Shindou opened the door to the Go institute for Touya before entering himself. Sometimes he couldn't believe that this building had been his home since he became an insei so many years ago. Both he and Touya were twenty-two years old now and they were within arm spans of receiving their first titles.
Of course, it was something Shindou enjoyed teasing Touya about, stating Touya's title should've happened much sooner. Touya would then retort that titles were inevitable for the two of them and he wasn't in a rush, unlike some people.
Shindou slowed in his pace to smile at the memory. It was then he noticed the fake fish floating in the aquariums lined along the wall in the lobby. Sai loved those fish and would stop in his tracks just to stare at them, happiness written all over his face. Shindou didn't cared so much for them at the time and even now, fish weren't that interesting. The pro who appreciated fish was Ogata 10-dan, not Shindou.
"Shindou?" Touya asked, catching Shindou's attention.
Shindou turned his head away from the fish to look at Touya. "Sorry, Touya. I was deep in thought."
"I saw that." Touya walked back to Shindou. "What were you thinking about?"
Even after all these years of being friends and rivals with Touya, Shindou hadn't completely told him about Sai. Touya knew some of it, but not everything. Not the really important things. Still, this was something he had to share with Touya.
Shindou pointed at the fish. His voice was soft so only Touya could hear him. "Sai loved those fish. He used to watch them all the time."
He knew it didn't make sense to Touya because no one had ever seen Sai in person before besides Shindou, and even then Shindou would pretend he didn't know Sai, but Touya simply nodded his head. "Okay. They are pretty, I suppose."
Shindou took Touya by the hand and led him to the aquarium. Touya let out a slight scoff as he didn't resist Shindou. "Shindou, what are we doing?"
"I have a thought. Tell me what you think." Shindou placed his other hand on the glass of the aquarium. "Do you think it's possible to translate the movement of these fish into a Go match?"
Shindou turned his head to glance at Touya as Touya blinked at him. "I. Shindou, what on earth are you talking about?"
Shindou's hand moved up and down to mimic the white fish in front of him. "See how this fish moves? It's elegant and simple. So beautiful. There has to be a way to incorporate it into Go."
Shindou was thankful that Touya didn't outright dismiss his idea. He knew anyone else would have because it was such a far fetched idea. Touya stood next to him, neither of them willing just yet to unclasp their hands from each other, as he studied the fish. Finally, he spoke.
"It's possible. But we'd have to research into this very carefully. It's not just about recreating the movement of a fish, but seeing how well it can be used to defend or attack on the board. Otherwise you'd be placing stones on the board just to look pretty and no one except small children can afford to do that." Touya squeezed Shindou's hand. "We'll work on it tonight after our official matches."
Shindou smiled at Touya. "Thank you. I know it's foolish-"
Touya cut him off with a shake of his head. "It's not foolish. Shindou, I know how much Sai meant to you. Through his brief presence, he's changed the face of Go. As his student, it's through you that he changes it even further. Why shouldn't the student honor his teacher?"
Touya didn't completely understand the mystery behind Sai, but he knew that Shindou's Go was wrapped up in him. Shindou bent his head. Yes, he wanted to honor Sai. When he'd been younger, he didn't understand Sai even though they spent days upon days with each other. He'd gotten so frustrated with Sai, acting so bratty at times with him, and it wasn't until he was gone how much he realized what Sai meant to him. Shindou should have honored Sai while he was still around, but that was a regret he'd have to live with for the rest of his life.
"Thank you, Touya." While there weren't any people in the lobby, Shindou restrained himself from kissing Touya. Instead he squeezed Touya's hand. "Thank you for understanding."
"You're welcome. Even though I've never met Sai, he shaped my life just as much as he shaped yours. I never thought I'd love someone as much as I loved Go and yet here you are. In a way, we're together because of Sai."
Touya didn't even look around to see if there were people around before pressing a brief kiss against Shindou's lips. It spoke to the depth of how much Touya loved him if he was willing to do that in public.
They entered the elevator and rode it to the floor where their matches were taking place. Shindou spotted Waya in the corner talking with Isumi. He released Touya's hand so they could take off their shoes. Even now, Touya wasn't that social with the other pros their age, but through Shindou, he managed to somewhat get along with them. For Shindou's sake.
Isumi greeted them both warmly while Waya's warm greeting was for Shindou while he haphazardly greeted Touya. Not that Touya cared as Shindou glanced at Touya. Touya was glancing around the room as he checked out the competition.
