Chapter 1: Shirayuki to Sai
Hikaru blew on the paper bowl of ramen, narrowing her eyes at the screen. Grumbling at the technology, she set aside the bowl and clicked on a few keys before smugly smirking in satisfaction.
"Any work being done? Any actual work?" her mother called up to her from downstairs.
She winced and hastily closed down the window she'd been working on, bringing up another that was mostly full on the social studies paper she was supposed to be working on.
"Ah, hai! I'm almost done with my schoolwork!"
Guiltily glancing around, she sighed and dragged her textbook over to herself and started to grumpily read and go back and forth between book and laptop. Still, she looked longingly at the minimized program that she'd rather much go back to.
You see, Shindou Hikaru was both a hacker and a cracker. In plain terms, as a hacker she enjoyed making freeware software from scratch or improving and innovating existing programs. Anything to do with software and hardware and she wanted to see what more she could do with it, part as both the hobbyist and the programmer subculture.
As for being a cracker…well, while somewhat illegal, she could profess to being at least a Grey Hat. She didn't go out of her way destroying people's systems or anything, but breaking into anyone's system at all was illegal. Even if she was doing it for good purposes.
She was just showing them weaknesses in their security. Really. And because it was fun and she liked to challenge herself.
Like her mother had six-sense when it came to these things, Hikaru was a brilliant mind as a whole and enjoyed whatever challenge was thrown her way. And right now, her brilliant mind was telling her to finish up the dumb paper before her mother came up to lecture her.
She may be only 12, but she knew what she was doing.
That was speedily done before she finally got back to her project, and then was forced to go to sleep. The next day, after a boring pop social studies quiz, she headed over to her gramps. At least her grandfather let her work in peace, and it was nice and peaceful. Great working environment, unless she was in the mood to work in something loud and obnoxious. She had those times…
"Hikaru! It's great to see you. Come in! Did you want some tea, or are you just going to work in the backyard?" Shindou Heihachi enthusiastically greeted his granddaughter.
"Nah, Gramps. I'm good on tea. Maybe later. I think I'll just work a bit –I almost got the patch I'm working on to the finish," Hikaru grinned widely.
"Okay, okay. Get to work then, Hika."
Giving him one last grin, she headed out back and slipped her laptop open. It was sometime later her grandfather called her in and asked her to go looking for the go board in his attic that he had wanted to clean up.
The attic was a bit dusty, but not too much that she couldn't see or kept sneezing. She'd immediately spotted the goban her grandfather had been talking about. Heading over to it, she frowned when she saw the dark red stains on the corner of the board. Huffing, she tried to use the hem of her shirt to try to clean it off.
"Why the hell won't you come off?" Hikaru growled.
"Can you see the stains? Can you really?"
Hikaru blinked, feeling uneasy and wondering who had said that.
"Who…who said that?"
"You can hear me? Oh Kami-sama, thank you for another chance!"
A glowing being appeared above the goban, dressed in the traditional clothing of historical Japan. What era, Hikaru didn't know –but she could hardly care. She was too busy freaking out.
"G-ghost!" she screeched, tumbling back. "Kami-sama, don't eat my soul!"
She promptly fainted, falling harshly onto the wooden floor of the attic, and even managed to hit her head hard against it.
The supernatural being blinked in astonishment at the reaction and winced at the fall.
"I do not eat souls, young one. I just want to play Go~" he told her, even though he knew she was unconscious and couldn't hear him, though his tone turned pouty and childish near the end.
Ah well. Looks like he would have to settle down for a wait until the girl woke up.
That's what he'd thought, but instead the girl's grandfather had heard the commotion and had hurried to see what was wrong. And upon seeing his precious granddaughter lying prone on the floor, the old man panicked and had called for the ambulance, bringing her to the hospital.
The ghost curiously and cheerily (though he was really worried for the girl) went along for the ride.
When the girl next woke up, there was no one else in the room but him. The healers (doctors and nurses, he thinks they were called?) were all gone, and the grandfather had left to inform the rest of the girl's family. So no one, thankfully, was there to see her freak out once again at his appearance.
"Ghost, ghost, ghost!" she kept panicking, scrambling back on the hospital bed and pointing at him.
The EKG machine's beeping skyrocketed.
"Please calm down!" he tried to placate the girl, holding up his hands helplessly. "I mean you no harm!"
"Lies! All lies!" the girl screamed hysterically. "I mean, have you seen The Ring? Or The Grudge? I won't let you kill me with terror or suffocate me with your hair! And you so have the hair for it!"
He sweatdropped, and wondered what in the world was she talking about. It did sound rather scary though, so he could understand her fright…
"Anou, I am Fujiwara no Sai. I was in the goban that you found," Sai explained to her.
She calmed down, though she looked nervously at the door. Whether it was because she was worried that someone might come in because of her racket and her EKG reading, or if she was hoping someone would come in to save her from him, he wasn't sure.
"So, uh, what do you want? Why are you here?" she asked him anxiously.
He smiled happily and floated closer. He started to tell his story, starting with his life in the Heian era. And then he talked about Torajiro and then of his return to the goban, and how she was now his new host.
She cringed. "I don't have a choice, do I?" she muttered. "Well, I don't exactly feel like people thinking I'm crazy because I say I'm talking to a ghost, and get chucked into a loony bin. I might as well claim an actual mental disorder."
She frowned at that and turned the idea in her head. She could, in essence, allow Sai to live on his own –through her. It would be tricky and in the end put her with a stigma…but looking at his puppy dog eyes (where in the world did he learn that?) and his happy expression, she couldn't possibly deny him his existence. She always had a weakness for cute things…
"Dammit, where the heck did this sudden trip of altruism come from?" she huffed irritably.
Sai only tilted his head and stared at her with an adorable curious expression.
However, now she had to decide between whether she wanted to be schizophrenic or have dissociative identity disorder (aka multiple personalities). Being schizophrenic, she could talk to Sai freely and interact with him as she willed. And it was more known (she would think) after that movie A Beautiful Mind. She could even fake not wanting to take meds, instead of throwing it away. But Sai would only be seen as a hallucination, a product of her mind. He wouldn't be truly real to others.
On the other hand, if she were to pretend she had multiple personality disorder, she would have to work harder to maintain Sai's existence and act like him without breaking the illusion if she messed up. But he would be seen as a real entity, someone that was a real person, if only it meant he was sharing her body (which wasn't off the mark). She wouldn't even have to be pressured to take medication, as MPD cases generally didn't take them if they weren't co-morbid. Of course, there would have to be therapy, but she could fake that enough –and she knew her dad's insurance in depth, and knew psychiatry was part of the deal. It was also a controversial disorder, so people wouldn't get all in her case if she did something that wasn't a MPD trait or something. In fact, it could even go away (though rarely if it's without treatment), or the symptoms could wax or wane spontaneously or just be resolved from time to time. That way, if Sai did disappear sometime later, she wouldn't have to keep up the charade and had a way out.
"Eh, Hikaru-chan, what are you thinking so hard about?" Sai asked, floating to stick his face right in front of hers.
She reeled back and twitched, startled from the sudden confrontation and being dragged from her thoughts.
"How do you know my name?" she frowned at him.
"Your grandfather called you that," Sai just continued smiling cheerfully.
Hikaru just grunted and then prepared herself to get started on her act.
"Sai, it's time to get started," she said in determination.
She then began to instruct Sai in showing her how he usually talked, acted, walked, etc. She studied him closely, intensely committing him to memory. When a nurse finally came into her room, Hikaru immediately transformed, astonishing Sai.
She smiled a soft smile, worthy of Sai, and he was also amazed by her suddenly perfect posture and gentile and noble carriage and attitude.
"Hello, Healer-san, but may I ask as to where I am?" she spoke just as softly as her smile.
The nurse gaped, but recovered quickly even as she still had an underlining of hesitance.
"The hospital, Shindou-san. You were found unconscious in your grandfather's attic, and had also apparently hit your head."
Hikaru looked puzzled. "A hospital? I don't understand. And why did you address me as 'Shindou-san?'"
The nurse blinked in confusion. "Aren't…aren't you Shindou?"
Sai watched stunned and in amazement.
Hikaru merely continued to act bemused.
"I apologize, Healer-san. But I am Fujiwara no Sai."
Both ghost and nurse stared at the girl in equal amounts of wonder and shock.
Hikaru thought she did a damn well good job as a replica of Sai. Sai, after he got over his shock, vehemently agreed and praised her act with various compliments and enthusiastic acclaim. Of course, the nurse had to report it to the doctor, and she knew quite well that they were subtly assessing her. And they'd probably had informed her grandfather, if his worried looks directed at her said anything. But she kept up the charade, switching to her 'Sai' persona every once and awhile, and hoping desperately that it wouldn't backfire on her, or that her odd desire to help this ghost wasn't going to get her into some kind of trouble.
Soon, after she'd gotten an MRI to check that there wasn't something seriously wrong in her head (she was kind of hoping there was, so that she could explain Sai away as something other than a haunting), she was almost home free. Then her other persona crisis was brought up, and the talk about a possible MPD diagnosis (that she had been anxiously waiting for) was finally brought up. Her grandfather stood by her side as it was explained to them, and she had a check-up appointment to make sure her head and herself was okay, along with having to schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist for a positive or negative diagnosis on MPD.
And then she was taken home, reassuring her grandfather that she would tell her parents about the 'MPD thing'. Not that she would. They knew about the accident, but she was definitely not going to tell them about "having" MPD.
"Tadaima," she called out softly, entering her house with Sai trailing behind her.
S'not like anyone was home anyways.
She hmphed to herself and took off her shoes, before closing the door behind her and locking it securely. Then she jogged up the stairs and to her room, where she grabbed her computer and immediately logged on.
"What's that, Hikaru?" Sai asked, extremely curious.
He bent over her shoulder and his face was close to hers as he stared at the screen. She took the time to try to explain it to him, and he looked like he got some of what she was explaining at least.
"Shira…yuki," Sai murmured, looking at her screen name as she hacked into some system in boredom.
The people were too cocky, claiming their system was unhackable, in Hikaru's opinion. She'd bring them down to size.
"That's my hacker name," she told him distractedly. She offered a brief explanation, before returning her focus to her laptop and then smirking in triumph when she succeeded in her goal. "Ha! Bingo."
Sai watched, enraptured. And then she was pressing some more buttons on her odd 'laptop' and there was something like an illusion of softly falling white snow that overtook the entire screen, before she pressed something and exited out.
"White snow," he murmured.
It was fitting, for this pale fey-like child that was his new host.
Started 7/15/12 – Completed 12/30/12
Chapter 2: Runaway Train
"Ne, ne –Hikaru-chan! What is that?" Sai tilted his head and stared at what his host was doing, confused by it and yet delighted by the odd display of numbers and other things he didn't understand.
"This? This, Sai, is going to be my most important project yet," Hikaru grinned mischievously. "With this, I can find anyone with a cell phone or GPS, and I can adjust and strengthen the signal by bouncing it and rerouting it through the satellites in space. My internet's piggybacking on it anyways, so I know how to do the similar process. It shouldn't be too hard to tweak it…"
Sai didn't understand a thing she said. He supposed it was probably the same for her with Go.
"Hikaru…when can we play Go?" he asked quietly, pouting just a bit.
She looked hesitant and he turned his subdued look on her in question. She flinched. Aw man, those eyes...and that pouting face…
"Well, a promise is a promise," she muttered to herself. "I guess soon, Sai. I suppose I'll need to learn the basics though. I can't pull off a "Heian noble Go master" act, if I can't even do or understand Go right. I might mess up, or misunderstand something –then the charade's up."
"Good idea, good idea!" Sai clapped his hands excitedly.
He ignored the reluctance in her voice and the disinterested look on her face. He had time to convert her after all. And if he continued to show interest in her life loves, surely she could open her eyes to Go and come to love it as well! But…
"Pretty~" Sai sighed, distracted as he watched Hikaru's 'falling snow' screen.
"Oi, oi! You want Go, yeah? I need the basics here!" Hikaru snapped him out of it.
"Ah, hai!" So then Sai began teaching her the rules of the game, the more common terms, and whatever else he could without a goban. It would've been easier with one on hand…
"Hm, this would be easier if we could have an actual board and some stones," Hikaru scratched the back of her head.
Sai grinned. "We think alike, Hikaru~"
She stared at him before shrugging it off. "We should go over to Gramps and see if he'll let us use that goban you came out of."
"Yes, let's go, please!" he was tempted to add the 'eyes' for good measure, but Hikaru was already moving and it was already a sure thing.
"Hey, Sai, I'm going to tell Gramps about you, 'kay? I don't like lying to him and I'm the only one he's got, since Obaa-san died last year."
Sai blinked, caught off guard. "Okay. If Hikaru think it's okay."
Soon enough, they'd reached his house and Hikaru was explaining the entire thing to her grandfather, who was staring at her. And then he was cringing away, and staring at the area around Hikaru.
"So you believe me?" she raised her eyebrows at his actions.
Shindou Heihachi peered very closely to Hikaru's sides. "I'm old and superstitious. I'm of that generation, Hika. Is he here now?"
"…Yeah. He's to my right."
Heihachi cringed again. "Do you want an exorcist? 'Cause you know, I know someone who knows someone –"
"Ojii-san!" she called out in alarm. "No, no. It's fine. He's really nice anyways, so…" she patted Sai's back and gave a strained smile to her grandfather, who looked ready to do an exorcism on her himself.
