open, carefully not dumping half the scraps on himself (which he'd totally done before, much to Sai's amusement), and set them down next to the carboard goban.
Sai just smiled from behind his fan as Hikaru huffed and put the first stone down on the 16-16 hoshi.
Hikaru groaned and leaned back on his elbows, staring at the ceiling instead of the goban with its little paper "stones". It was boring, but it wasn't showing him that he'd lost. Again..
"Would you like to play again?" Sai asked.
"You'll just beat me again," he replied. "I'm terrible at this, why do you want to play me?"
"You're not terrible, Hikaru. You're just inexperienced." The soft sound of Sai's fan opening and closing a few times filled in the silence. "If you'll sit up, we can analyze the game, first."
"Why? I lost, what's to know from that?" Hikaru grumbled, but sat up, because otherwise Sai would start whining at him again.
"One learns far more from losing than from winning," Sai replied, decisively shutting his fan and pointing at a single black stone. "Here. You played tsuke when you should have played keima."
Hikaru frowned. "But why, Sai? Your stone was alone over here, tsuke should've worked."
"You focus too much on capturing, Hikaru. And the stone wasn't alone. Look over here, at this group. Remember how the board was set up?"
"Yeah," Hikaru said slowly. "But that group was three places away!"
"Yes, but look. You played tsuke, I played keima here—" The fan shifted to point at the stone in question. "You played tsuke off your previous move, extending towards my keima - and that let me play tsuke to that, here, which leads to this shape forming with moves here, here, here, and here," he finished. He tapped the last-indicated stone once, decisively, then shifted it back to the initial move. "Playing tsuke in the first place was ill-considered. But, you're right, it could have worked - if you'd played hane, here, cutting my keima. Then, I would've played here, and you could play here, then I here—"
Hikaru's eyes widened as he suddenly saw what Sai meant. "Oh!" He pointed at the goban. "Then I go here?"
Sai smiled. "Very good, Hikaru!"
Hikaru grinned back despite himself, even as Sai started explaining why playing keima in the first place would've been even better.
"Hikaru!" Sai shouted, right in his ear.
Hikaru yelped and rolled over, startled awake, and barely avoided falling onto the floor. "Sai!" he snapped, once he'd recovered from the shock. "Will you stop doing that?"
"You said we'd play a game after you did your homework, and then you fell asleep!" Sai complained tearfully into his sleeve.
"So you woke me up at—" Hikaru glanced at the clock, and then groaned. "Four? Ugh."
"I let you sleep all night," Sai replied, flailing. "And I know you need time to get ready for school, but you promised me a game! Won't you play, Hikaru?"
He groaned again and finished rolling out of bed, glad he'd moved the battered cardboard goban so he didn't have to go far when Sai was, well, Sai. He landed on the floor with a thump - which hopefully hadn't woken his parents - pulled the lids off the go-ke, then yawned and pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes. (He'd pretty much given up on getting Sai to understand that there's such a thing as too early for Go. Actually, he'd given up on getting Sai to understand there are such things as life pursuits outside of Go, because Sai just didn't get it. The circles under his eyes really, really wish Sai did, though.)
"Hikaru, come on!"
"Relax already," Hikaru grumped through another yawn, and rubbed his eyes firmly in an attempt to wake himself up properly.
Considering he yawned yet again as he placed the black stone down at 16-15, he figured it hadn't worked very well.
Hikaru stared at the goban, looking for some way he could rescue himself, then sighed. "Makemashita."
Sai's fan snapped shut, and he smiled. "It was a good game, Hikaru!"
"No, it wasn't. I can see that, at least."
"It was good," Sai repeated. "True, it could have been better, but your game is solid." He reached out and tapped a stone with the fan. "See here? This was a very good move; oogeima can be very risky, because it's easy to cut, but you had this group here, these stones over here, and then this one here, so it was, truly, a good move, because it shifted the pressure in the area onto my group, here. See?"
"Yeah. And?" Hikaru asked, propping his chin on his hand as he yawned for what felt like the billionth time that morning.
"I played here, extending my position; you played here, which was, again, good. Then the play went here, here, here, and here— And then I played here." Sai indicated each spot in rapid succession with his fan. "Then, you went here."
Hikaru eyed the goban sleepily. "You're going to tell me why that's wrong, aren't you."
Sai paused. "Well, I was hoping you'd see it. Don't you see it, Hikaru?"
Hikaru scratched at his cheek. "Maybe? Sai, I got, like, six hours of sleep and I think I dreamed about the history test Yukita-sensei's been warning us about all week. Will you just explain it so I can get ready for school?"
Sai pouted. "Very well. My last move was a threat to the stones you had here, see? Your previous position was fairly solid and could have waited to be filled in, so you should have blocked here instead of playing where you did. A solid wall is good. A wall that is built while ignoring the weakness in the fortress does no one any good."
Hikaru blinked. "And for those of us not with the metaphors this morning, that means what?"
Sai sighed. "It means that if you'd played here, then I would have played tsuke here, and you could do hane here, then I would play keima here, but then you could play a counter keima here. Do you see?"
Hikaru's jaw dropped open in awe. "Oh, man, I could've cut you off hard."
"Yes," Sai agreed, smiling behind his fan.
"Hikaru! Are you up yet? It's six-thirty!"
"Aw, crap!" Hikaru yelped, scrambling to his feet. "I'm up, Mom!"
Hikaru dropped his backpack at the foot of his bed, then flopped face-first onto his bed, not even bothering to take off the too-large Haze uniform. He dragged his pillow down over his head, not wanting to see anything, wishing no one could see him.
"He hates me," Hikaru said dully.
"Touya-kun?" Sai murmured. "No, Hikaru, he doesn't hate you. He's disappointed with you."
"That's just as bad!" Hikaru cried, peeking out from under his pillow to stare earnestly at Sai. "He won't want to play me again!"
Sai looked solemnly back at Hikaru, tapping his chin with his fan. "Not at your level of ability, no, he probably won't."
"Ahh!" Hikaru exclaimed, and pulled the pillow tight around his head again. "What do I do, Sai?"
"Do?" Sai repeated, blinking. Then he smiled. "The only thing you can, of course: become better at Go."
Hikaru pushed the pillow away again. "...Okay," he agreed, and pushed himself upright.
"Shall we play?" Sai asked, smiling softly, fan extended towards to goban invitingly.
"Let's!" Hikaru agreed. "I'm black, right?"