Chapter 1: 1. Flights and 'high stakes' games
- Flights and ‘high stakes’ games
Long haul flights are a pain in the ass, Yoshitaka muses. Granted, for this special occasion the Go Institute actually went and got them first class seats, because the highly anticipated “new wave” did wonders to regain Japan’s bruised pride and after the almost painful lull, the game of Go seems to have regained much of its lost popularity, complete with the fattening of pockets that it brings.
Which is how for this year’s International Amateur Go Tournament, sponsored by the Institute but held in a beautiful venue in the sunny San Diego –to help promote Go and get more worldwide attention– the pros scheduled to attend have actually been deemed worthy of being well taken care of.
Despite the comfort of a classy flight, though, Waya is still incredibly bored –there’s only so many movies that you can watch in one go from the tiny backseat screens before your eyes hurt, and there’s only so many naps you can take before you feel pins and needles in your legs– and kind of grumpy.
He looks around to see how are his traveling companions faring. Yashiro is sleeping soundly, excitement over his very first long flight having died down and given way to extreme sleepiness, it would seem; Isumi is very much sleeping as well, complete with earbuds that are probably playing soothing, classical music –Waya’s face briefly takes an affectionate look. ‘Dork.’ He thinks somewhat fondly while looking over to his friend, before moving to observe the rest. Ochi, way over to the other end of the compartment, is engrossed in some kind of book –possibly studying or examining Tsumego, which brings him to the other two members of this little entourage.
Touya Akira and Shindou Hikaru, shining stars of the new wave in the flesh.
They’re playing Go, obviously –and it’s quite the furious battle, if the mutters and grumbles thrown around occasionally are anything to go by. Luckily for everyone’s ears, the two rivals managed to actually grow up at some point so they don’t throw childish tantrums at each other …with the occasional exception, Yoshitaka remembers quite clearly an instance, give or take two years ago, where a game discussion between the two not-quite-boys-anymore nearly turned into a fistfight, and was only saved by Shindou levelling Touya with this kind of look, before he actually took a step back and decided that maybe a compromise was in order.
It still baffles the redhead that Shindou acted like the mature one, for once, the whole episode was very strange –especially Touya’s reaction to the look, but the only thing anyone around him cared about was that violence had been adverted.
As of right now, they seem to be well into yose on the magnetic travel set that they produced the very second the seatbelt sign turned off. Curiosity winning over, Yoshitaka takes a peek.
It’s a very close thing, and they’re basically just closing the fights by now.
Shindou places a hand at 8-1 and raises his eyes towards Touya. “Give it up.” He advises, almost in a sing-song tone “You know you have to…”
“Shut up and let’s finish this.” Is all the other has to say, moving to close a ko at 15-6.
Shindou just smirks at his rival and goes to 5-12 to finalize his territory, and Touya pointedly refuses to return the look as he captures the final stone of the game at 10-4.
While Touya’s black controls the upper right corner and the entire lower left, Shindou aggressively conquered the center and the final tally sees white ahead by 1.5 moku.
Touya’s lips part in a sound that is halfway between a sigh and a huff. “Fine.” He mumbles, clearing his voice and stating it more clearly –wouldn’t want his rival to think he’s too chicken to admit defeat. “Fine, just get it over with.”
There’s a silence poignant enough that Waya has to ask: “What now?”
Shindou is positively beaming. “Now I get to claim my prize.” He says, looking at his rival with what could be described as pure glee while said rival stares back defiantly but with the barest hint of a smile himself. Then Shindou’s hand shoots up to grab a full fistful Touya’s hair and for a moment Waya wonders if this is the moment questionable tabloids will be proven right.
He holds his breath.
“I swear to God, Shindou, if you take pictures of me like this I’m going to make you eat the stones.”
“Tsk, tsk! So little faith in my sportsmanship.” Touya’s annoyance returns full force as Shindou’s fingers card through his hair a couple of times before the other pro starts making silly braids with it.
‘Ah.’ The redhead unconsciously exhales.
The stakes, Shindou explains minutes later, were that if he won he’d get to play with Touya’s usually impeccably straight hair and make it look as stupid as he can for the rest of the flight; whereas upon loss Touya would have had the right to hold Shindou’s precious fan hostage for the same duration.
Yoshitaka still thinks it’s a bit weird that Touya fell asleep while Shindou played with his hair –in a display of blind trust quite contrasting with Touya’s questioning of Shindou’s honour moments before; and the look Shindou gives him upon noticing it still doesn’t quite add up to what he knows of their rivalry.
It’s too fond, almost tender, for someone as hot headed as Shindou, and especially so to direct to someone as temperamental as Touya is known to be around his rival.
‘…nah.’ then again, maybe that’s the point. They’ve all been around each other all the way through adolescence and out of the under-18 category, and Shindou and Touya have been at each other’s metaphorical throat long enough to become as close as he himself is with Isumi, if not more. Plus, the sleeping prodigy does look almost endearing, fast asleep and curled up in his seat –deceptively so, considering Waya thinks Touya is straight up scary and shouldn’t be allowed to look cute– and it’s not like he himself doesn’t feel like smiling at least a tiny bit at the image.