"Goban, goban!" Sai enthusiastically reminded her.
"Un. So…about that Go board, Gramps?"
Heihachi shook his head to clear it before focusing back on his granddaughter and her ghost. "Well, alright. I already have it in the house, so you can use it. It's set up in the living room."
Eagerly standing up, she gave a quick hug to her grandfather and then exited out of the kitchen, heading to the living room where Sai's Go board sat innocently in the middle of the room. Sai went over the rules again and then had her practice placing the stones onto the board the correct way.
"Hey, hey! Sai! I wanna do it like you. Can you, like, show me an image or something on how you did it a long time ago?" Hikaru spoke aloud, unmindful of her grandfather freezing on the way back from the gardens and staring in horror at her.
He shivered and moved on.
Sai frowned to himself, wondering if it was possible. Deciding to give it a try, he brought up a random game and Hikaru watched closely to it. Then she started practicing until she was as close to Sai's style as possible, for a short practice.
"Why don't we practice you saying a mark and me putting it down? That way it becomes easier to do with practice, and maybe become second nature," Hikaru suggested, and Sai happily agreed.
"Hikaru, he still there?" her grandfather hesitantly cut in sometime later, when Hikaru was reasonably sure she was used to placing the stones and placing them in the right place.
"Yeah, Gramps. We're practicing something about 'Life or Death' problems," Hikaru turned to her grandfather with a bright smile.
"I see," Heihachi mumbled, sitting beside her slowly. "If he's…1000 years old. I suppose he would be behind on Go stuff, right? Like rules."
Hikaru and Sai both blinked at him, though he couldn't see one of them.
"Like komi? There is komi now. That is a more recent rule," he explained.
"Komi?" both host and ghost echoed in confusion.
'I don't remember such a rule called komi in Torajiro's time,' Sai thought about that in confusion.
"I don't remember komi being around in Tora-chan's time!" Hikaru pouted.
Sai grinned to himself. 'Twins, twins, twins! We really are like twins~ And eheh. Tora-chan…Torajiro would have really liked her.'
"Who's Tora-chan?" Heihachi looked at his granddaughter weirdly.
"Torajiro, of course. Shuushaku," Hikaru said nonchalantly.
Heihachi was surprised, but shook his head. Of course it was.
"Anyways, komi is…" and he explained that and a few other rules since Shuushaku's time, since apparently his granddaughter's ghost possessed him too.
He really should have expected that.
"I think you should take a Go class just in case. You can even practice this…'Sai' persona there," he reluctantly brought up. "Do you really think this is such a good idea?"
"Yeah, Gramps! Don't worry about it! I got this," Hikaru winked at him and gave him the thumbs up, good guy pose.
Heihachi smiled, though he worried about her. She'll be alright, and he knew she had a habit of doing things like this. She just couldn't help it.
He still couldn't forget how she had managed to successfully fool people into thinking she was an actual doctor when she was six.
"Okay, I'll check out a class then. I'll go looking for one tomorrow and maybe find someone to play Go. How's that sound, Sai?" Hikaru directed at him, snickering mentally at her grandfather's shiver.
"Yah, yah! Let's do it, Hikaru-chan!"
"We can even modernize our Go!" Hikaru cheered with him.
And so, that is how they started their partnership. Therefore, the next morning, Hikaru was getting ready for the day. She'd searched out a place at the district club nearby that was holding beginner Go lessons the night before, and decided it was as good a place as any. She'd just finished brushing her teeth, hopping on one foot as she tried putting on a sock on the other, when Sai brought up her parents.
"Anou, where are your parents, Hikaru? Won't they mind you just going off somewhere?"
Hikaru flinched and nearly fell, but managed to balance herself by leaning against her closet. She quickly adjusted her sock a final time and then straightened up.
"No. They won't. They don't really know or care what I get up to, and they're never around to be bothered about it anyways," Hikaru shrugged and then turned away from Sai, closing the discussion.
Of course, Sai had a lot of questions still, but it seemed it wasn't the time. So he just watched Hikaru flit about her room, getting ready, and then was rushing out with him floating after her. They were at the center already in no time, and it seemed they'd gotten there early.
Hikaru peeked into the class, seeing people playing but no teacher yet. She pouted and refrained from going inside just yet, mind scheming up something. She really shouldn't…
But she really couldn't help herself.
Smiling widely, she entered the class and went to the front, bringing attention to herself and had some murmuring amongst the class in return for it. Her eyes caught sight of the nametag on the desk, and her grin widened slightly.
"Hello, everyone! Shirakawa-sensei will be late today, therefore I'll take over for a bit until his arrival. I'm Shindou Hikaru and I hope to teach you well!"
Sai face palmed.
"Welcome, Shindou-sensei!" the class greeted her.
"Also, please do not mind if Sai-sensei joins us. If I seem like another person, then I probably am," Hikaru said confusingly, and Sai couldn't help but think she did it on purpose.
There were hesitant and confused looks around the class, but then Hikaru began the lesson. She started well enough on her own, teaching what she knew and rolling it over as 'review'. Then she had Sai take over. After a moment of just saying what he did, she stood still and looked dazed.
"S-Shindou-sensei?" one of the people bravely called out.
"Shindou again, hm?" Hikaru straightened and smiled regally at the person. "Ah, this looks like a Go class. How wonderful! Since Hikaru isn't available now, I shall have to take over, I suppose. Class, I am Fujiwara no Sai."
She kept smiling through the class' disbelieving and confused stares. It was harder to ignore Sai's giggles and not to break out into her own.
"Okay, Hikaru-chan~ My turn. Listen to me and just copy what I say!" Sai eagerly went along. It was kind of fun.
Sai began lecturing and Hikaru mimicked him to the others, even going so far as to copy his gestures and get so into it that she matched his expressions and the tone of his voice. The class, finding it a rather bizarre day, just went along with it –especially as they were learning a lot and it was very engaging. Some of them had formed their own theories to themselves, but didn't think it mattered too much to be brought up at the moment since they were learning and learning quite well.
"Looks like my class got stolen from me," an amused but unfamiliar voice said, once Sai had taken a breather.
The class as one, with Hikaru (and Sai), turned to face Shirakawa Mishio watching the lesson and smiling in bemusement.
"Ah, hello," Hikaru smiled enigmatically. "I think Hikaru knows your name, but I apologize and admit that I don't. I am Fuijwara no Sai, Go-sensei."
"Don't call me 'Go-sensei', Fujiwara-san," Shirakawa held up his hands, smiling good naturedly. "Please. It's Shirakawa Mishio. Pleased to meet you."
"Pleased to meet you. I think Hikaru will be taking control now," 'Sai' informed them all nonchalantly. The real Sai laughed outright and clapped in enjoyment.
Hikaru stood still again, before becoming aware and looking around and seeing everyone staring at her. She turned bright red and smiled sheepishly, rubbing the back of her head.
"Eheh, gomen, gomen. Shindo Hikaru, new student," she bowed to them. "Sorry again, Shirakawa-sensei. I, uh, sometimes just do things like this. 'Stealing a class,'" she ended wryly.
She also explained about Sai and the MPD thing, which cleared it up for most people and confirmed a few who'd guessed it.
"Well, why don't you take a seat and I'll take over for now," Shirakawa grinned, very amused about it all. It was quite entertaining, what he'd caught before he interrupted. And Sai had seemed like a very competent teacher, and most probably Go player.
Still sheepish (but not really), Hikaru sat down and started to learn herself.
A couple times, she let herself bring 'Sai' out and then interact with the others as the Heian ghost, more often than not just parroting whatever answer Sai had for them. It was Sai they were talking to, after all, so he should be expressing himself through her (like the original purpose of this whole act was supposed to be). She ignored the more wary reactions, deciding she had time to convert them to the dark side soon enough.
The last time she brought Sai out, she and him saw one of the other players playing harshly against another player, and being quite demeaning and arrogant about it. Both she and Sai scowled.
"Hikaru, are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"Yes, I totally am."
And then she pulled out her 'Sai' posture and strode over there gracefully but angrily.
"You! Dishonor! I shall not condone the dishonorable conduct of bullying weaker players than you, commoner! I shall slay you with my sword on the battlefield of Go, and teach you a lesson on such shameful behavior. Beware! I shall correct this injustice!"
"Uh, Shindou –er, Fujiwara-san, calm down," Shirakawa tried to placate both host and ghost, who were in tandem with each other. Hikaru was mentally ranting at the man in the modern way, even as she repeated Sai's old-fashioned angry lecture. "I'm sure Akota-san is sorry and will apologize. Won't you, Akota-san?"
"Y-yes!" the man squeaked.
Huffing angrily one last time, Hikaru lifted her chin disdainfully and turned on her heel, walking away like a Heian noble.
Akota and Shirakawa both sighed in relief.
After that, it wasn't too long until class was over and Hikaru was curiously heading over to Shirakawa.
"Yes, Shindou, er, Fujiwara?" At her shaking head, "Shindou then. Is there something I can help you with, Shindou-san?"
"Oh, um, do you know where I can play Go at? It'd be nice to get in more practice and I'd like to maybe gain more experience, especially since Sai is around and I might as well try to keep up with the game."
"Ah, I see. Well, there's a good Go salon a little bit nearby. I can write down the directions and address for you, if you'd like?" he offered kindly.
"Sure! Thanks, Shirakawa-sensei. And sorry again, about earlier…and 'cause of Sai," she shrugged in embarrassment.
"No, it's quite alright. I enjoyed the show and having someone take over my class for a bit. And you can't help Sai, right? It must be weird to have another personality, and a male one at that."
"Very weird," she nodded mock-wisely.
He laughed lightly, finishing up writing.
"Here you go. I look forward to next class and hope you and Sai come back!"
"Will do!" she gave a salute and then headed out.
"There you go, Sai. A Go salon. Wanna head there now and play a game before going home?"
"Yay! Hikaru-chan!" Sai celebrated happily before glomping her affectionately.
Soon, they were walking out into the streets and wandering around, trying to follow the directions. When they were reasonably close, Hikaru ducked into a store where there was a mirror in the back.
Sai watched as Hikaru adjusted her shirt and then grabbed her jacket, putting it on in a certain way.
"What do you think, Sai?" she asked of the few changes to her look that actually made a rather startling difference.
"You look like a really pretty boy," Sai complimented in awe.
Hikaru smirked at him and then gathered up her dark hair, taking the black locks and pulling it behind her, before putting it into a loose ponytail. Then she grabbed her backpack and moved out of the store and walked all the way to the Go salon with Sai trailing after her.
And that is how Ichikawa Harumi first met Hikaru.
"Anou sa, is this where I can play Go?" a soft-cultured voice filtered into her ears and she looked up abruptly, immediately blushing upon seeing the effeminate boy in front of her.
She didn't think she'd ever see a prettier boy than Akira, but she was proven wrong. And goodness, she might have even gotten a crush! And so easily and quickly…How embarrassing.
"Hello," she mentally shook herself out of it. "Welcome, I'm Ichikawa Harumi. The entrance fee is 500, if you'd like to come in and play the others."
The boy gave a small smile and she felt her heart thump loudly in her chest. He took out his wallet with long, pianistic fingers, and then handed her the correct amount.
"Please sign here, and put your level beside it," she smiled politely, embarrassed to find that she'd been watching his hands intensely as he'd signed his name.
"Level?" his soft tones floated through the air.
"Yes. The level your Go-playing is at," she tried to explain a little more.
"I see. I've never had it professionally graded, I suppose. May I be an unknown, my dear?" he leaned over the counter and looked straight into her eyes with the greenest shade of eyes she'd ever seen. Her breath hitched.
Ohh, and that soft smile…She's sure she's imagining the quick playful quirk it took on for a moment.
"Of course," she answered breathily.
And then Hikaru gave her one last smile and went further into the salon. She snatched up the sign in sheet and read his name.
Fujiwara no Sai.
Touya Akira hadn't really expected much from the day. He thought it would follow his usual routine. And then he saw an effeminate boy walking around and kindly challenging the patrons to a game, and rousing them into easy cheer. Intrigued, he went over himself and thought he'd introduced himself to the newcomer.
"Hello," he called out as he tentatively tapped the boy's shoulder.
He turned around and Akira was graced with a soft smile. He could feel his face start to heat up and mentally shook himself. What an odd reaction…
"I'm Touya Akira. My father owns this place. I was wondering if you'd like to play a game?"
The soft smile turned rather mischievous, before returning back to normal. The boy agreed and Akira led him to the back, eager to play someone around his own age. Though he didn't expect much, it was still nice to be able to play someone near his age and wouldn't begrudge or be jealous of his own talent at the game. It wasn't like he couldn't play shidougo either, and it was enjoyable at all to be playing at the same time as someone he'd hopefully be able to become friends with.
He wasn't looking for a challenge. Not this time. He could do that plenty with the other Go players his father met with.
No, this time, he would like and hope that he'd make a friend over Go.
The game, surprisingly, was going actually pretty well. Then the other boy started to press harder and Akira's pleasant surprise began to feel more like confused anxiety. He started to sweat a little, until they reached a point in the game where he realized that his opponent was playing shidougo against him.
When he lost, Akira couldn't look up from the board and stayed rooted to his seat.
"Thank you for the game," he heard that awful soft voice speak.
And then he was pretty sure he was alone.
Hikaru, on the other, had already begun thinking about other things, one of which included her papers that she needed to finalize so she could go to Kaio High School next school year.