He and Touya began dating since they turned seventeen. It began, not surprisingly, because of a Go match. The first Go match the two of them ever played against each other, though Touya didn't know behind Shindou's moves was Sai's expert hand. Touya played his original color and Shindou played his. They replayed it until they got to the spot where Touya had originally resigned and somehow they began shouting at each other. Shindou let it slip about it being Sai's hand that played the game, though Touya didn't understand how that was the case because, as he shouted, it didn't make any sense, and all their aggression and passion collided into a kiss.
Their relationship was supposed to be a secret, but Shindou should have known there was no way to hide from Touya's father. A year later, when they were both eighteen, Touya's father offered them a house. For the both of them. Shindou may have freaked out a little while Touya was left speechless.
Shindou chuckled at the memory and Touya glanced at him. "Shindou?"
"Just thinking about the house your father gave us." As soon as he said that, Shindou grinned at the flush on Touya's cheeks. "It's a very nice house, don't you agree?"
"Of course I do, we still live in it." Touya glanced at Waya who began laughing. "Yes, Waya?"
"The two of you are ridiculous. I should have known your 'rivalry' was going to end up like this. You couldn't even see anyone else besides each other."
Shindou chuckled as he patted Touya's shoulder. "That's not completely true. Sometimes we were chasing ghosts." Touya looked at him sharply, but Shindou just smiled at him. It was fun teasing Touya with the truth. "Come on, guys. We better take our seats before the matches begin."
Just as Shindou was about to find his seat, Touya reached for his hand and squeezed it. "Do well, Shindou," he said. "I expect to see you in the next round."
"The same to you, Touya. With your strength, I expect you to at least win by five moku, if not a full resignation from the other player." Shindou winked before finding his seat.
They defeated their opponents easily then went out to eat for lunch. Shindou was always in the mood for ramen, but Touya wanted sushi instead. He was in a generous mood, so they went for sushi. They sat side by side each other at the counter as small plates of sushi rolled by on a conveyor belt. Shindou pulled a plate of kampyo off the conveyor belt and picked up his chopsticks. As he slipped the kampyo into his mouth and chewed, he noticed Touya was just staring down at his plate.
Shindou nudged him with his elbow. "Touya?"
Touya looked up and smiled softly at Shindou. "Sorry, I was just thinking about the Go we'll need to work on tonight. I really don't know much about fish. That's Ogata 10-dan's strength. If we want to make it viable to honor Sai, we have to put a lot of thought into it."
Shindou nodded. He was grateful how serious Touya was taking his idea. "I was thinking of attachments. Building the fish before tracking its movements with attacks."
He thought about that as he picked up a glass of water. "Some fish attack, sure, but not these fish. They're not alive, but they mimic life. I think we need something with a more serene touch." As he spoke, placement of stones on the board began forming in his mind. Sai was fierce in his attacks, but there was beauty unmatched in his stone placements, too.
"Hm, you're right. I have some ideas on how we can do that. Shindou?"
"If we figure this out and make it viable for usage in Go matches, do you think there are other things Sai loves that we could incorporate into our Go?"
Shindou blinked at him and if they weren't in public, he would have launched himself at Touya to kiss him. Judging by the smirk on Touya's face, Touya knew that, so Shindou settled for words instead. "I love you so much. Yes, there's plenty more of Sai we can be inspired by." He closed his eyes and thought of the ghost. "Everyone should be touched from Sai's influences in this age so it carries out into the far future, like his influence through Honinbou Shuusaku did to our time."
Shindou opened his eyes to look at Touya as he realized what he said. Perhaps it was time to tell Touya the entire truth. He knew Touya would believe him. He just had to speak the words.
Shindou reached over to place his hand on top of Touya's. "Touya, someday has finally arrived."
He waited for the words to settle as he watched Touya's eyes widen after a few moments. Touya mouthed 'someday' before letting out a harsh breath of air. "Are you truly serious? I don't think I can take it if you're teasing me."
Shindou shook his head. "I promise, I'll tell you tonight. I should have told you long ago, but I wanted you to see me for me."
"And not just the other person inside of you, the one I played against when we first met." Touya nodded. "I understand. My father is, even now, a powerful Go player. I want other pros to see me for me, not as his son."
Shindou glanced up at the clock on the wall. "We better head back. I promised Waya a practice match when he was done with his own. Didn't Ochi challenge you to a match today as well?"
"He did." They got up and Touya took out his wallet to pay for their meal. "I think he's still upset that I regard you as my eternal rival over him. He mentioned something about how we could no longer be considered rivals if we're dating each other."
Shindou laughed as they began walking back to the Go institute. "Then Ochi hasn't seen us when we're discussing plays after a match. Besides, I like having you as both my rival and boyfriend and friend. It makes our Go that much more exciting."
"I completely agree."