This is going to be a fun week.
Chapter 2: 2. Hotel arrangements and pools
Man, it feels weird posting several chapters at once.
I don't know what to write in the notes.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
- Hotel arrangements and pools
“This is awesome!!!” Shindou says, instinctively reverting to his 15 year old self and bouncing from one armchair to the other, “Touya look! It says they have a pool outside! And check this out, we have a freaking minibar!”
“Which you will stay away from unless you want a repeat of last year’s Christmas Eve incident.” Isumi chuckles at the absolute iciness in Touya’s command and the way Shindou sulkily berates him for being still hung up on that. To be fair, that one time there were already more than a few drinks in everyone, and the pink paint wasn’t Shindou’s fault(*). Either way, the bickering duo eventually settles down and even the uptight Touya has to concede that it was pretty sweet of the Institute to book them an actual suite.
There’s three bedrooms, each with two beds and its own bathroom, and the pleasant little living space with the TV and minibar Shindou got so excited about.
Waya is thinking along similar lines, but more captivated with the comfy look of those sofas, as he just sprawls on one and stretches out his tired limbs –the poor soul couldn’t catch a wink in the airplane for the life of him, so now he’s obviously out of it, which leaves him, Ochi and Yashiro to look over their schedule once more and ponder sleeping arrangements.
Which is not a hard thing to do at all –nobody would ever even dream of suggesting to separate the “power duo”, Waya and Isumi get along like a house on fire ever since their insei days; and Ochi has been looking forward to more chances to measure himself against Yashiro for a while now. They each pick a room and deposit their stuff.
With that out of the way, the boys take a gander at the copy of the program for the next few days that has been sent to the hotel and attached to the pin-board in the suite’s living space.
The first day, which is the day of arrival, has been left free for the Japanese pros and all international participants to settle in the venue and rest. The second day is also free, probably a move from the sponsors’ side to get the attending parties to enjoy the sights and maybe buy the merchandise that’ll be on display for the entire event’s duration; on the third day there will be some demonstration games for which they have been matched up –it’s probably one big disappointment for the fans of Shindou and Touya’s ever growing rivalry that the two are not pitched against each other, Isumi thinks, with Shindou ending up against himself and Touya left to deck it out with the eclectic Yashiro, while Waya gets to flex his energetic play against Ochi’s more meticulous and calculated hand.
Despite the “new wave’s golden boys” not getting to fight at the big event, it does promise to be an interesting day, and it was probably arranged like this to not take too much attention away from what it’s actually about: the Amateur Tournament which will take place on day four. They will take turns commentating and hosting the different phases, then the next day there will be public lectures and Shidougo session, and then they are left with one more free day to see the sights and rest, before finally departing on the seventh and last day.
All in all, despite the tight schedule and the work they will have to do, it kind of feels like a vacation.
Shinichiro’s head snaps towards one of the bedroom doors when he hears a thump. Then another banging sound, like someone or something fell, a chuckle and a muffled curse. A moment later, Touya emerges from the room, looking slightly dishevelled and shaking his head.
“Something the matter, Touya-kun?”
The younger pro just stalks over to where Shindou had abandoned his suitcase in favour of jumping around and gushing about how awesome the room is, and picks it up. “No, Isumi-san.” He answers politely, although with a kind of edge to his voice that only his rival can bring out, “Shindou’s just… being Shindou.”
Isumi raises an eyebrow at the way Touya doesn’t quite meet his eyes during his explanation, cheeks tinting slightly in embarrassment, possibly at the realization that the commotion was well within earshot of their roommates; but prefers to not say anything.
“One would think you’d be immune to that, after all these years.” Ochi is the one to comment, as the youngest among them finally takes his eyes off his schedule, mildly displeased that he won’t get to fight Yashiro in an official game but looking forward to the many casual ones they’ll be able to play.
Touya stops halfway to the door and looks back at them. “There no such thing as being ‘immune’ to Shindou.” He says, lips quirking up in an expression that isn’t quite a smile but does have a sort of private amusement, reflecting especially in his eyes, “Believe me, I’ve tried.”
It makes Isumi wonder –it’s no secret that those two have inevitably grown a lot closer over the years, but the way Touya talked about his rival just now is just a bit too… enraptured? They’re not twelve anymore, after all, and surely the childish back and forth can’t be that compelling anymore…
The door to the room swings open, and then closed, though not all the way, and the occupants of the living room are treated to one of Touya’s rare moments of total loss of composure.
“Are you kidding me?” the subsequent thump tells Shinichiro that Touya probably unceremoniously dumped Shindou’s backpack to the floor in reaction to whatever the other did.
“Shindou, if you’re faking it I’m going to hit you.” A pause. “…are you really asleep?”
With the noise Touya is making, passed out might be a more accurate term.