Started 1/22/13 – Completed 1/22/13
Chapter 3: Fujiwara's Entrance I
Akira couldn't believe what had happened. He sat there in shock and completely frozen. He was nearly blank of any other emotion before confusion and then anger at himself, for underestimating his opponent, suddenly started to overtake him. He gritted his teeth, unable to believe that he had suddenly lost. Who was this person? Who was this kid his age that had actually managed to beat him, and yet Akira had never even heard of him before?
Nothing made sense.
He sat hunched over the goban, stones still laid out in the game that had caused him four moku (komi included). And he could still feel that the other had been holding back, teaching, observing, measuring Akira…
Suddenly, others started murmuring, finally seeing him and his defeated form. The game was the only thing he could see, the black and white stones innocently laid out in its elegant pattern on the board. He could barely hear the crowd's quiet, astonished murmurings, fixated on his loss instead.
The way he had laid down the stones…it was oddly graceful. Akira had never truly focused on how a player placed a stone down on the board before, but he couldn't help noticing that it was strangely placed with the air of a noble. His father, too, had never differed from other players in placing down a stone, other than such sure hands that never faltered or shook and was always calm.
His playing style was somewhat old, but Akira saw more modern stuff as well. It confused him. However, the intimidating aura that accompanied it was one he was familiar with, as he played against a similar one for as long as he could remember –his own father's aura.
All of that had made Akira never question why his usual offering of a handicap had never come out of his mouth. In fact, the moment the thought of asking whisked into his head, he felt rather foolish and like a child under the scrutiny of the other.
"Akira-kun, is it true you lost to that boy?" Ichikawa hesitantly asked him, forcing her way through the crowd.
Akira blinked at her, mind readjusting just the slightest to the present.
"Ichikawa-san…" he murmured. Then his mind sharpened and he abruptly focused in on her. "Ichikawa-san! His name! The name of that boy!"
She flinched back with wide eyes at him. "His-his name?"
Akira nodded fiercely, not taking his eyes off of her.
"Um, he signed in as Fujiwara no Sai," she tentatively, though slightly confused, answered him.
She wasn't the only one. Others murmured at the strange sign in, while Akira scrunched his eyebrows.
"Who signs in their name like that nowadays?" one of the customers asked incredulously.
"He didn't leave a level," Ichikawa reluctantly added. "He said he'd never been professionally graded and asked if it was okay if he was 'unknown.'"
Okay, so it had been more of teasing flirt (in her eyes), but there was no way she was going to admit to that.
"He didn't know his level?"
"How strong is he?!"
And many similar sentiments were going around, but Akira knew two things for certain. This boy overtook him in strength and was called Fujiwara no Sai.
Yet, he had nothing else to go on. A soft voice and features, an odd sign in, and just a game were all he had to go on with this mystery…
After that, his days were filled with trying to figure out the mystery he had been left with. At first, he tried to write out everything on a page of his notebook for school. But then, aside from needing the notebook for school, the list format wasn't clicking and drawing anything from him. So he used the back of the Go salon, where he usually sat, and began to make a new design to help him out with what little clues he had. He put them written on note cards and pinned them to a wall, before using strings to connect them.
As he mulled over his burgeoning wall over Fujiwara no Sai, sometimes customers who had managed to talk or play with the effeminate boy would mutter something to him that had Akira writing it down and adding it to his wall. He realized this was probably odd and looked most probably crazy to any who saw it or watched him, but it helped him keep calm and rational. Even more important, it helped him to organize his thoughts and make it easier to find this mysterious Sai.
"He talked weirdly. Kind of old-fashioned," Kitajima, a frequent customer, suddenly said from beside him, scaring Akira (though he didn't show it).
"You should talk, old timer!" another customer cajoled and Kitajima scowled at them.
However, Kitajima turned back to Akira. "Like I said, he talked old-fashioned. I don't mean 'old' like the generations before you, but like from another time period altogether."
Akira couldn't fathom that. What did Kitajima mean?
"He held himself oddly too," Kitajima continued. "Like one of those socialite aristocrat rich folks. Except old-fashioned. Like really old-fashioned. Traditional."
And Akira just had more clues that just baffled him even more.
"Sometimes he holds his hand like it's supposed to be holding something."
"He had an odd smile. Soft, but sometimes he would have like one of those 'Mona Lisa' smiles."
"He seemed very gentle."
On and on it went. Different customers would come to him when he was observing and trying to put things together, adding in something. They'd stand by him for a bit and then mutter something to add to the mystery.
"He had long, thin fingers like a pianist would have," Ichikawa said quietly.
Akira stared at her. She looked back at him.
He gave an unsure smile and grabbed a note card, writing it down and then pinning it up. He looked back at Ichikawa, who nodded approvingly.
Akira had been wanting to see the other soon, and definitely play another game.
"If you find him and see him, would you take a picture of him with your cell phone for me please?" she asked reticently, looking away with a strange blush on her face.
It seemed Ichikawa wanted to see him again too.
Although, the very subject of their conversation was currently not even thinking about them at all. In fact, Hikaru was in a meeting with the principal of Kaio High School, settling things for her entrance into their school next school year. She had also managed to slip in her MPD diagnosis, which thankfully was now official with her new psychiatrist and the official verdict.
"I was wondering if it would be alright if I could wear the boys uniform sometimes," Hikaru asked, surprising the principal. "Sometimes I had a tendency to do so at my current school."
She saw him open his mouth, looking unsure, so she cut him off before he could refuse.
"There's no rules against it. I checked to make sure," she said quickly.
Sai snickered in the background.
"Well, I suppose," he said slowly. "But you'll have to pay for both uniforms."
"That won't be a problem," she assured him.
With that, she finished her enrollment there. She went back home, explaining all the things Sai kept pointing out excitedly while they walked. It was at her house that she was surprised to see her mother, diligently preparing dinner.
"Okaa-san," Hikaru greeted, smiling warmly and surprising Sai, who hadn't known who the lady was, having never seen her before.
Though Sai could detect an undercurrent of wariness for some reason. Sai's smile faltered and he quietly watched the proceedings.
Shindou Mitsuko smiled just as warmly back at her daughter, though there was nothing hidden underneath that warmth.
"Hikaru! Where have you been? Come sit at the table. Tell me what you have been up to. We're going to have early dinner by the way. Otou-san will be home by then."
Hikaru's smile widened, though there was a lot of hesitance. "Otou-san is coming home? So he's back from being overseas?"
Mitsuko seemed to brighten. "Yes, isn't that nice? We can have a nice family meal. We haven't had one in such a long time."
Hikaru knew that. Not since she became a difficult child, not since her father became more immersed into work (and in turn becoming bigger in the company), and not since her mother decided to go back to school. It was a domino effect that had started with her.
She could still recall one of the first arguments they had had over her.
"I can't believe she did that! What are we going to do? Do we have to pay for anything? I hope she didn't get in trouble, or we did for this," Mitsuko said in distress.
"No, no. Thankfully, she somehow diagnosed everyone correctly, so the patients didn't complain about having to come in again. Instead, they got distracted and got all impressed that a little girl was all right on what they all had."
"I don't know what to do, Masao. I don't know how to handle her. How…how am I going to raise her? She's such a difficult child."
"She's not difficult, she's just…precocious. It's probably just a phase and she'll grow out of it. Don't worry about it."
Mitsuko buried her face into her hands, while Masao sighed heavily.
Hikaru stopped listening and quietly went back up the stairs, mussing up her hair. Then, purposely, she loudly stomped down the stairs and yawned loudly while in front of them, blinking "sleepily" as she rubbed her eyes.
They put on strained smiles for her, and Hikaru said nothing about what she overheard or brought it up anytime afterwards.
But it seemed like they were going to have a great family dinner. Or so she thought. However, time passed and her father was still not home. Hikaru's easy smile and laid-back nature slipped, and her smile slowly became a neutral line as she carelessly sprawled in her chair, and her green eyes became indifferent.
"Sit up straight, Hikaru," her mother reprimanded, glancing at the clock. "We should…we should start without him. He'll probably come in late."
But they started and finished dinner, with Shindou Masao still missing. Without another word, Hikaru slipped her hands into her pockets and lazily made her way to the stairs, ignoring her mother and everything else. Once in her room, she pulled her laptop to her and gave a lazy grin towards Sai, who worriedly hovered over her and was dismayed over this odd change in her character.
"So, Sai. I was thinking of looking up any Go events that might be happening in the area, and seeing when and where. Would you like that?"
And Sai really, really would. And normally, he would loudly express it and glomp her and do a dance and praise her happily and…
But for once, he was too worried and anxious over his host.
"Don't worry about it, Sai," she said stoically, eyes staring and not moving from her screen. "It's normal around here. Oh look! A Children's Go tournament. How about that? You wanna check that out?"
Sai put on a smile and nodded, but couldn't resist drifting closer and loosely wrapping his arms around her neck and on her shoulders. She entangled a hand into his hair that fell forward onto her without a word.
"Hikaru! I hope you're getting schoolwork done!"
Hikaru smiled bitterly. "She always knows when I'm ignoring schoolwork."
That Sunday, they were back to being alone again. Hikaru's father had called later on in the night and said he wasn't going to make it, and that it'll be awhile before he could come home. Hikaru didn't think or say anything of it, going about her usual routine. Her mother had gone the next day as well.
"Hey, Hikaru-chan," Sai called for her attention. "You get into the boyish role really well. How's that?"
"Hm?" she was distracted. "Well…I guess because when I had to make a physical form for Shirayuki, I made the disguise as a boy as well. You see, sometimes I sell some programs and stuff, but I prefer to stay under the radar and not have people know who I really am. So the disguise."
"Ready? Alright! Let's go!"
And then they were heading off to the tournament, with Hikaru once again pretending to be a boy. It was just the slightest changes, as usual, but it was enough to pull off her favorite effeminate disguise (and one she was associating with 'Sai').
"Amazing," Hikaru murmured, seeing all the kids playing and the intense focus they had.
"It is! Oh my, my heart is warmed by the sight of all these children playing Go, even years after my death," Sai's eyes sparkled.
"You ready then?" Hikaru grinned at her ghost.
"Hai! Anou, are you going as yourself or as 'me'?" Sai asked first.
"Ehhh? As you, of course! You're the Go fanatic," Hikaru reminded him.
Inwardly, Sai pouted. He'd half-hoped Hikaru would go as herself, and see how great the game was in her own view. Ah well. Some other time then. However…Sai grinned. He got to have fun with Go himself!
Hikaru quickly assumed her Sai position and started to walk through the tournament gracefully, gazing around with a fond and happy gaze. Sai beside her mimicked her mimicking him. He found it funny doing so.
'Sai, look. That board right there,' Hikaru projected her thoughts. She liked talking to him aloud, but times like this made sharing thoughts convenient. 'In the upper left corner, if black isn't careful, he'll die.'
Sai gleefully clapped his hands, proud of his charge. 'Yes, yes! You are correct, Hikaru-chan~ Where should he move?'
'1-2,' Hikaru replied quickly.
Sai threw up his hands and twirled around happily in midair, with no one to see him but Hikaru. 'Hikaru-chan only needed a glance! I'm so proud! You do listen to my teachings too!'
Hikaru rolled her eyes, but waited for the boy to make the move she'd suggested in her head. Ever since getting stuck with him, Sai had tutored her in Go alongside Shirakawa's teachings, and constantly played against her.
Of course she lost every time, but Sai was like a freaking Go god.
The boy went one below Hikaru's move, and she couldn't help gaping at the board.
"Really? 1-2, man!" she groaned, before realizing she'd broken out of her Sai persona and pulled herself together.
Except she'd already ruined the game, brought the two boys' attention to the mistake, and apparently drawn the ire of officials.
"Hey, you!" someone grabbed her shoulder.
Panicked, she whirled around to face him. "I apologize," she said quickly, remembering to reply as Sai.
Sai nodded rapidly, eyes wide.
"What are you thinking? Interfering with a match! This is a serious event," the stranger reprimanded her, still holding onto her tightly.
"Mori-san, calm down," another stranger came into the picture. He was wearing a white suit, glasses, and had blond hair. Hikaru, for some reason, felt on edge with him and had to refrain from narrowing her eyes.
"Ogata-sensei, I'm taking him to the back," the first stranger, Mori, said to the other.
Hikaru felt less panicked and more irritated. Sai watched curiously, feeling as if he were watching a volcano about to burst for some reason. It was entertaining, this suspense...
"You will do no such thing!" Hikaru scowled. "Release me at once! Manhandling my person and touching me without consent, especially as a minor also! I shall have reason to make a complaint against you, as I remind you that physical harassment outweighs that of disturbance of a game!"
Hikaru wondered if she could get away with the 'minor' thing in her Heian personality (she wasn't quite sure such a thing was admissible in the Heian era). But she did wanted to remind them that she was a minor too, and she had no qualms suing them for the harassment.
Mori reeled back, taking his hand away quickly, as that Ogata guy cringed.
"I-I'm sorry," Mori quickly apologized. "This is not my intention!" his voice went shrill.
Hikaru's scowl became a less severe frown, and she lifted her nose up in irritation, narrowing her eyes down at them.
"Then what would you wish of me now?"
Mori cleared his throat, avoiding looking around. "P-please follow me to the back."
"Very well. You should have requested that in the first place," she pursed her lips before imperiously gesturing for him to lead the way.
