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Meadow of Ink

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Hikaru’s first mark is a warm smear on his left palm. That was, his mother tells him later on, the first place she touched. When he’d been baby, it was also where she often pressed small, affectionate kisses, deepening the light colour of mother’s love into a deeper, more vivid colour of summer. A happy mark, everyone always say.

It might have influenced Hikaru’s favourite colours all through his childhood. He doesn’t even mind the fact that it becomes a rose later on - with thorns and all.

His second mark is a darker, firmer mark on his shoulder - his father’s hand resting there, holding him back in traffic and clapping his shoulder in approval at good mark at school or in congratulations after a nice game of soccer.

Black always feels like a secure, comforting colour for Hikaru. The mark later morphs into sunflowers, lofty and tall, distant security surrounded by thin outline of love. He is prouder of it than he ever admits.

The marks after that are less permanent and more complicated.

A simile of a soccer ball for his childhood best friend, whose name he later forgot - it faded away by the time he was eight.

A book and a string of floating letters for his first teacher - it faded away at the end of the year, when he became a “big boy” and stopped appreciating school and authority to that degree.

There were other marks for similar reasons until Akari moved into the neighborhood. Her mark on him comes on slowly over the following year - and it lasts.

A winding branch of an old oak, like the ones of a tree under which they played as brats and where he hurt his knee climbing the tree to get her children’s day kite, where later that autumn he begrudgingly admitted that she was his best friend in the whole world. The oak branch goes down his leg, autumn leaves curling around the calf - and it is a bit embarrassing, how detailed it is,  but at least it isn’t a cherry flowers or something as embarrassing as that.

(His mark on Akari is a bush of nettles, which is fair enough. It is just like the bush where she braved to get his soccer ball because he had shorts and she had tights and didn’t get stung where he definitely would’ve. For years Hikaru assures everyone who asks that seriously, he could’ve gotten it himself, Akari had just been faster about it.)

(Later still he wonders if it stings.)

Hikaru’s grandmother’s mark is a ring of daisies and dandelions around his left lower arm - she used to make flower crowns of the wild flowers that grew in her garden and for all his whining and objections Hikaru never stopped her from putting them on his head. He just didn’t wear them for very long, ending up carrying them around his arm and using them for frisbees before long. His mark on her was grass stains on her knees. She was so proud of them - claimed always that she got them from running after him.

She couldn’t walk, though.

Her mark is the first he got which lost its colour - it begun fading to white when she did and by the time of her burial, the dandelions are all pale and the golden centers of the daisies have faded to cool, bluish grey. Everyone says it’s beautiful. Sometimes, Hikaru even agrees.

It takes a long time before Hikaru gets a mark for his grandfather - he and Heiachi don’t see eye to eye until well into his teens, and the mark is blurry and vague for a long, long time. It’s hard to visit his grandfather in the house where his grandmother used to live - he fights against it every time. And his grandfather isn’t anywhere near as good with children as she’d been. They don’t get along, at all.

The old man smacks Hikaru on the thigh with his walking stick once when he’s being a brat - a light tap really, it doesn’t even hurt. Its months before Hikaru forgives him. That’s where the sturdy green smear first forms.

(Eventually, when there’s a goban and new understanding between them, it morphs into a kaya sapling, growing a little crooked but resilient on his thigh.)

For years that’s it. And then, from nowhere… Toya Akira enters Hikaru’s life.

His mark creeps up Hikaru’s fingertips like a stain he can’t wash off. The right fore and middle finger, so obvious and so noticeable - Toya’s face always twists when he sees it, because it’s so fast, faster than any other mark Hikaru had gotten. Forget years, forget months - it’s there inside weeks, visible within days.

The cherry flowers keep growing up Hikaru’s arm for years, new ones blooming all the time. Its embarrassing. Everyone always assumed it’s for some great love of his life. It’s mortifying.

Only a handful of people know it’s for Toya Akira - and Hikaru will fight tooth and nail to keep it that way.

(Hikaru is a vine of grapes on Akira’s side, spreading all across his ribs, bitter green grapes ripening dark red as the grow up, as they grow old. The few people who see it make assumptions, not much unlike the ones they make about Hikaru. Akira, the lucky bastard, never has to explain it though - he can just cover it up.)

And yet the most significant mark left on Hikaru isn’t the array of pink flowers on his knuckles and along his arm.

It’s the endless field of ghostly pale water lilies growing all over his back.