“You monumental goof, you fell asleep with your clothes and shoes.” Just like that the annoyance evaporates from the Go prodigy’s voice, leaving a soft, affectionate laughter in its place. “I swear, what would you even do without me?”
Those words, together with the sound of fabric shuffling and shoes hitting the floor, sound very ambiguous to Shinichiro’s ears, and the other occupants in the room –minus Waya, who has been conked out on the sofa ever since they set foot in the suite– seem to agree with him and are quick to busy themselves with other tasks instead of listening in to what sounds like a very private moment.
Then Isumi looks over to his best friend, and as he gets up from his seat, shaking his head, he remembers he asked himself the very same question about Yoshitaka, with the numerous times he played babysitter for the redhead –like now, for example.
“Come on, buddy.” He says, grabbing the other by the arms to lift him and carry him to their room. “Let’s get you some actual sleep.”
Jet-lag successfully slept off, Shindou is his usual ball of nuclear energy the morning after, and practically forces everyone to hit the pool.
“We’re in San Diego, we’re in a fancy hotel and it’s summer!” he had said, “We can’t not go to the pool!”
It is a very good argument, and Shinichiro has to admit the sun feels great and lounging about by the pool actually feels like they’re on vacation. Waya and Yashiro are playing in the water, having silly contests about who can do more underwater flips or who can walk the most upside down on their hands in the shallow ends; Shindou is alternating between cheering them on and creating disturbances by splashing water at their faces; while Ochi is sat at the edge of the pool, legs in the water and occasionally calling them all idiots.
As for Touya, he is a bit farther back than him, sat on the chaise longue under the umbrella, after claiming in a deadpan that he didn’t want to catch sunburn and leaving the more rambunctious of them to their own devices. Coming to think of it, Touya is the only one out of all of them that’s also wearing a t-shirt over his swim trunks.
“Touya! Isumi-san!” alas, all peaceful moments come to an end. Shindou, with Waya in tow, is coming towards them, dripping wet and with a mischievous grin on his face. “Come on, guys, join the fun!”
“I’ll pass, thanks.” Isumi declines with a smile, “I want to get a bit more sunbathing in, before we have to go back to being inside stuffy rooms all the time.”
Waya nods understandingly before turning to go back, considering he does have a point, and even Shindou shrugs at him. “Suit yourself.” He says, before turning his attention on Touya, who has been very silent ever since Shindou walked out of the pool and came to them, “Touya! Come on!”
“Why not?” Shindou grabs him by a wrist, “Come on, it’s not like you can’t swim!”
Isumi idly wonders how does he know about Touya’s ability to swim.
“I just don’t feel like it! Why are you only insisting with me?” Touya tugs back, inadvertently yanking the blond slightly forward.
“Because Isumi-san has a valid reason not to come!” Shindou shoots back, gesturing vaguely to him, “He’s enjoying the sun. Your pasty white butt is just sitting here; you’re not having any fun. Come on!”
One has to wonder why it is Shindou’s problem whether or not Touya enjoys himself and how, but, once more, Shinichiro chooses not to chime in.
Touya keeps his eyes steadily trained to the corner of his chaise-longue, even when Shindou leans over him enough to drip little droplets close to his side. It almost seems like a conscious effort to not look at the shirtless and very much still dripping wet figure in front of him –either that or he’s avoiding the puppy eyes, the thing Shindou sometimes does where his eyes get big and sparkly and they make you say yes to the dumbest ideas. “And what if I simply don’t want to get wet?”
‘Bad move.’ Touya had to know that giving his rival such an opening, and with such a challenging tone, could only end poorly for him. As it is, Shindou wildly shakes his hair out at him, a bit like a dog would, spraying Touya with pool water whether he wanted or not.
“Oh, would you look at that! You’re all wet already.” Shindou remarks in mock innocence, fight against Touya’s stubbornness to stay in his seat resumed as he all but grabs his rival’s shirt and starts tugging. “Come on! I swear a little water won’t kill you!”
“Nuh-uh! You come and swim with us!”
“Hey! That tickles, you jerk!”
“Then get up yourself! You have feet, don’t you?”
Isumi watches the pair for a couple seconds before loudly clearing his throat: in his mission to get Touya to get up and join the pool games, Shindou has bunched his rival’s shirt in one hand and tugged it up all the way to his armpits, while the other hand got around Touya’s midriff, to try and pull him up and out of the chair. At the same time, Touya has grabbed Shindou by the shoulders with both hands, in an effort to try and restrain him. Neither pro seemed aware of or bothered by what their tussling was actually starting to look like.
Had it been just the lot of them, they’re quite used to the two rivals’ antics and their tendency to get physical –Shindou is the one person on Earth with the superpower to make ever-so-polite Akira-kun forget his manners and get physical – but as things are now… some of the hotel’s other guests are starting to stare.