She followed but she had the feeling Ogata (and she was –for some reason –very hyper aware of this) was watching her closely and had his eyes narrowed at her back.
Once there, she held herself in a straight posture and kept her head authoritatively up, scanning the room with a cooled gaze.
"We're here, but I demand to know why you have kept me in ransom," she spoke up, letting her irritation continued to be known.
"This is not a laughing matter, young man," the new person, a Kakimoto, frowned at her. "A lot of children take this tournament seriously."
"Was I laughing, sir?" she went back to scowling. "I assure you I was not. I have already apologized, as it was clearly a mistake. The mistake has already been done, and there is nothing that can change that fact now or be done about it. If that is all, I believe it is time for me to leave."
She nodded regally at them and then turned on her heel, walking away.
"Sai! That man! Earlier! The glasses-wearing man! He's our enemy," Hikaru suddenly declared once they were in the hallway.
Sai blinked at her. "Ehhh?! What? Why?"
"I just know it," Hikaru hissed out. "He's the enemy," she said firmly.
Sai sweatdropped, but didn't argue with her about it. She was determined about this for some reason, so he'll just go along with it.
Fixing herself back to 'Sai' normal, she kept going and bumped into someone as she had also been lost in thought.
It was a very serious and stern looking man, wearing old-fashioned traditional Japanese clothes, and had a very intimidating aura. She nearly balked, but then remembered Sai.
'Sai wouldn't back down, Sai wouldn't back down, Sai wouldn't back down.'
'Yeah, yeah, I wouldn't!' Sai cheered her on.
"I apologize. Please excuse me. My thoughts have been recently troubling me," she inclined her head and forced herself to keep up Sai's noble posture and gait.
"I see," he intoned. "Then please excuse me as well. Good day," he inclined his head towards her also.
They then continued walking passed each other.
Sai cheered, Hikaru sighed in relief, and Touya Kouyo pondered on the odd child he briefly became acquainted with.
When he came into the room of utmost confusion and awe, and them talking about a child that had come in and solved a problem that would take even a pro a moment to solve, his thoughts went back to the child he'd passed by in the hallway and could see that there was probably something very special about the boy they were all talking about –and he most assuredly, without a doubt, knew that the boy he'd passed was the very same one.
He was gone without ever leaving a name, but Kouyo was sure they would all see him again. And he knew the child was just that good of a player, with the unflinching gaze that met his back, the regal pose the strange little boy held, and fearless look he took on against Kouyo. And if that child was that good, he definitely knew he would appear again.
Of course, those were his thoughts, but Ogata Seiji was completely convinced there was something off about the boy.
Who talked like that anyways? Nowadays, speech like that looked too odd. And there was something about the kid that bothered Ogata and made him suspicious. He couldn't put his finger on it.
There was also that he managed to focus in on the boy's throat by chance. No Adam's apple. Now, both sexes technically had one, but an Adam's apple was considered a male attribute because it grew larger during puberty. And the kid should be entering puberty by then, and have at least a more noticeable Adam's apple to show for it –No Adam's apple…
"Girl!" he shouted out, bringing attention and confused looks his way. He flushed red. "Please excuse me. I think I'm in need of a refreshment. I'll be right back."
He turned and disguised his embarrassment, not showing his rush out of the room. But he knew one thing for sure.
That mysterious boy was most definitely a girl.
Started 2/3/13 – Completed 2/6/13
Chapter 4: Fujiwara's Entrance II
Hikaru sighed, walking with Sai on the sidewalk. That had been intense, back there. She'd been nervous and unsure if she could pull it off, and she was still feeling like a hissing cat with its hair standing up, especially concerning Ogata.
That man…hmph. She didn't know why, but she just knew she had to watch out for him.
She had just been about to head straight towards home, when she'd been cut off by someone she hadn't truly expected to run into again. There he was, Touya Akira, blocking her way after looking like he'd come rushing to meet her and coming from the subway entrance.
Akira actually had been running to meet Hikaru, like his life had depended on it. He'd been brooding, like he had been these days, in his father's Go salon, replaying that fated game once again. The wall behind him had all he could get about the other boy, but it hadn't been enough. And then Ichikawa had mentioned that there was a Children's Go tournament going on nearby, and though it might have been a long chance, 'Sai' might have gone to it.
Akira took the chance, no matter how big of a stretch it seemed.
Now he was glad he had. He had managed to catch the boy before the other went home, as Sai looked like he had been in the midst of.
"Don't forget to take a picture of him for me!" Ichikawa reminded him as he was rushing out.
"You can do it yourself when I bring him here!" Akira smiled at her, eager to meet his mysterious puzzle.
Yes, he must bring Sai back. He definitely had to.
"W-weren't you in the tournament?" Akira hesitantly asked.
'Sai' blinked, his green eyes looking at him curiously. "No, but I did come to appraise. It was absolutely wonderful. And yourself, Touya-san? You weren't participating?"
"Ah, no. I don't tend to go to those things," Akira explained and was baffled by his incredulous look.
"Why ever not? It was amazing! Children of all ages, so focused and serious! I was impressed," 'Sai' sighed happily.
The real Sai was nodding his head eagerly.
"Aa…I see your point. I just don't usually play or go to tournaments where I don't feel like I will be challenged," Akira replied, though he had a feeling that for some reason that maybe it wouldn't be something Sai would like.
'Sai' frowned. "You can see a challenge anywhere, if you choose to. Make a challenge of it yourself, or simply create a challenge by forcing the challenger to challenge themselves and therefore creating a more challenging or at least rewarding game."
Akira fought back a blush, while the real Sai was grinning unabashedly at his host. At first, he had seen Akira's side of the equation, but hearing Hikaru he truly agreed with that. And he wasn't just being biased.
"That's really insightful, Fujiwara-san," Akira complimented, and they noted that the boy knew their 'name.' Both of them collectively attributed that to their sign in. "May I see your hands?"
Sai and Hikaru were caught off guard, but Hikaru allowed Akira to see her hands. The young boy managed to notice the slight calluses and that the nails seemed trimmed down. It marked, to him, a serious player –although he didn't know the cause was Hikaru's furious and consistent clacking away at her computer, and that short nails was easier to type with. Which helped with her now playing Go nowadays, as bonus.
"I just really wanted to ask you for a rematch," Akira hurriedly said, the request he'd wanted to say all this time barely coming out polite. "Do you plan on going pro?"
Hikaru laughed lightly. "Me, a pro? I don't think so. How about yourself?"
"I do," Akira frowned. "I plan on becoming a pro."
Hikaru wasn't all that surprised, as Akira seemed like he truly wanted to become a professional.
"Do Go pros actually acquire much money?" Hikaru asked curiously. She hadn't really researched too much into the professional (at least the business end of things) side of Go, so she hadn't learned too much aside from titles and stuff.
And when he told her, she whistled at the amount, breaking persona. She'd always been a little fixated on money, since her family had been on the poorer side when she was younger and she had taught herself the importance of it from her situation.
"It wouldn't be too bad to become a pro and grab a few titles or so," Hikaru teased, winking at Akira.
"Just become a pro…and grab a few titles?" Akira repeated in shock.
Hikaru's grin faltered and she stared in confusion at the boy in front of her.
"How…how could you?! How can you say such things? Those words are an insult to all current pros," Akira was glaring at her all of a sudden. "There's no way you could be a Go player! A Go player would never say something like that!"
Sai could understand Akira's problem, but he knew his host and knew she had merely been teasing and having fun with the too serious boy. And he felt all too fond of Hikaru, when he felt her offence at his behalf from the words the boy shouted out at them from last.
"Urusai," Hikaru spoke quietly, eyes narrowed at Akira and stopping the boy from speaking further, looking at her in shock and reflexively feeling trepidation from 'Sai's' oppressive aura and her angered look. "Noisy."
Akira flinched, a little off guard from the change from lighthearted to condescending.
"Omae wa noutarin ka?" Hikaru questioned, making Akira look hurt and Sai to gasp and stare at her.
"Hikaru!" the ghost called out, aghast. "That's going too far!"
But Hikaru just ignored him and focused on the boy opposite her.
"Well? I asked, are you seriously lacking that much brain power?" Hikaru's lips twisted cruelly. Then her face became stoic and she stared unblinkingly (freaking out Akira, who didn't want to be intimidated) at the other. "You insult my honor. I challenge you to a duel, Touya."
Akira reeled back, confused and alarmed. "W-what?"
"I repeat, I challenge you to a duel, Touya," she again purposely left out the honorific. "You dare to insult me in such a way, then I will have you learn your lesson harshly, boy. You question my status as a Go player? Then I will school you in the art of War Go. You wish to play me? I will crush you and show you my true might."
"Nooo, Hikaru!" Sai wailed. "Not me, not me, not me! That's more like my elder brother Reiji-niisama!"
"You bare your fangs at me, child? Then let us play! Do not run away!" Hikaru shouted regally, drawing attention to them and some weird looks. She ignored Sai, full out glaring at Akira now.
Akira might have both at once fried his brain from the strangeness, and be in shock at the passionate and heated practical declaration of war on him.
Hadn't he been the one that was offended? When and how did the tables turn? He felt he would have started to become indignant, if he hadn't been in so much shock.
He felt like he'd been dropped in some bizarro world.
"Lead the way, my little tiger, and watch how a dragon will devour you," 'Sai' smiled sharply, predatorily.
Akira shivered, and yet mechanically started to lead the way back to the Go salon, unsure what else to do and kind of on automatic right then. Though he did roughly grab her hand and start dragging her after him.
Sai nodded, becoming serious. "Let's do this," because he was always going to be on Hikaru's side, no matter what –especially because she so obviously returned that loyalty and growing devotion.
Meanwhile, Hikaru was muttering in her head, insults and rants that was like a background track to Sai, who couldn't help smiling when he was hearing it.
'Baka Touya, how dare he insult Sai. He is more of a Go player than anyone in this world! Stupid, stupid, stupid. Urusai, Touya-teme! You don't know what you're talking about!' and on and on it went, all the way to the Go salon.
Sai smiled fondly.
"Yes, Hikaru. Let us show Touya-kun this…art of War Go," Sai chuckled in his head. "Do not worry, Hikaru. He is no match for me."
They were in the Go salon soon enough, and Ichikawa saw them immediately.
"Akira-kun –Fujiwara-kun!" she excitedly greeted upon seeing the boy behind Akira.
Hikaru smiled genially, bowing respectfully. "My Lady Ichikawa –a pleasure to see you again."
She blushed and smiled happily.
"We'll be in the back, I suppose," Hikaru said smoothly, seeing Akira already dazedly making his way back there. "Perhaps some tea, milady?" she gave her one last smile, and inclined her head elegantly before striding to the back.
The room quieted down, seeing her, but she didn't noticed, too busy watching and hiding her awe at the bizarre wall in the back…that was apparently focused on her/Sai. Freaky.
People started to crowd around, murmuring to each other, and Hikaru clung to her Sai persona (as well as the real Sai's presence) to keep calm and focused.
"Nigiri," Hikaru said coolly. Sai nodded beside her, grasping her shoulder briefly in support.
"Shall I dodge his fangs, Hikaru-chan? And pat his head like a good, little dog? Or shall I cut him down mercilessly, remorselessly?" Sai hid his smile behind his fan.
'Cut him down, Sai,' Hikaru smiled like a shark in her head to Sai.
Sai echoed her smile. "Hai, Ou~jo-sama."
'The upper right kosumi,' the two were completely in sync.
It was a little after 6 when the game ended and complete silence had engulfed the salon.
"…I have nothing…" Akira resigned, head bowed and shoulders hunched over.
"Did I not say I would devour you, my little tiger?" Hikaru said softly.
"Ehh, Hikaru-chan! Don't, as you say, rub it in!" Sai pouted at her.
She mentally patted his back.
But Akira was still hunched over and not listening. Hikaru inwardly frowned. She took a sip of the tea Ichikawa had kindly brought over earlier, then took the cup by the rim with the tip of her fingers and gently but firmly thumped it lightly on the boy's head.
It startled Akira enough for him to look up, but she didn't remove the offending cup.
"This…pro business…it does not concern me," she said loftily. "Titles, money, fame. I have no interest in those things. I have interest in Go. I have no cares for such fickle matters. I play Go for Go. I play for the sake of Go. I play for the love of Go," an intense love and affection overwhelmed Sai over Hikaru, and he wanted to glomp her tightly. He only refrained because he knew she wasn't done, but it didn't stop him from beaming at her brightly.
"Are there not 'Life or Death' problems in Go? Life or Death. You must live life, Touya-san –you take things far too seriously. I expressed a joke; you became offended and insulted my honor –I punished you in return. You do not know all, little one. Do not presume so. Do not dare to judge me, for I will come to judge you. I ask you, do you love Go?"
Akira sat up abruptly. "Of course I do!"
Hikaru's lip curled. "I see nothing but a little boy hunching over, depressed about his loss, when he should be rejoicing over a challenging game. If you love Go, you love all games, being able to play any game. If you love Go, you appreciate a loss. If you love Go, a win can come in many forms. Teaching, playing a game in itself, learning from it…But you…you seek this title of pro so much. From your words earlier, it is very important, is it not? Stupid! You are blinded by such shallow anchors to Go that you have lost sight of the game.
"I have no interest in becoming a pro. I do not play Go to become one. I only wish to keep playing until the day I die –and even then I play beyond my death, and further. Until even a thousand years have passed! I will keep playing because that is all I wish for. Because it is my love for Go that is all that matters to me –to love this game enough to die for it.