When they returned to the institute, Shindou knelt by Waya to watch the game unfold while Touya was having an impromptu interview with a Weekly Go reporter outside the room. It didn't take long for Ochi or Waya to win their matches. Shindou congratulated Waya on a job well done before getting to his feet. He looked around the room and spotted Touya standing near Ochi.
"Ready to lose in our practice match, Shindou?"
Shindou returned his gaze back to Waya. Everything had been cleaned up and his opponent had walked away. He nodded. "You wish I'm going to lose. So speed Go, best out of five?"
"Definitely." Waya stared past Shindou. "I can't believe you're dating Touya. You could do so much better than that guy."
This wasn't the first time Waya brought that up. Waya and Touya would never be friends, but it didn't bother Shindou all that much. It amused him how much it riled Waya up at times.
Shindou looked at Waya with as much of an innocent expression as possible. "But Waya, who else was going to occupy my thoughts except for my eternal rival?"
Waya groaned. "The two of you are ridiculous. I've always thought that since we first started out as pros and nothing has changed."
Shindou shrugged as they sat down to begin their match. He clenched his fan in his hand. "It's not my fault that no one understood our rivalry."
"There was plenty I never understood. Remember your match with Touya's father as a beginner dan? Kurabawa-sensei, Ogata-sensei, and Touya were there to watch you. And I found out years later from a Weekly Go reporter that Touya's father chose you for the match." Waya looked at Shindou carefully. "There was so much mystery surrounding you back then and those high-ranking pros saw something in you. Is that why you caught Touya's attention?"
Shindou shrugged again. "I don't know what they saw in me back then, but I'd like to think that I haven't disappointed them since they first saw the potential in me." He placed a stone on the board and hit the timer.
By the time they finished playing their matches, Touya was done with his match with Ochi. Judging by the hard expression on Ochi's face, Touya won.
Shindou walked over to Touya's side and kissed him on the cheek. He glanced at the board. "You didn't have to destroy him. It wasn't an official match."
"He told me to go all out, so I did. Are you ready to go home?"
"I am." He was ready to give up the last of his secrets he had from Touya. After tonight, Touya would know the whole of him.
They returned home and Shindou turned on the lights while Touya set up their goban. Shindou went into the kitchen to make them green tea, returning to the living room with a teapot and two cups on a tray.
He set it down on the floor between them and looked at the board. Touya was placing down black and white stones to form new shapes. "What do you think?" Touya asked. "Starting it out this way would lull an opponent into a trap. Kind of how the movement of the fake fish lulls you into losing time by watching them."
Hikaru nodded as he studied the board. "What about this?" He placed a stone down. "The fish shape is the trap and here is where you can spring it."
"No, no. This is where you should place the stone." Touya moved Hikaru's stone and placed it elsewhere on the board. "See how far more elegant it is?"
Shindou bit back a shout as he wanted to argue with Touya. He saw the smug look on Touya and knew Touya was waiting for it. Shindou sighed before chuckling. Their foreplay really was predictable. No wonder Waya stopped coming over to their house for Go.
"You're wrong and I can't wait to use this strategy on you during a title round. Then I'll win." Shindou picked up his cup of tea and drank it slowly as he watched Touya fume. This time it was Touya turn to bite back a shout.
By the time they finished emptying the teapot, they had a semi-workable strategy inspired by fake fish. Shindou was proud of what they accomplished and he knew Sai would be proud of them, too. He bent his head and tried to will away the tears that wanted to form at the corners of his eyes.
He heard Touya moving and then felt his arms enveloping him from behind. "I can feel that this will be ready soon and Sai's influences will spread another wave throughout the Go world."
Shindou placed his hand on Touya's arm as he leaned back into him. "Thank you, Touya. I know I couldn't have made it this far without you. I may have had Sai at my back, but it was you I kept chasing after."
"And then you caught me." Touya kissed the side of Shindou's neck. "Shindou?"
Shindou nodded. It was time. "When I was eleven years old, I found an old goban in my grandfather's shed..."
The story was long, Shindou didn't want to leave any detail out, not when the listener was Touya who deserved to know everything, and by the time he ended it, the tears in his eyes were running down his cheeks. Touya remained silent for the next few minutes as he continued to hug Shindou.
"Thank you for telling me about Sai," he finally said. "I believe you. It should sound unbelievable, but it makes the utmost sense. And you never saw Sai again?"
"Not as a ghost, no. But I see him in my Go and I see him in the things he loved." Shindou smiled softly as he turned his head to look at Touya. "I see him in you."
When their lips met, Shindou let out a pleasured sigh. He was going to bridge the far past with the far future, and he was going to do it with Touya.
Touya was his future.