Luckily enough, they freeze when they hear Shinichiro’s voice raise and they finally seem to take a proper look at themselves. Touya’s face is priceless –it goes from annoyed, to suddenly aware, and quickly plummets to mortified, and he lowers his gaze first, snatching himself away from Shindou and finally raising from the chair. “Ugh, fine! If it will shut you up.”
He still sounds annoyed, but he is pointedly avoiding Shindou’s eyes and his cheeks are tinted a lovely shade of pink. Shindou himself, much more versed in the practice of being a loudmouth and being generally shameless, just smirks at his rival, once more taking his hand and starting to drag him to the poolside. “Ha! I knew you’d give into my logic!”
Touya’s blush intensifies. “Out of all the things about you that I usually give into, your logic is far from the top of the list.” It’s the one moment he does look at Shindou, with a sideways glance that seems to linger on the other’s drenched form, but the utterly impish look Shindou returns that with apparently pisses Touya off enough to outright refuse proximity and stalk forward to the pool himself.
By then, they’re too far for Isumi to hear their bickering, but that’s just as well. He can return to his peaceful sunbathing, amusement at the two’s antics pulling a smile on his face. ‘One has to wonder if Touya knows what that sounded like.’ He muses, lying back down. ‘Then again, it is Touya. He was probably talking about Go.’
Everyone knows that everything is about Go, for Touya Akira.
(*) I'm not gonna elaborate on that. Use your imagination.
Chapter 3: 3. The color green is good for Speed-Go
Maybe I should just not bother with notes?
Doesn't feel right not to have anything as an intro.
- The colour green is good for Speed-Go
After their –admittedly fun– free day at the pool, the real work started. The demonstrative games were well worth the audience’s attention, and Ochi is proud of himself for his victory against Waya –he has won against the redhead before, but no self-respecting pro ever gets their guard down, and proof of it is that his victory was a half-moku one and fought tooth and nail until the very end. Isumi also gave Shindou a good run for his money, but the blonde’s volatile genius got the better of the older pro, and Touya absolutely slaughtered Yashiro in a way that he then actually apologized for –it was the strangest thing, and he was only able to catch the conversation because they passed him by as they stepped off the stage:
“Sorry about going in so heavy-handed, I know it was supposed to be just a demonstration, but…” Touya said, “It’s just… I thought you were making fun of me.”
Yashiro waved away the other’s apology with calm and nonchalance. “Nah, don’t worry. Serves me right for trying to fight you like Shindou would, when I’m obviously not him.” He actually had a very amused look on his face as he said that.
Looking at the kifu, Ochi clearly sees what they were talking about: halfway through the game, Yashiro tried to lay down a Shindou-style trap, one of those ‘bad’ hands turned brilliant 15 moves later… but Touya not only found it and out-read him, he also mercilessly dissected the formation while he still had the chance to do so.
Throughout the entire day, Shindou is incredibly smug about it, and the only thing that keeps him from bragging about how no one can replace him is probably the fact that Touya still kicks his ass on the goban 3 out of every 5 times.
The day of the tournament finally comes, and it’s far more relaxing. He gets to commentate and host the preliminary phase together with Yashiro, which is the easiest part because there are so many games going on that you don’t really have to talk about them all, and only cater to the guests who are there to watch and answer generic go questions, while monitoring the victories and losses of the phase together with the officials and giving quick pointers on the post-game discussions.
That done, they leave the Tournament hall in Waya and Isumi’s capable hands, and Ochi takes his chance to whisk Yashiro away to the free to play room for a casual game, itching for a test of strength, but they stop to look at a very crowded table, curious as to what’s going on.
The glaringly conspicuous and familiar blonde bangs give it away: Shindou and Touya are playing.
‘Ah. That explains the audience.’ Ochi thinks. Some two-three years ago, he’d still be mad about all the attention on those two; but now that he’s almost eighteen and a bit more self-aware, he considers it’s almost more of a curse than a blessing. Still, his burning interest for Go wins over, and they make their way over to watch for a little bit.
“Oh, hey, somebody’s got claws!” Shindou is saying, head turned to talk to a girl who’s standing very close to the board, “Ok see, he made this move here because he knows that my formation here is still weak, and if I don’t strengthen my territory he can easily swipe something like twelve moku from right under my nose…”
There’s a chorus of “oh”s and “ah”s, and Kosuke deduces that this entire endeavour started as a teaching experience –the strange thing is that most of the audience seems to be comprised of girls. Quite a few of them seem quite interested in Shindou’s side of the board, but that might be because Touya is just not saying a word, prone as he is to switch into tunnel vision when it comes to playing.
“Now, by moving here, I—” pachi. “Hey! I was trying to explain something.”
Ochi and Yashiro share a look. Touya is apparently fed up with either their audience or Shindou’s behaviour, and slapped down his next move right after Shindou’s stone came down, in a response not only perfect, but also very, very aggressive.
“Just play.” Green eyes furiously meet hazel across the board, and Shindou’s expression forgoes its relaxed air from before and he narrows his gaze. He makes another move.
“This is now becoming a fight for the—” pachi. “Rude!”