"Your shallow love for Go disappoints me. These older Go players around you have more love for Go than you. Your ambitions cripple you. Ambition can be great, until they are your downfall. You do not have enough love for Go in you –if you truly wish to surpass me, my little tiger, then grow your love and then seek my sword out once more."
Hikaru placed the cup of tea on top of the table right in front of Akira, and then stood up and began to walk out. The crowd parted for her like the Red Sea.
Once she was gone, Kitajima blinked several times.
"Who talks like that? See? I tell you, that was beyond old-fashioned. What's this about swords too? He sounds like he's from the Feudal era or something!"
And like that, everyone broke out into whispers and murmurs, while Akira was once again processing his loss and the words from that mysterious boy.
"Dear Kami, that was some dressing down. I'd never thought I would hear Akira-sensei get lectured like that."
"I wonder what happened? What could have brought that all on?"
"Yeah, especially since the board was a complete massacre."
All of the words and comments flew over Akira's head. He was too busy thinking to himself, trying to understand.
'I don't…have a lot of love for Go?'
Did he really not love the game as much as he thought? He had always wanted to become pro, stalling only because he wanted to wait until he was good enough…but he could have become so focused on becoming one, that becoming a pro fueled his play rather than his love for Go?
Perhaps that is why Fujiwara no Sai could take the position of pro so lightly and speak such teasing (and looking back in hindsight, he could embarrassedly now recognize the teasing tone and expression) words against Akira. It is not becoming a pro that Sai cared for. The game was what he lived for.
As he continued to think about Sai, the real Sai and the actress for him were currently walking home. Well, floating more like for Sai.
"Psh, I don't like all this pro business," Hikaru grumbled. "Every pro, aside from Shirakawa-sensei, seem to be one-tracked, anti-social, ill-mannered, inappropriate jerks. All they care about is pro this and pro that. And all those dumb titles. Who cares about titles? The money that comes with it is nice, but whatever. It's not enough to act like a social retard and forget about manners and that you shouldn't do this or say that and don't forget to not manhandle people and touch them without permission or get into their personal space! Rude much?" she practically ranted out.
"It's like they forget what's acceptable in society, and what's normal," Hikaru huffed in indignation. "Why do they have to care so much about being a pro and all those titles? Why can't they be more like you, Sai? They care too much about that crap –they should just care about playing and playing and playing, and love Go like you do."
Sai smiled in amusement. "Hikaru, I'm kind of an extreme case. I did literally die for the game, remember?"
Sai chuckled and shook his head.
When they finally reached her quiet home, Hikaru did her usual "Tadiama," to the empty house and then went into her room with Sai following her.
"Hikaru, shouldn't you eat something? It's dinnertime –Touya-kun made you run late and didn't even offer you food or at least a snack," Sai hmphed.
Hikaru laughed at him and nodded obediently, reluctantly trekking back down to heat something up and bring it with her to her room. Then she was back onto her self-appointed task.
"Hikaru, what are you doing~?" Sai sing songed, floating closer.
"I'm researching our enemy," Hikaru growled.
"Our…enemy?" Sai asked in confusion. Then it clicked and he remembered. "Oh! That glasses man. O…Ogata-san?"
"Hai, hai," Hikaru confirmed vehemently.
"Oh…ah, researching what?"
"Everything. By the time I'm done, I'll even know what he named his imaginary friend when he was a kid," she started cackling madly to herself, with Sai sweatdropping in the background.
However, the next day, after school and having split with Akari, Hikaru was pretty sure she was overreacting.
"You know, Sai, maybe I was just freaking out over nothing," she told him as they walked along the sidewalk. "I guess maybe I was too harsh on Ogata-san."
"I'm pretty sure too," Sai said wryly, still not sure where the instinctive hostility towards the blond man had come from with his host.
She nodded surely. "Yes, you're right."
They'd walked near Akira's Go salon, and Hikaru looked at it thoughtfully.
'Perhaps we were too harsh on someone else as well,' Hikaru thought.
"You!" she heard someone yell from behind her.
Only having enough time to blink twice in confusion, she felt someone grab onto her and firmly pull her closer to them, turning her around at the same time.
"It is you! Please!" Ogata Seiji, the man himself, was the culprit.
Hikaru blinked. Then she screamed. "Kidnap! Sexual harassment!"
Ogata blinked this time, before removing his hands hastily and holding them up in surrender.
"No! Wait! That's not it!"
He took a step back, still holding his hands up, and didn't run because he knew that would make him look guilty. And staying still and keeping a distance would help to make it look like he really hadn't meant it like that, and that maybe he really did have some legit business he needed from her.
Which didn't stop the police already rushing his way anyways.
Started 2/20/13 – Completed 2/21/13
Chapter 5: Won't Treat You Like You're Oh So Typical
Ogata wasn't really sure what to do. He was stuck in the middle between panic and feeling faint. Why was that?
He was in the police station, on the edge of being arrested for attempted kidnap and public molestation of a minor.
He twitched and listened to the police, and then glanced at the fuming girl that was waiting for her statement to be taken. She glared at him, and he hung his head. This was not going his way at all. He hadn't meant for it to escalate down to this level, and now he wasn't sure what he could do to make things normal again.
He was also sure that his arrest was caught by the salon patrons if the –
"Anou, isn't that Ogata-sensei?"
"Is he being arrested?!"
"What's going on?"
-had been any indication.
"This is all a big misunderstanding," he tried to explain. "I swear! Please, just let me explain," he spoke that last part mostly to 'Sai.'
She glared at him, and he also had a feeling that her name wasn't actually Sai. It was just a gut feeling, but he was getting all sorts of out of sorts clues about the girl that didn't match up with the information she was giving out.
One, she was girl, not a boy.
Two, he was pretty sure of the name change.
Three, her eyes were the jade shade of green, her odd behavior didn't ring right with him, and he was completely and utterly right that she was trouble from the moment she walked into his life.
"Okay, explain," she demanded, halting everything and giving him space to start out his side of things.
She was trouble, but at least she'd managed to slip him some time to get his story out before the police eying him booked him and sent him into a cell without letting him say anything.
So he carefully told them exactly what he'd been trying to do, that he'd been urgent and desperate, and hadn't been thinking when he'd gone after her and was trying to get her to come after him to meet with Touya Kouyo, the Meijin.
"You could have just asked," the girl grumbled. "No need to get all grabby and creepy molester on me."
Ogata's eye twitched and he screamed inwardly.
"I am not a child molester. I told you! It's a misunderstanding!" Ogata said through gritted teeth. "I wouldn't stake my reputation as Ogata 9-dan, Pro Go player! Please, I'm really sorry."
"Eh, you're a pro?" the police commissioner looked at him more closely.
And if he wasn't mistaken, he could swear that the girl's look had sharpened at that and she was looking at him much more intensely than before.
"Geez, these Go players," he heard one of the police say to another. "They sure are eccentric."
"I know, huh? I suppose this isn't a surprise, since Go players are kind of weird."
Ogata had the urge to take a smoke right now.
"Alright, I guess this is just a misunderstanding. However, do you still want to press charges and at least have him spend a night in jail as a lesson?" the police commissioner directed towards the girl.
Ogata started to sweat bullets, but inwardly sighed in relief when she shook her head.
"Alright then, we'll let you both go. Ogata-san, a warning. Be mindful next time."
Ogata nodded respectfully and followed the girl out of the station at a distance, wary of being accused again.
"I am sincerely sorry for the misunderstanding," he finally said, once they were outside. She stopped and looked at him, and he continued. "I hadn't meant to act so rashly, and I don't want you to think that I had been trying to attempt something that I hadn't meant to insinuate. Please allow me a chance to make it up to you."
She frowned, but then shrugged. "Take me out to a nice, fancy dinner, at a five-star restaurant, treat me to caviar and wine, and get me an expensive dessert."
"Hah! I knew –wait, what?" she blinked at him.
"I said, 'okay,'" he said quietly. "Please allow me this chance to reinstate my image to you. Just tell me your name first, so I don't go around calling you 'girl.'"
"I'm not a girl," she lied, because he knew she was. "And it's Fujiwara no Sai," she straightened up, and suddenly looked a lot more nobler than before, her gaze suddenly intimidating.
But it struck him as off, and not her –not like she'd just been acting prior.
"Bull. On both," he said bluntly, catching her off guard. "And what's with that attitude? Who do you think you are? Nobility?"
She pursed her lips, narrowing her eyes at him. "I beg your pardon? I don't think I understand, though I believe you must have just been talking to Hikaru."
Ah, so the girl's name is Hikaru. And this…what was this?
"If you could possibly recount what you were discussing with Hikaru prior to when you'd asked for my name, as that is the point where I last remember, sir?"
He frowned, staring at her. "Are…multiple personality disorder?"
Hikaru/Sai smiled gently at him. "I believe that is the term others have explained to me, as the condition. Hikaru is the host personality, and I'm some sort of 'affliction.' I…don't like to think of myself like that, and would like to think I have my own existence."
Ogata stared, and Hikaru/Sai continued to smile at him.
"Cut that crap out." Ogata didn't buy it one bit. "Your name isn't Sai, you don't have MPD, and you're a girl."
She just stared at him, aghast. "Wh-what?"
"You heard me," Ogata didn't back down. "What is your real name?"
"I believe you have me at a disadvantage, I don't understand –"
"Stop that," Ogata snapped at her. "No free dinner."
The girl blinked at him, before huffing. "I don't know what's wrong with you, but for some reason you don't buy it and you won't let it go. And I want a free dinner, especially if you're swearing it's going to be fancy. Like real fancy –not some cheap restaurant, but one with a few stars. My name's Shindo Hikaru."
Ogata grinned smugly, feeling like he'd won a round finally.
"Shindo-san, to tell you, I am Ogata Seiji. Please let this count as our first real meeting, and discount the first two?" he asked formally, and she looked at him warily.
"I…I guess. But you're still the enemy!" she said adamantly, and he looked at her in bemusement, unsure of her meaning.
"We should get going. It's getting dark, and…I don't have my car here."
They both sweatdropped and therefore went on to take a bus to the restaurant Ogata had in mind, in which they were immediately seated in good luck.
"Wow, this is really nice," Hikaru couldn't help saying, looking around.
Ogata smirked. "You said a fancy restaurant, with 'a few stars.' I'll have you know this is a 4-star restaurant."
Hikaru hmphed and folded her arms across her chest. "Okay, okay. You got me, Mr. Trying-to-Get-Back-Into-My-Good-Graces."
"Am I succeeding?"
Ogata actually sighed aloud. "Good. So will you please not think I'm some kind of weird, creepy, Go player that's out to be a child molester?"
"I don't know…" she said slyly, smirking.
He stared at her.
"Oh, alright," she rolled her eyes.
"Thank you. And please don't tell anyone about this. Especially please don't spread this around the Go community," the last part was emphasized heavily.
She lifted her eyebrows. "Okay, got it. What's so important about that?"
Before she could get an answer, their waiter came and Ogata ordered for the both of them.
"The grilled salmon cooked in white wine and a medium rare fillet mignon, with a side of caviar," he smirked at her at that part, and she pouted with a halfhearted glare in his direction. "And a shot of Pinot Noir to sample. Send a chocolate silk pie with the chocolate cookie crumb crust later."
When the waiter left, Ogata became serious again and turned back to her.
"The Go community is rather small," he started. "In fact, currently Japan is the weakest of the three major nations playing Go. As part of that community, and one of the more well-known ones…I don't think my reputation can suffer a blow as some kind of 'creeper,'" he said wryly, trying to lighten up his words with a more sarcastic and ironic tone. "And I really am not like that, and I wouldn't like to be thought of as such."
Hikaru wrinkled. "Fine, fine, Megane-chan."
"M-Megane-chan?!" Ogata sputtered. "D-don't call me that!"
"Ehhh? Why not? You wear glasses, don't you?" Hikaru grinned.
Ogata glared at her. "Yes, but still! Address me correctly –'Ogata-san' or 'Ogata-sensei.'"
"Meh, I like Megane-chan better," Hikaru dismissed his order.
"Why you! Disrespectful, rude brat," Ogata twitched. "At least call me Megane-san or Megane-kun."
Hikaru thought on that for a moment. "…Nah."
Ogata scowled. "Fine then…Chibi Gaki."
They glared at each other.
"Why are you pretending to be a boy with MPD, and saying you're someone named Sai?" he asked, refusing to look away and very curious about that.
"Watch it, Mr. Drag Racer," her glare didn't let up. "I won't let the fact that you have family estates in America, France, and Germany deter me, or the fact that your Siberian Husky currently living with your younger sister and looks gruff and is actually a big softie make me think you're anything but dangerous."
Ogata stared at her bug-eyed. "What…where…how in the hell did you know all that?! I-I'm dangerous? I hardly know anything about you, and yet you pull out all of that! You're the dangerous one! Did you…did you docs me or something?"
"It's doxxing," Hikaru corrected, looking uncomfortable. "No, I just…googled you."
"That's still disturbing! And googling wouldn't get that stuff! I've never said anything to the media about my family or my past!" Ogata was just a little freaked out by this little girl that supposedly had been creeped out by him.
She was shrugging again. "Okay, so maybe I might have also hacked in to some records, old school things, etc. etc. I didn't necessarily doxx you –that would require me releasing your personal information, like your phone number, your address –which is a really nice apartment complex by the way –and all that to the public. Which I didn't. So I didn't technically doxx you. Technically."