“It’s okay, sensei, you can explain later…” the pretty, petite girl closest to Shindou says, long wavy hair swishing slightly as she shakes her head.
Shindou dips his hand into the goke again. “I don’t like going back on my promises—” pachi. He makes a part amused and part exasperated gesture at Touya, “But somebody here clearly wants a fight.”
The girls around Shindou giggle and titter at his joke, seemingly all swept away by the blond's easy-going charms, and Ochi can see Touya’s free hand narrowing into a fist. “If you have the time to flirt your mouth off, you’re going to be decimated on this goban, Shindou.”
Kosuke’s eyebrows rise in amusement. ‘Green has always been your colour, Touya-kun, but… never thought this would be a thing.’ The great Touya Akira, jealous of all the attention Shindou is getting? That’s just golden. Yashiro seems to think along the same lines, because he nearly snorts out loud, especially at the way Shindou’s face almost blanches in outrage as he lays his next stone.
“W-what?” he squawks out, with the tone of a gentleman accused of stealing the leaning tower of Pisa, “I’m not—” pachi.
“Then shut up and play.” They quickly engage in a battle for the lower right corner, that then travel through the middle and across to the upper left, pace furious and way too fast for anyone to even hope to commentate. Their audience gradually disperses, as the amateurs steadily lose the ability to even follow.
Touya’s breath is coming out in short puffs by the time they finish, but this game goes to Shindou –possibly because Touya got too distracted by being pissed at him, and played too dangerously in more than one spot.
Ochi and Yashiro decide to not stick around for the discussion –if the game was that angry, the discussion will be a bloodbath– and find a table to settle in for their own game.
It’s a very good game, and soon enough they’re both engrossed in their own battle. It turns out to be a very close thing, it seems today is the day of half-moku wins; and Kyoharu turns out to be a very graceful loser, as he compliments Ochi on his moves and the vast improvements he made ever since the last time they got to play each other.
Neither of them sees Shindou or Touya until dinner time, considering the two were scheduled to comment on the Tournament finals –obviously– but Kosuke does come across them again in the dining hall, walking up to a rather interesting conversation.
“—many more times do I have to apologize? It’s not like I was doing that on purpose, they just came to watch, I was trying to be a good host!” Shindou is saying as they walk towards the table the hotel reserved for their group, “What was I supposed to do, tell them to fuck off?”
“I don’t know, maybe not pander to their every wish and focus on our damn game?” Touya’s angry hiss is not what Ochi expected. Well, clearly the prodigy had been mad, he apparently just guessed the reason wrong.
“Don’t be like that.” Shindou’s voice is less angry and more actually apologetic now, “You know I always pay attention to our games.”
‘Okay, sounding a little bit too eager there, Shindou…’ Kosuke frowns. It’s almost ridiculous how hung up these two get on their game, Shindou almost sounds like a husband assuring his wife that she’s the only one for him. The mental image alone disturbs him and he has to shake his head to clear it from his mind.
Then something interesting happens. Two of the girls from before apppear: the one that was watching their game during the afternoon and very much trying to get Shindou’s attention, but she’s with a friend now.
“Sensei! What a pleasure to run into you two at dinner…” Ochi is silently pretty sure the girls asked the reception what the turns were on the timetable, in order to ‘run into them’ by chance. “Do you remember my friend Sachiko?”
Shindou nods his assent in a formal and polite way that’s clearly not his own and tells Ochi that no, he does not remember in the slightest, and by the looks of it neither does Touya.
“We were hoping you guys would be free after dinner, for some late night Shidougo…” and okay, that’s a smart way to put it, but it’s glaringly obvious, even to Kosuke’s unexperienced mind, that they’re basically asking the two of them on a double date.
“I’m sorry, but we’ll have to take a rain check on that.” That’s Touya –he is smiling at the girls, but his eyes have that icy quality they get whenever he’d much rather be somewhere else and you have the gall to be keeping him, “We worked very hard today and we’d just like to get some dinner and get back.” Then he turns to Shindou with this kind of look, like daring him to deny, “I don’t know you, but I’m just about ready to collapse.”
“Oh— um, yeah…” he shrugs at the girls, and doesn’t even seem remotely mad at the loss of a chance any other pro their age would be jumping at, considering both ladies are very pretty –and supposedly decently good at go, if they were able to follow a Shindou vs. Touya game– “Sorry ladies. We wouldn’t be good company tonight, and I don’t wanna embarrass myself by falling asleep face-first into the goke.”
The girls are disappointed, but they take the hint and leave. Touya’s eyes stay narrowed until they’re out of sight ‘Wow, he sure can keep a grudge about people disrupting his games.’
It takes Shindou chuckling at him to startle Touya out of his glare. “You know I’m going to tease you forever about this?” he asks, amusement evident in his voice.
Touya seems to placate at that, for whatever reason, and returns Shindou’s smile with one of his own. “Let’s get dinner over with and go back, then we’ll see who gets to tease who.”