Ogata just stared at this girl, who apparently knew everything, minus personal (and he was slightly doubtful of this, just in case), about him. It was slightly scary (he should be disturbed that he didn't find it extremely scary and disturbing), and he wasn't sure he knew what he'd just gotten himself into. He was a little bit in awe too.
But she knew where he lived, his phone number, his Go member registration number probably, the name of his really cuddly and lovable Husky (he could bet), and he wouldn't discount that his license number, his favorite food, favorite color, favorite suit, and everything was known to her.
He wasn't sure how he should take this.
"It's not so bad having a criminal youth, you delinquent. You don't even have to have your hair dyed, since it's a natural blond," Hikaru cheerfully teased. "Megane-chan was a Yankii~"
"I-I wasn't a Yankii," Ogata stuttered, still out of it. Okay, Junior High he'd been in a gang…but he cleaned up before he went to high school! And in high school, he'd gotten into Go and shot straight into the Go community and leagues quickly…and had still drag raced then until he graduated.
He turned red.
Then he went back to being dazed, and tried to talk only to be interrupted by the waiter, who'd brought their food in. Hikaru dug in eagerly and Ogata began to eat numbly, moving a little robotically.
"It's okay, Megane-chan."
He twitched. "Be quiet, Chibi. Eat your caviar."
She faltered, looking at the delicacy hesitantly.
"Um…I don't think I really want to try it after all –"
Ogata latched onto that, grinning wickedly. "Ah, no –you wanted it. Go on, eat it."
Hikaru winced. "But I just listed it as a list of things…and mostly because it was expensive! I didn't think you'd actually get it for me."
"But I did. So eat it."
She kept staring, but so did he and she looked at the small plate of caviar that was staring at her and taunting her just by being.
"What? Are you scared?"
And with that, Hikaru grabbed her fork and stabbed a piece of the caviar before shoving it into her mouth. Her eyes watered and she gagged. She forcibly kept her mouth close, but she shook her head and made some pitiful noises as she wriggled around in her chair in "pain."
"I don't like it, I don't like it," she said through her mouthful of caviar towards Ogata, who watched her in amusement while she cried.
He took a napkin and leaned over to her, holding it under her mouth and used his other hand to direct her head towards it. She immediately grabbed her glass of water to clean her mouth.
"Eat your food," he told her, still amused. "And try the wine. It'll take off the taste. Hopefully."
She curiously reached for the small shot of wine and looked towards him, who nodded at her to go ahead. She tentatively took a taste and her face screwed up.
"Eck. It's kind of bitter."
But she kept drinking it in sips, and eventually she scrunched her nose. "It kinda tastes okay now…"
"Wine can be an acquired taste," Ogata shrugged.
"Can I get a full glass?" she asked eagerly.
"No. Drinking age is 20, Chibi. Eat your food," he said again, going back to his own plate.
She pouted, but did as she was told.
Afterwards, they found their way back to the Go salon, where Ogata insisted he drive her to her home, especially since it was dark and everything. She thought nothing of it, bid Sai goodnight, and went to sleep. She woke up and tiredly got ready, and slumped over the kitchen table to eat.
"Hikaru?" Sai asked quietly, knowing that she probably wasn't fully awake.
"Hey, Sai…this whole business pretending to be you is kind of hard," she mumbled, shoving a spoonful of cereal into her mouth.
And it was true. She couldn't always keep in character, and it was hard trying to keep talking in that certain way, especially when she let modern usage slip out (especially when she got all emotional). Sai wasn't a help, since all his time with Torajiro had made him used to that era's language as well, and even in the short amount of time with Hikaru, he'd picked up and was slipping in modern words and phrases like it was usual. And like last night, she'd messed up royally. As soon as Ogata had grabbed onto her, she'd slipped out of her Sai persona and had reacted from then on as her, until she remembered and tried to play it off by introducing her MPD.
She was surprised that he knew she was a girl, and wouldn't believe her on anything. Remembering her thought that maybe she'd been too harsh on him right before he'd surprised and grabbed her, she huffed irritably and shoved another spoonful into her mouth.
She took it back. She hadn't been too harsh.
He was the enemy.
The doorbell rang and she blinked, confused at who would come to bother her this early in the morning. Maybe it was Akari…
She scowled when she opened the door and it was Ogata on the other side.
"Good morning, Hikaru," he greeted.
"Oi, don't just greet me and say my name so familiarly like that!" Hikaru grabbed his tie and dragged him in, sticking her head out of her door and looking around in paranoia, before she went back in and slammed the door behind her.
"You're going to call me 'Megane-chan,'" he deadpanned. "So in retaliation, I will call you 'Hikaru' and just Hikaru, with no honorifics. Deal with it."
"Eh, Megane-chan is so grumpy and mean," Hikaru huffed, and Sai giggled behind his fan, hiding it from his host.
But she'd proved his point with the name, even if she largely ignored the content of what he was saying.
"What do you want anyways? And how are you here in my house?"
"I drove here."
She gave him a look.
"I drove you home last night, remember? I remembered your address to drive back today," Ogata admitted.
Hah! She knew there must've been a reason he drove her home.
Sai shook his head at his host's odd fascination/antagonism against this man. He wasn't sure what was up, and he knew that she didn't have a clue and was impulsively provoking and bickering with the other man.
"I was hoping you'd come with me to see Touya Meijin today, at the Go salon," he continued. "I'm requesting this time, as you so strongly recommended."
Hikaru blinked at him. "But I have school."
He shrugged. "So skip it."
She jumped up and pointed a finger at him. "Ah hah! You are a little delinquent, aren't you, Megane-chan?"
Ogata face palmed.
She finished up her cereal, had him wait as she took a shower, and went with him to his car, raising an eyebrow at it.
"Bright red sports car…flashy, Megane-chan, flashy," she just barely refrained from rolling her eyes.
"I'm not flashy," he denied.
"Says the man in an expensive white suit, driving an expensive red sports vehicle."
He did roll his eyes and entered his side of the car, while she went to the other side and slid into the seat.
"Leather seats that are really taken cared of…you are flashy."
Ogata ignored her and started the car.
"I hope you know I need a bribe for this."
Ogata inwardly sighed.
Sometime into their drive, Hikaru pointed to a random shop to call in her bribe and Ogata relented, deciding to humor her. It was an antique shop and he couldn't think what in the world she could see in there that she might want.
"Give me your jacket," she said suddenly.
"Wait, what?" he was caught off guard.
"Just give it to me. You want people to think you're some kind of child molester or something?" she said irritably.
"Don't say that aloud!" he hissed at her, taking off his jacket and handing it to her roughly. "And you said you'd quit with that! What's with the jacket?"
Hikaru gave him a condescending look he bristled at, before putting on his jacket and putting her hair in a loose ponytail. Her voice changed and became a little softer, with just a hint of being a little male. It was better than the quick turnaround she'd done earlier, outside the police station yesterday.
"It's a little harder to get the exact correct balance for this tone," she told him in her new voice. "I usually don't have this much trouble adjusting my voice, though most times I can snap into this tone easily. Come on, Aniki," she said, tugging at his sleeve and making him follow her.
Once again, he was struck into a dumb haze because of her.
She looked around and he was getting out of it, when she spotted something. She headed towards it, letting go of Ogata for the moment to retrieve it. When she came back to him, she was holding onto a folding fan.
"Here. Buy this for me and I'll call us even," she said simply.
"Even for what?" he muttered, but he'd grabbed it and headed to the cashier.
She blinked at his back. Honestly, she hadn't really expected him to even agree to buying her something at all, much less buy her the fan she wanted so she could emulate Sai more.
Okay, so maybe he wasn't 'the enemy,' but more of an 'undesirable number one.'
Started 3/23/13 – Completed 3/24/13
Chapter 6: Fujiwara's Entrance III
They had reached the Go salon, but Hikaru was nervous. She looked at Sai after a glance to Ogata, and Sai gave her an encouraging smile.
"Ogata-san, how shall I proceed?" she said as Sai.
Ogata did a double take and gave this baffled sort of look towards her, that she inwardly smirked at. Though, sheesh, he should have known something was up with her getup.
"You…why are you…" he glanced at the Go salon and shook his head. "Whatever."
Though she didn't understand it, the implication that he was going to go along with her act was actually kind of…nice. For him.
"Thank you, Megane-chan," she said, still as Sai, but using her nickname for him.
He muttered something under his breath that she didn't catch, and after he finished parallel parking, he got out and she followed after him. It wasn't long until they reached the Go salon and the place immediately caught sight of them and quieted. Hikaru saw Ichikawa, who was hesitating between wanting to greet her and keeping quiet with the others. Hikaru sent her a soft beatific smile that had the woman settling down and turning oddly red before giving a small wave back.
Then Hikaru turned her head and saw the man from before, from that hallway, calmly measuring a Go board.
"So this is the child who beat Akira twice," he murmured.
She felt Ogata silently hovering behind her uncertainly, and Hikaru felt Sai to her right. They watched the Meijin and she barely lifted her fingers to lightly touch against Sai's, who had echoed her at the same time.
This was it.
The man's eyes opened abruptly and immediately honed in on her. She felt herself get intimidated, but Sai's still touching fingers made her buckle up and keep indifferent eyes and a definitely not-matching soft smile.
"I want to know your ability."
'Please let me play him.'
Hikaru moved forward with the greatest gathering of grace she's ever had as 'Sai' so far. She sat down gently, snapping open her newly acquired fan and hiding her face slightly behind it. The Meijin followed suit, sitting opposite her.
"Place down three stones. That's how I play against Akira. Can you understand? Only three stones against a Meijin. That is Akira's ability."
Hikaru brushed the side of her thumb against the open handle of her fan.
"Ne? Meijin-dono…let us play an even game for fun," she said, making sure to keep her voice light and musical.
"For fun?" he asked bemused.
She ignored the whispers of " –dono? Who uses that these days?" and "An even game? What is Sai-kun thinking? That poor boy!" and instead slowly put down her fan, keeping the sweet smile on her lips but her eyes sharp and predatory. Kouyo did not miss it.
"So far I have not played a game with someone who seems to like the game. They are all so serious and I find I cannot see the wonderment in their eyes for a good game, the gleeful smile of a challenge, or the fluttering breaths of anticipation for the next move of their opponent. Let us play a game for fun seriously."
'Prove us wrong.'
This was the thought shared through both Hikaru and Sai, in sync as always. Sai, especially, wished this. For his host –at this point, Hikaru was very jaded and cynical about other Go players, and held Sai to high esteem. He wanted someone to show her that someone else was capable of loving the game like he did, and this man –the one whose intensity he'd easily glimpsed from that first meeting in the hallway, an intensity so like his –was the one he'd hoped could do just that.
The Meijin didn't seem like he knew how to take that, before he became unruffled again.
"Play a fun game seriously, huh. Very well."
Around them, there were murmurs of surprise and bewilderment, but Kouyo took some stones to nigiri. Hikaru was white and Kouyo became black.
"I started teaching Akira Go when he was 2. We play a game every morning; he is already at pro level. I don't let him play in amateur tournaments," they were playing some moves already.
"Why not? Should he not find the enjoyment of the game anywhere and play as many games as he should want to fulfill that desire?" Hikaru hmmed.
"If he plays in a tournament, he may discourage a still improving opponent. Akira is special," a tinge of amusement colored his voice though.
"And yet this 'opponent' will move on, still face Akira, and still face discouragement. It is just later, rather than sooner. And this 'opponent' were to be discouraged in either case…I do not believe they truly care too much for Go, if they were to give into discouragement like that. And it seems they are just being coddled…both this 'opponent' and Akira. Akira will have to face this sort of thing sooner…than later."
Kouyo's lips almost resembled a smile, astonishing those watching.
And then the game went on.
To the surprise and shock of everyone, the game was not as one-sided as they thought it would be. By the Meijin's face, he didn't even look to be holding back and seemed to be taking it very seriously. But it seemed impossible…for the game was evenly matched and was making everyone hold their breaths.
And if Ogata could actually admit it…the Meijin was behind half a moku…
All too suddenly and bafflingly to the rest, Kouyo resigned after an impressive three-hour even game. There was no mistaking the soft smile gracing his lips as he looked onto the board, nor the awed and loving gaze that 'Sai' bestowed upon the black and white pattern laid out before them all.
It was even more surprising to see tears falling softly down 'Sai's' pale cheeks all the while, whether or not he noticed or cared.
"I hope that this brings merit to you of the professional world of Go," Kouyo murmured. "As a pro myself. And to that, to show you there are still, in this day, some left to love this game as dearly as you."
She didn't answer, though in the back of her mind and Sai himself noted that they hadn't expected for the actual main reason for this was for the Meijin to show them such a thing. In truth, it had started out sounding like he just wanted to see for himself the child that had beaten his son twice now.
But what Sai had been hoping for, had wanted from this man, had been exactly what the other had actually set out to do.
"Thank you," Sai said quietly, though Hikaru was still tenderly gazing upon the game.
"This game…these stones are the black and white stars," she suddenly started speaking, drawing everyone's close attention as her fingers lightly danced on the top of the stones. "Of our universe," she continued, caressing the board. "Playing together, we are Kami. The game itself…is the ghostly shade of a hand."
Sai and Kouyo stared at her, and were incidentally the only ones able to understand the underlying meaning of her words, with Kouyo watching her closely. Sai looked back onto the game himself, and smiled blissfully, closing his eyes in happiness.
As one, Sai and Hikaru took a deep breath.
"It's over," Sai hummed in joy.
"Touya Kouyo," both of them spoke softly, echoing each other. Hikaru was his mouthpiece and spoke his words, even managing to say it at the exact time, as if she knew him or what he wanted to say so well he need not even speak it aloud. "…You answered me greatly. From each of your hands, I felt greater ecstasy than the memory of past battles. Being able to answer you has given me great pride in myself. Perhaps…that meeting in the hallway was Destiny. Thank you, Touya Kouyo."
Hikaru opened her eyes at the same time as Sai, and grasped her fan as she stood up gracefully. She suddenly grew a small mischievous smile and tapped her lips with the fan, before putting it on a specific stone.
"If you had done this instead, you would have won."
Then she was leaving.
"Won't you come into the world of pros? You can have many challenging opponents and have games from many others of this sort. We can even have a chance to create another universe," Kouyo managed to speak out before she left completely.
She, and an invisible Sai, stood at the threshold of the salon's doors, opened and letting in the wind to breathe against her and have the strands of her hair swaying in it.
"I have a thousand years of Go to ponder first," she said finally.
And then she was gone.
Ogata quietly slunk out, trying not to draw attention to himself and have everyone remember that not only did he come here with Hikaru, but had brought the girl there in the first place. And the fact they all still thought of Hikaru the Girl as Hikaru the Boy…
Was he the only one with common sense around here?
He headed to his car quickly, and got into it. He let out a yelp, inwardly berating himself afterwards, when Hikaru popped up suddenly from the back of his car. She sniffled and looked at him with wide, watery eyes.
"You! How'd you get into here! I locked it!"
Hikaru pouted. "You didn't set the alarm, so I used the master key."
"…How'd-how'd you get a master key?"
She sniffled again.
"And you…back there. What was all that?" he grumbled.
He was not going to think about that game right then. Or that she actually won against the Meijin. Just any of it and the implications. He just won't.
His head was hurting.
"Doesn't matter," she said dismissively. "I'm hungry. Let's go to another restaurant."
"I can't treat you to a restaurant all the time!" he huffed. "I can't splurge money like that excessively."
He started the car though. "…How about McDonald's?"
And then Hikaru sat back in her seat, feeling at peace.
She reached out subtly and held Sai's hand.
When she reached home that night, she hummed as she prepared breakfast and listened to the messages left on the phone. There was her grandfather checking up on her and her ghost, and one from Akari, inviting her to the Haze High club festival the next day. Since Akari was going to go there after graduating Haze Junior, Hikaru thought it would be good for her friend to check it out, and decided she wouldn't mind going and hanging around Akari for the day, even though she was all set to go to Kaio High instead. She called back and told her friend she'd accepted, and they made plans together.
So, while at the festival, Hikaru had decided to come early so she could show Sai around and catch him up on the new things that had been updated while he'd been in the goban (she was even wearing a skirt and a pretty blouse for the occasion). Then the two of them caught sight of a Go booth and eagerly walked over.
"My, my, Sai~ Aren't I spoiling you?" she teased her ghost.
Sai clapped his hands in delight, and led the rest of the way there himself.
"This is a medium level problem," they heard the smiling boy with glasses speak to the elderly man. "Solve it in three moves and you'll get a prize."
The man tried, but he didn't manage it. He good-naturedly laughed it off with the others around him, as the boy pointed out an escape and Hikaru moved forward, smiling eagerly.
"Hi~ka~ru~ Try this as yourself! Please?" Sai widened his eyes for effect, and added a pout.
She sighed, but didn't refuse.
"Can I try?" she asked the boy.
"Of course!" he smiled brightly.
"Anou sa, about this book…" Hikaru noticed one of the prizes, seeing the title as Touya Meijin's Go Tutorial.
"It's the prize for when you solve the hardest problem. I'm Tsutsui by the way," the light blush on his cheeks was telling to Sai, who hid his smiling face behind his sleeve.
Hikaru, on the other hand, was oblivious and not paying any attention to anything but the book.
"I want, I want, Hikaru!" Sai cheerfully glomped her from behind.
'Fine, fine. Even if we don't get it, I can still buy it for you, Sai,' she agreed.
She sat down and waited for him to put down the stones and took no time solving the first two rather quickly. She was surprised with herself. Sai was the Go fanatic and master of Go, but she guessed all that learning and playing with either Sai or at her Go lessons (never mind her continual observation of Sai's games and in the classroom). All of that must've paid off somehow, at least even only a bit.
The guys around her cheered, and although Sai knew the men were there first and that no other females at the festival were interested in the game and therefore around, he still hovered behind Hikaru protectively.
"How about the hardest one?" Hikaru gave a happy smile that Tsutsui got flustered at, fumbling to put down the stones.
"This one's the hardest problem in the book," Tsutsui managed to calm himself enough to say. "You would have to be on the level of Touya Akira to solve it."
Hikaru immediately frowned. "Ehhh…I'm not too fond of the guy. He's kinda pushy and grabby…and too serious. I like his father better. Alright! Time to solve this –"
"You've…you've met…" Tsutsui gaped, while the other men around her almost had their jaws dropping from her implied words.
Hikaru was still not paying attention to their reactions, and had just grabbed a stone to solve the problem. However, there was a huge shade shadowing over her and the board, that she hadn't paid attention to at first, having assumed it was another bystander that had just gotten closer.
"The first hand…is here, right?" the end of a cigarette was put out on the goban, right where the answer to the problem was.
Hikaru's mind blanked, just as Sai wailed in the background about imbecilic boys and desecration and War Go.
…That last part, she managed to acknowledge was her influence on Sai.
The rest of the spectators were outraged and shocked, while Tsutsui was visibly upset.
"What are you doing?!" Tsutsui yelled at the offender.
"Quit this shit! Go sucks! Capturing territory on table with stones? That's lame; Shougi is a thousand times more fun! Who cares about Touya Akira? I've beaten that pathetic loser!"
Hikaru had enough.
This new guy opened his mouth again, but Hikaru smacked it with her fan, startling everyone and causing a deep silence to envelop the area. Her closed fan was still on his lips, and everyone was sure it was smarting. She was even more intimidating as her jade orbs stared at him from the corner of her eyes, icy and sharp, and even as she hadn't moved her head an inch to face him.
"And I beat Touya Meijin," she didn't want to brag about that, hadn't wanted anyone to know about it at all. It was special, to both Sai and her. But she was so incensed. Besides, no one would believe her anyway, and would think she was just being sarcastic to the other's claim. "Urusai, you moronic child. Lessen your speech before you show more of your lesser intelligence," she allowed her speech to gradually become that of Sai's.
Dumbfounded, between the change in attitude and speech and of the scary intimidation of the girl in front of them, everyone stayed very still and quiet.
"You dare to challenge me? Boy, I will have you regret your error," she suddenly took her fan and rapidly pointed it, unraveling all the while, towards the seat Tsutsui occupied before her. "I will slice you in half for your insolence! Take your seat and face judgment against my sword, boy!"
Numbly, the boy Tsutsui called Kaga, took the seat Tsutsui vacated quickly.
"Prepare yourself to be faced with the Art of War Go," heck, if Sai and she were going to amuse themselves with that, they might as well make War Go a staple.
Certainly there would be others who needed schooling.
She snapped her fan closed and glared icily at the other. "Nigiri!" she commanded.
Kaga did so without protest, eying her warily.
And when the game started, there had been no mercy from the beginning. It was sheer slaughter from start to end, with Sai and Hikaru giving no mercy. Hikaru's icy presence did not dissolve, and Sai's merciless moves on the board said much without them having to voice any more.
Kaga shivered and resigned.
Honestly, he had wanted to bet her into jumping into the pool if she lost, just to regain any kind of backbone that had disappeared from him once she'd slapped that fan against his lips. However, seeing the finished game now, he was quite glad he had decided not to go with the bet after all.
He would not have won.
"Tsutsui, give me your jacket," he said quietly, still looking at the board.
"What? Why?" the younger boy asked, though he was also staring at the board, cringing a bit.
Kaga stood up and yanked the jacket off of Tsutsui without warning. He then slowly made his way to Hikaru, who watched him with glassy jade eyes that revealed nothing. He draped the jacket around her.
"We have your first board."
He didn't look away from her, even as he announced that.
Started 4/4/13 – Completed 4/7/13
Chapter 7: Fujiwara's Entrance IV
She couldn't resist. She really, really couldn't resist.
Hikaru just had that bad habit of wanting to get into things she really shouldn't be in…and more like she couldn't resist trying to pretend to be something and see how far she could go –if she could get away with it even.
There was just something in her that brought up the urge to do things like this.
She couldn't help it. For as long as she could remember, she somehow always got herself to end up impersonating something or other because she just had to. And the numerous confidence tricks she pulled off as well, had been something of an obsession also.
Not that Hikaru (or her parents) relatively acknowledged it as such.
"Eh, Megane-chan, I'm entering a tournament."
Hikaru hummed, waiting for a response as she gave a thumbs up to Sai, who was very excited about being able to play in a tournament.
"How'd you get this number?"
"Do you really have to ask?" Hikaru rolled her eyes, as he should have remembered all the information she'd pulled on him already.
"Yeah, whatever. A…tournament, you say? That's encouraging. May I come?"
"Of course! That's why I called you, Megane-chan! Sheesh. Anyway, this Sunday, 10 am, at Kaio High. See you~"
"Wait! A school tournament? Hikaru –"
She hung up and all he could think was that it was going to be a massacre.
"Sai~ I'm so excited. I get to visit my new school for the tournament!"
Oh, she had it all worked out too. She was going to play it straight Sai, as she had through all the times she'd visited the Touya Go salon. That way, when she entered the school year, she would be female and blonde. That's right, she was going to finally get the dye job she's been wanting. Combined with the new hairstyle and being a female MPD student (and different personalities), she wouldn't be associated with 'Sai' who entered the tournament this year for Haze High!
And if they connected Sai and her, well…there is a reason Sai's a "split personality." Hikaru didn't really have control over him, and should therefore have no responsibility over his actions while she was 'out' and he was 'in.' She should be exempt for her alter ego having entered a tournament she had absolutely no idea about.
She'd just have to avoid the principal, is all.
Meanwhile, Ogata stared at his phone in horror, still picturing a hall full of devastated and horrified high school Go enthusiasts, all taken down by some midget of a girl. He winced and put his phone away, trying not to trudge into the salon.
He saw Akira in the back, still slightly depressed and yet also oddly thoughtful as he continued to stare at that ridiculous map encompassing the wall in the back. He glanced around and noted that several customers were still grumbling at their lack of foresight and action after the Meijin versus 'Sai' game, where they'd been in so much shock at the outcome that they hadn't thought to come after Sai or question him or-or-or anything! But it was very understandable. Someone (and a young one at that) had just beaten Touya Meijin, in an even game. A feat not even their precious Touya Akira could claim.
It was hard to believe. Even Ogata had trouble believing it himself, regardless of having seen it.
When he'd reached his mentor's son, he stood by Akira's side and quietly examined the Map of Sai Akira (and the rest of these meddlesome folks in this place) had created. Snidely, in his thoughts at least, he wanted to say that Akira should add that 'Sai' was actually a girl, and really named Shindo Hikaru at that. And also, for some reason, pretending to be afflicted with multiple personality disorder, with her alternate personality as some Heian Go-loving noble.
Another voice in his head mentioned that a more feasible addition to the wall would be that her eyes were the exact shade of jade green.
It was almost embarrassing to admit that his older brother's exactness of color coding had rubbed off on him for all these years, and that he would notice something like that with her.
"I want to play him again," Akira said suddenly, but instead of the determination he had expected to hear, it was with wistfulness and longing that he heard instead.
"Then go after him," Ogata snorted, shoving his hands into his pockets.
He was still wondering if he should just blurt out Akira's Sai was really a girl, when Akira spoke again and startled him with his next words.
"I'll wait," the determination Ogata had expected to hear was shown here. "Even on the level that he'd fought against my father, I still wish to play him again. And I will wait for that chance."
"You'd really wait?" Ogata asked doubtfully.
"Yes," Akira sighed tiredly. "I shouldn't rush things. Good things come in time. Life should be lived and shouldn't be hastened or wasted. And though I know, having learned of the game between he and Father, that I am probably completely outmatched and may never catch up…it will be a good game, when the time comes."
Ogata scrutinized the other. "You'd grown wiser. You've always been much more adult-like than your peers, but playing at being an adult is much different than being wise."
Akira gave him a small smile. "I've done a lot of thinking since meeting Sai, and the things he'd said to me. I've pondered over those words quite a lot."
Ogata made an agreeable noise, but didn't say anything to that.
He understood, of course. He'd heard Hikaru speak in the Go salon that day, and saying wise, awe-inspiring words (if a bit vague) to all, but mostly the Meijin. And from what he'd heard from Akira and the various customers in the salon, the words spoken to Akira were just as wise and almost as intense (if not as) as the words spoken to Kouyo. Both very meaningful and very breathtaking.
Remarkable words from such a strange, little girl.
"Will you take the Pro Exam this year?" Ogata changed the subject as his eyes passed over Ichikawa's amusing addition of Hikaru's hands and fingers to the map, but even at this he was surprised.