Kosuke is confused by that statement, before he remembers the foldable goban Shindou has packed and that is undoubtedly going to be open and in use in their room for the entire trip. Then he also remembers that he’s been brought up with a proper education and decides to make his presence known, walking closer to them and clearing his voice, so that they can sit altogether at the table and get started on dinner –Waya, Isumi and Yashiro coming up not too long after they get seated.
Eventually, Ochi forgets about the feeling of eavesdropping on something more private than what it seemed to be, and is able to just enjoy dinner at a fancy hotel with his fellow pros. He still thinks that Touya getting that upset with Shindou for paying more attention to girls rather than Go is hilarious, but then again, it’s Shindou and Touya.
Of course it’s always about Go, with them.
Chapter 4: 4. Broken buttons and vampire bites
This is kind of shorter than the others, but I always try to let ficlets live out their natural length, without forcing them either direction.
- Broken buttons and vampire bites
Shidougo day promises to be more relaxing and easy, compared to the previous two, and they don their suits to go and be good hosts and teachers.
Unlike the intense iciness of yesterday, today Touya is the epitome of politeness, all gentle smiles and pleasant conversation. Yashiro does wonder at the complete 180degree change of mood, but then again, he is a professional, so of course he wouldn’t act rude to his clients. It might have something to do with actually having an early night and getting some proper rest, as both he and Shindou retired shortly after dinner yesterday and didn’t emerge from their room until it was time to get ready for the event.
He is collected, patient, and actually a little shy when he finds himself flocked by girls asking to book teaching session after teaching session with him, much more eager to get close to him today compared to yesterday, encouraged as they are by his friendlier attitude.
Shindou takes a great deal of pleasure in poking fun at him about it.
It’s lunchtime when they finally get the chance to have a break and relax –the afternoon teaching sessions won’t start for another hour. Shindou, who Yashiro is starting to think is somewhat allergic to clothing, if his lounging habits are anything to go by, takes the chance to relax and immediately loosens and takes off his tie.
“I swear to God, I’ll never get used to having a freaking noose around my neck—” there’s an audible snap and something clatters on the coffee table. Waya discreetly tries to hide his laughter, Isumi shakes his head but is likewise amused, and Ochi doesn’t seem to care.
It seems that in his haste to get out of the tie, Shindou also ripped off the topmost button of his shirt. “Well, if this Go thing doesn’t work out for you, you can always become a stripper, Shindou!” Yashiro laughs, not being above making at least a little bit of fun of his friend, “Your groupies would be delighted, for sure!”
Shindou picks up the button and glares at it like it’s personally trying to ruin his life. “Shut up you jerk, this is my good shirt!” meaning that it’s one of the only two formal shirts he owns that looks professional and that he also actually likes.
Touya, who up to now has also been quietly laughing at Shindou’s misery but chose not to comment, gets up from his armchair and moves towards the sofa his rival is sitting on. “Scoot.” He just says, putting one knee on the cushions just beside Shindou and taking the button with one hand, producing a tiny, portable sewing kit with tiny thread rolls and needles from his blazer pocket with the other.
Kyoharu raises an eyebrow at that. “Look at you. Always so well prepared?”
Touya wordlessly threads the needle with white thread and nods towards Shindou. “I just know far too well how clumsy this one can be.”
“Hey! I resent that remark.” Shindou doesn’t seem to approve being treated like a child, but doesn’t stop Touya from leaning over him and taking a hold of his collar to sew the button back on.
“Resent all you want, but stay still unless you want to get stabbed.”
“Ah-ha! So you just want to take the chance to poke at me with sharp, pointy objects.”
Granted, sometimes it does seem like they’re out to murder each other.
“Yes, of course, Shindou.” Touya deadpans, not once removing his eyes from the task at hand, back curved and head levelled just under Shindou’s chin, to actually avoid poking the other, “I’m secretly a sadist and plotting your demise via needles.”
That one sends all of them laughing. Most people would say Touya Akira doesn’t have a sense of humor, but to Yashiro’s humble opinion his apparent lack of jokes is compensated by the way he delivers the very few that he does make: sometimes he’ll say the stupidest thing, but still retaining his perfectly stoic and serious face, and that’s what makes it hilarious.
“Yeah well, it’s gonna take more than that to kill me.” Shindou retorts, restraining a chuckle because despite everything he’d really prefer to not be poked, moving his hand to rest on Touya’s knee, after finally deciding that, in their current position, there isn’t really much space to put it back on the couch where it was before.
“Stay still, for crying out loud, I’m almost done.” Touya sounds genuinely vexed, and Kyoharu suspects that the same perfectionism the younger pro adopts in his Go kind of seeps through in his everyday life as well, so of course he’ll take even something trivial as fixing a button very seriously.
Still, Shindou’s yelp of surprise when his rival’s face closes in on his neck and by all accounts seems to bite at him is absolutely priceless. Yashiro could have sworn he stopped breathing for a moment, gaze zeroed in on his rival’s lips until they disappeared below his neck.
“What? I had to bite off the thread, there’s no scissors in this kit.” Touya says as if saying the sky is blue.
Shindou’s expression is still marvellously taken aback, like the other has just done something deeply upsetting or broken some kind of pact, then his eyes kind of narrow. “Or maybe that’s what you want us to think.” He’s probably not serious, but clearly he’s enjoying throwing random accusations Touya’s way.
The accused is, once more, not amused. “Ah yes, my other terrible secret.” He says tonelessly, rolling his eyes in a rare display of sass, “I’m a vampire, and today I’m out for your blood.”
Hilarity ensues once more, and this time Shindou and Touya himself join in with the laughter, as the younger finally puts a more respectable distance between his rival and him, satisfied with his work.
They carry on with their day, teaching session after teaching session and meeting up every now and then in the lull between games, to converse, discuss games and do the Go-pro version of “hanging out”.
If Yashiro was anyone else, he’d say there’s more to the amused looks the two rivals keep sending each other every now and then, Shindou’s big eyes legitimately twinkling in mirth and Touya’s mouth curled up in a smile that not even biting his lower lip can conceal –but he’s not anyone else, and he’s been acquainted with the duo and their crazy antics for long enough to be well aware that this is just about par for the course, with them.
It’s just the way it works, pushing each other’s buttons just for the heck of it.
Nothing more. …Right?
Chapter 5: 5. The time Touya is too tired to care
...aaaand there you have it!
My newest baby.
I have to say, I'm pretty proud of this one. The thing as a whole feels in-character and not too forced, without being too stale or predictable (I hope. I mean the theme itself is incredibly overused, hopefully my take on it will be amusing to read).
Either way, yeah.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
- The time Touya is too tired to care
The final day of their trip has come, and mercifully enough is a free day for all of them, and they decide to spend it mostly outside, seeing the sights and for once having fun like normal guys their age. They go to see the popular zoo, during which Shindou makes it his mission to try and pet anything within reach, despite things not really working like that and being potentially lethal in some occasion. They nearly get escorted out, but luckily enough, wise Isumi comes to the rescue and points him in the direction of the petting-zoo(**) section of the place, where parents take little kids to go and interact with small, mostly innocuous animals and cubs, in a controlled environment and under staff supervision.
Shindou takes off without missing a beat and obviously dragging Touya with him with a vague promise to regroup at the exit, because apparently ‘rivalry’ also encompasses “come with me and be the moral support so I’m not the only grown-ass man in a sea of little kids waiting to pet the cute fluffy things”; and the younger pro didn’t really object that much. When Ochi comments about how much Touya lets his rival get away with, Waya supplies the suggestion that, just maybe, Touya himself wanted to pet the cute fluffy animals and is using Shindou’s eagerness as a shield for his dignity.
After that, Shindou and Touya emerge quite ruffled and with a peacock feather somehow tangled in the latter’s hair, which sends Shindou into fits of laughter and Touya in an indignant sputter when pointed out to them—
“I’m still blaming you for that.”
“Oh come on, the peacock just wanted you to be his girlfriend!”
—they’re quick to decide that that’s enough animals for today, and decide for a change of pace. They go see the Giant Dipper, and that obviously could only mean mayhem and chaos when at first Touya expresses little desire to get on the giant roller coaster, as opposed to just snapping pictures of it, with Shindou asking him if he was too scared to go, in the most juvenile of the “are you chicken” tactics. It works all the same, and Touya Akira, respected go professional and regarded by many as the rising star of the decade, finally loses his cool and screams his lungs out.
Granted, they all do, but while Waya and Yashiro are laughing and high-fiving, on the way back down, and even Ochi is kind of bubbly from the adrenaline rush, Isumi notes with interest that Shindou’s enthusiasm has died down as he’s comforting an apparently scarred for life Touya.
Apparently, the reason he initially refused was a deep rooted fear of heights, and now the poor soul has tears in his eyes and is rumpled and dishevelled from the mild anxiety attack he had while on the ride, clutching Shindou’s arm for dear life.
He refuses to speak to his rival –or anyone for that matter– for the subsequent two hours, no matter how apologetic the blonde is, speaking to him in quiet and reassuring tones and muttering “I’m sorry, I didn’t know” over and over… Touya only comes around at dinner time, when Shindou promises to treat him and that there’d be no ramen whatsoever, not even if they do manage to find a Japanese restaurant in the neighbourhood.
Food also brings forgiveness, and Touya concedes that he did bring it upon himself for accepting the stupid challenge in the first place, so in the end all is good. Somewhere along the evening Yashiro suggests drinking games, trying to goad Ochi and Touya into it specifically, convinced that they’d both be lightweights, but even that turns out unexpectedly, as it’d seem that while not particularly enjoying the activity, the former Meijin’s son can hold his liquor about as well as any of them, even though he does starts laughing at Waya’s stupid jokes after a while and that’s when Shindou decides to be the voice of reason and says “Alright, that’s enough for you.”
Apparently, drunk-Shindou is quite the mother hen.
The evening’s true surprise is Ochi, though, as he manages to drink all of them under the table and still act mostly sober when they finally get back to the hotel.
Waya is a very clingy drunk, instead, and he keeps trying to climb over Isumi’s shoulders, until the eldest of the group gets fed up with his crap and takes water and crackers from the mini-bar for everyone to try and sober up a bit.
Which brings us to this moment, where they’re just hanging out in their suite’s living space, sitting around and talking.
“Man, I have to admit, this entire trip was pretty damn fun.” Yashiro comments, leaning farther back in his armchair and crossing his hands behind his head, “I’mma miss you guys.”
“Well, no reason not to get together and hang out again once in a while, scheduled or not.” Isumi shrugs and finally relaxes as Waya comes to sit next to him with another glass of water and finally doesn’t try to climb him anymore.
Shindou looks like he’s trying to melt into his seat, extending his legs far out in front of him. “I just hope the Institute doesn’t expect us to do paperwork right away when we come back because I’m going to be completely fucked tomorrow.”
Late as it is, Ochi does let out a chuckle. “Well, somebody already looks fucked.” He remarks, with a nod towards Touya, who is lying down on his side on the couch, hands safely tucked underneath his chin and socked feet barely grazing Shindou’s thigh. His hair is partly covering his face, but all the occupants in the room can clearly see his eyes struggling to stay open.
“Bugger off.” The sleepy pro barely croaks out, “I had a traumatic experience today, and I’m already starting to feel the hang over, okay?”
He sounds so meek and looks so small that it’s not at all scathing or even sassy, and Isumi actually makes an “aww” sound as they all chuckle.
In the end it’s Shindou who decides to take pity on him, and he stands up with an impossibly fond smile. Shaking his head, the blonde clicks his tongue and mutters “Look at you; you’re ready to drop dead.”
Touya just “hmmm”s in reply and weakly holds his hands out. It’s under their friend’s flabbergasted gazes that Shindou leans over his form on the couch, gently brushes the hair out of his face and picks him up, bridal style, not even remotely flinching when Touya’s hands come to rest around his neck.
The next thing he says sounds suspiciously like “C’mon, babe, let’s get you tucked in.” and none of them is nearly drunk enough to just be imagining the moment Touya sleepily nods and then leans forward, just for a moment, and just enough to peck a feather-like kiss to the corner of Shindou’s lips. “Thanks, Hikaru.” It’s a quick, chaste thing, but it’s enough to send all of the observers into several epiphanies.
Waya recalls a distinctly similar occasion, where he alone was privy to the tendency Touya has of falling asleep in Shindou’s arms, which apparently is a thing; while Isumi is reminded of a different moment, when it was the other way around and Touya was the one lovingly tucking Shindou in bed, to then later at the pool be as bothered by a shirtless and dripping Shindou as the blonde himself was with the mission of getting Touya undressed and wet as well. Ochi finally makes sense of why exactly Touya was so jealous when Shindou was swarmed with admirers; and in Yashiro’s mind it’s still vividly fresh the way those two clearly have no problem getting up close and personal –also Touya’s newfound good mood just yesterday suddenly takes on a whole new light.
Thinking back on it, the only real surprise there is having caught the couple in a relaxed moment, being actually open about it –that, and the fact that they didn’t see this coming miles away, like come on. ‘In hindsight, it was so obvious.’ Is a thought that goes through everyone’s mind.
“So.” Yashiro mumbles, as they try hard not to look at Shindou nudging the door to their room open and shuffling inside while Touya lets out a sleepy giggle. “Shindou and Touya, huh?”
“Looks like it.” Ochi nods, pointedly turning so his back is what faces the two’s door, as it swings closed but not before more sleepy laughter is heard, together with a soft thump of a body hitting a mattress and a “Wanna get rid of these clothes?” from Shindou that is met with a “Yes, please” that is far too breathy to actually belong to Touya Akira.
Fortunately enough, only silence follows, so the remaining pros in the suite figure the two rivals only undressed to actually sleep. There is divine mercy in this world, and Shindou does have a sense of decency –that, and probably Touya was too out of it to do anything more than drop a sleepy goodnight kiss.
Waya literally bursts out laughing, after a moment of poignant silence, voicing what is going on through everyone’s mind:
“Really, how did nobody notice this sooner? They don’t act like a normal couple but they’ve been practically married since like, ever.”
Then again, it’s Shindou Hikaru and Touya Akira.
‘Normal’ doesn’t really apply to them.
Somehow, Yoshitaka gets the feeling that the return flight will be interesting, provided that Touya remembers what he just did and Shindou realizes they basically came out to them because they were just too sleepy to care.
Not that it would change anything for any of their friends, but still.
How often do you get the chance to poke fun at the two shining stars of the new wave?
Waya can feel so many jokes coming up. It’s gonna be great.
(**) not sure if the San Diego zoo has a petting zoo area, but most zoos do.