"No," Akira surprisingly said. "Sai won't take it and doesn't believe in it. But I know, in time, that he will. He's had a taste of that world from Father, and I know it's only a matter of time before he's drawn back and can't help but want to enter it, if only to play more incredible games and create more universes. Then, and only then, shall I take the Exam and walk that path with him."
Ogata refrained from rolling his eyes and sighing in aggravation, just knowing his girl was absolute trouble for everyone.
And most of the people he knew still thought she was a boy.
That fact was only reiterated on Sunday, having seen and picked up Hikaru from her home and her wearing a Haze High boys' uniform.
"You're…you're still in junior high, right? So why are you in a high school uniform?"
She shrugged, getting into his car without an invitation from him. He ignored it, as he was getting used to.
"'Cause I'm going to enter the tournament as Sai, a Haze High student," she said in a matter of fact manner, and without further explanation.
But she didn't answer, merely strapping herself in safely and humming cheerily. He grumbled in his head, but started his car and drove over to Kaio, where upon they separated as she went to see the school matchups and he went to shove a baseball cap onto his head (without mentioning the fact he was already out of his usual suits and was wearing a casual t-shirt and jeans, with dark sunglasses to match). He was not going to be recognized at a school tournament.
Then she saw someone she recognized as the brother of a neighborhood friend and freaked out, hurriedly looking for Ogata (who was in his silly getup).
"There's someone who knows me here," she hissed at him, and he looked at her with an eyebrow raised.
"What do you want me to do about it?" he asked sarcastically.
And so, somehow, he'd promised to keep an eye on the kid and had ended up even situating himself nearby the kid that had Hikaru so worried about every once in awhile, if he wasn't checking in on Hikaru.
She, on the other hand, had finally settled down and had sat with her team at their assigned table, and who were warily looking at her. They knew she was a girl, as she'd worn a skirt and was kind of girly at the festival, but they also knew she had a male alter, who apparently loved Go (since she'd switched to Sai during the game with Kaga, and had afterwards periodically changed between herself and 'Sai' after meeting the other two more closely and working with them to prepare for the tournament).
They liked her, she knew enough, but as Kaga said the first time: "This is too fucking weird."
She hummed happily in her head, very excited about it all. Sai echoed her excitement, though he gave her a look crossed between worried and exasperated when she began to chant 'Slaughter, slaughter, slaughter~' in a sing-song tone in her head.
"Really too much like Reiji-niisama sometimes," Sai sighed.
'You mentioned him before,' Hikaru noted. 'Who's he?'
"Ah, my older brother. The eldest, in fact. He was…quite the aggressive and forceful man," Sai chuckled in remembrance.
'Really? Huh. You should tell me more about yourself later, instead of always about Go. In the meantime, let's slaughter everyone, ne?'
Sai sweatdropped, but nodded even as he muttered under his breath, "Yes, 'Reiji-niisama.'"
She and Kaga were synchronized (purposefully because the two of them felt like it and thought it would be cool to do it) as they opened their fans, the flapping sound loud in their corner. Their opponents from the other school took one look at Kaga's fan, and one of them sneered.
"Tch. What? You have a shougi member as second board? You didn't have enough members? Couldn't even find three people?" Hikaru's opponent remarked.
Hikaru tilted her head behind her fan, hiding her face, though she was sure she heard Ogata's disdainful snort from where she could see him blending in with people behind her.
"Just shut up and nigiri," Kaga snapped irritably, fanning himself.
"You sure? You wouldn't rather look for a shougi board?" Hikaru's opponent continued to mock.
"You're lucky we're playing Go," Kaga huffed. "Your king would be dead in five minutes if it were shougi. Because it's Go, it'll take me ten minutes. You get to have five more minutes of life."
Hikaru was definitely sure she heard snickering coming from Ogata's direction.
"You don't even know how strong I am," Hikaru's opponent growled angrily.
Kaga sniffed condescendingly. "Whether you are strong or weak will become clear soon. Except against Sai-kun," he added as an afterthought, pointing at Hikaru. "Never mind, he'll just slaughter you."
Hikaru's opponent bristled, while the other two puffed up in anger.
"Anyway, guys who start whining before the match are weak," Kaga started picking his nose.
Hikaru wasn't mistaken at all, hearing Ogata chuckle.
There was a call for them to begin already, and nigiri was completed. Hikaru was white, so Kaga became black and Tsutsui white as well. Hikaru was ready.
Er, well, she thought she was.
"Hey, you forgot to hit your clock," her opponent said.
She blinked. "Huh. Clock? What is –oh, I see. My apologies."
"Heh, aren't I nice?" he and his teammates snickered.
At the same time, Tsutsui had taken out his book and Kaga and he were making a commotion about it, and being loud. One of the members from the game next to them asked for them to quiet down even.
She frowned, seeing the looks on their opponents' faces, and just knowing what they were thinking. A guy who doesn't know about the clock, a shougi player, and a guy with a book…An easy win for the first round…
It wasn't too long until Hikaru and Sai had beaten the one who was talking too much, and Kaga actually had beaten his opponent in ten minutes, forcibly making him say "I've lost" loudly. It took a little longer, but once Tsutsui got into yose, he didn't make any mistakes and beat his opponent as well.
The next round was a cinch as well. Kaga beat his opponent, and as expected Hikaru showed no mercy (she was very into it, while Sai shook his head at his charge). Tsutsui hadn't managed to win this time, but with Kaga and Hikaru winning, they managed to make it to the finals and face Kaio anyway.
This time, as they fought against Kaio, Kaga lost. His opponent was much tougher than his last two, and he knew the rumors about Kaio's Go club being the best were true and that they were all a bunch of Touya Akira types. Tsutsui almost resigned, but found a single opening that led him to having a miracle win over the other, with an eight moku loss for the other.
Hikaru and Sai were ecstatic at the game unfolding before them, and though it would be inevitable that they'd win, it had been a beautiful game that had drawn many people to watch it. The boy cried at his loss, but his teacher comforted him and congratulated him on a good, well-played game and that that mattered more than winning, acting very supportive and thoughtful of his students.
She and Sai smiled behind their fans. This 'Yun-sensei' seemed like a caring, kind, and gentle person –a good soul.
However, this meant that Haze won the tournament and that Kaio actually lost. With exclamations about that, Haze was just about to be declared the winner, when the person she'd been worried about recognized her.
But that was all he managed to say, getting cut off and unheard as suddenly Ogata was there, covered his mouth, and then dragged him off somewhere.
So Haze still won and it was another successful ploy for her.
All in a good day's work.
The three had been celebrating in good cheer together, when Ogata ambushed her from behind, shuffling her off. They were outside already, by the time her teammates had caught up.
"Hey y-yooouu…" they dragged out, trailing off at the end as they stared at Ogata, who had shoved off his hat and glasses and placed them into his car.
"You're…you're Ogata 9-dan," Tsutsui gaped.
Holy crap, if that's Ogata Seiji actually grabbing and abducting Hikaru, then that meant…
"So she…she really met Touya Meijin and Touya Akira…?" Tsutsui's head was spinning.
Ogata gave them a derisive look. "Yes, of course."
"So wait! You mean she actually beat the Meijin?!" Kaga blurted out.
Ogata's look turned into surprise. "She actually told you about that? Whatever, doesn't matter. Get in the car," he directed towards Hikaru. "We need to get you out of here before you get caught and discovered."
She was in the car without another word, and Ogata slipped in and turned on the engine, driving off quickly after.
"She…really beat the Meijin," Kaga said dazedly.
At her home, she was in the middle of amusing herself with messing around and idly searching through Ogata's laptop, as the man shuffled around her kitchen in disgusted amazement, stopping his mutterings about how could she not know about the clock.
"What is with all this instant crap?!" he exclaimed, before pulling out pots and placing them onto the stove.
Hikaru shrugged, but Sai nodded in agreement with Ogata, starting in on a lecture about nutrients and stuff Hikaru needed to grow in order to become a proper lady. She glared at him and huffed quietly to herself, though Ogata caught her glaring at seemingly nothing.
"What are you glaring at?" he narrowed his eyes at her.
She held up her hands in awkward surrender. "No one, no one…"
But Sai was like, "Me!" grinning like a cheerful loon.
Ogata made a mental note about her reply 'No one' in response to his asking of 'what' she was glaring at. He felt it was important, but he'd probably not get an answer about it now.
"'Sides, I'm not a bachelor living all alone in an apartment, so I have no need to know how to cook."
He twitched, but just barely refrained from turning to growl at her. He focused, instead, on trying to get started on cooking dinner for her.
"Where's your parents anyway?" he grumbled, changing the subject. "I haven't seen them yet, and they've been absent all the times I've come over here. I'd expected they'd be a little worried and suspicious about some strange man coming over all the time, and whatever. Or run into me somehow, and find out about me in the first place."
"Saa, don't hold your breath," Hikaru said dismissively. "Kaa-san has been going back to school for a medical degree –she's boarding over at the university. Tou-san is overseas, working in America for the corporation he's employed by over there. They're never around and the house is practically mine. You don't have to worry about running into them."
Ogata paused in his movements, moving slowly to look at her closely.
She wasn't looking at him, her face bored and slightly detached as she continued to idly mess around with his laptop and look at the programs and whatnot on it. He swallowed and looked back at his preparations.
"There's NetGo on my computer. You can log on, if you want," he changed the subject again, purposefully avoiding answering back to her about her parents for her sake.
"Eh? What's NetGo?"
He furrowed his eyebrows, and glanced at her over his shoulder. "You don't know what NetGo is?"
At her shaking her head, he launched into a brief but clear explanation about it, and she began to look excited.
"Oh, oh! Can I create a profile on your computer?" she asked excitedly.
"Yeah, yeah! Pretty please, Ogata-san?" Sai echoed after her, though he knew the man wouldn't be able to hear him.
"Yeah, whatever. Go ahead," he grunted, stirring the pasta.
"Yatta! Megane-chan, you can be alright, you know that?"
Only too quickly, Hikaru had created Sai's profile and had begun playing in earnest. She hadn't realized that she'd started Sai's internet reign much earlier than had been expected, and that the carnage she was dealing out would catch widespread attention.
But she and Sai were playing Go, and Sai was happy. That was really all that mattered.
"Ohhh, this guy's an American," Hikaru grinned. "I've always been interested in America."
Ogata scooped up a tiny portion of the sauce to taste. "Really? Why?"
"It's always been my dream to hack into the Pentagon."
Ogata choked on the sauce he'd been taste testing, and Hikaru proceeded to make friends with the American amateur Go player.
Started 4/21/13 – Completed 4/21/13
Chapter 8: Shirayuki's Go
"Shindou-sensei," Shirakawa teased. "Good job today."
She huffed at him, but grinned back enthusiastically. It felt great to be part of teaching the Go class. She'd been hesitant at first, but Shirakawa had told her that the class loved her and loved her helping out. So while she continued to refine the basics of the game for herself, she helped the others as herself with the basics while 'Sai' went around for the much harder stuff. It was kind of cool that she was really starting to get Sai's explanations, sometimes even before he started explaining.
Sai was just happy that her own Go was starting to really take shape on her own.
All the games she played against him all the time, and he knew she was more than good than any of the players there. He'd even likened her close to Akira's level, though maybe not yet able to beat him herself.
She was having fun with the game and learning to form her own love for Go. She was able to see things that most people would miss, and even see far beyond in the future of a game than what was in her current ability in playing. He was so proud of her, and he couldn't help but be extraordinarily pleased that his desire for her to share his love for Go was coming true.
He still felt an intense yearning to reach the Hand of God, but he could not help but feel that there was something at least as equally important (maybe even more) that he had to do.
"Shindou-sensei," Shirakawa was still insisting on calling her. "Are you still interested in Go salons?"
She turned to him in interest, and he smiled slightly.
"I know you asked about one some time ago, and I told you the address…but I found two more Go salons, if you'd like to hear about them?"
"Yes, please!" especially as she couldn't really go to the Touya Go salon.
Sai was as equally happy, clapping his hands excitedly.
And this was how she was introduced to the first of the two Go salons he told her about –the Heart of Stone.
She entered it cautiously, prepared for the smoke-filled atmosphere. Going up to the register and seeing the grumpy woman, she inwardly gulped before steeling herself.
"Um…Hello," she greeted hesitantly. "I'd like to play."
The woman looked up from her magazine, her unhappy face lightening slightly.
"You sure you want to go in here, sweetie? It's full of old geezers and disgusting smoke."
Hikaru smiled brightly. "It's alright! I'd still like to play here, please!"
The woman was about to say something else, when she was interrupted by an older man with dark hair cheerfully coming over, a cigarette held in hand.
"I'll play you if you'd like," he smiled amiably.
Another old man, completely bald this time, chirped up helpfully. "Me too!"
"Haha," another man, with short gray hair, "I'll play you also. If you win against all of us, you don't have to pay, alright? And to make things more interesting, if you lose you have to wash the stones!" he laughed again.
"Anata!" the woman at the counter glared at him. "Don't you tease the girl!"
"No, it's okay, Miss! It sounds like fun!" Hikaru brightened up even more. "I know! How about I try playing against all of you at once? I'd like to see if I can do that!"
"It's a deal!" the owner of the place agreed, while his wife yelled at him. "Anata!"
The owner was first board and with nigiri had earned black, while the bald man (named Soga-san) was second board and white, with the dark-haired man who'd first offered to play her was named Doumoto-san and was playing third board and black.
"Huh. So that's how the boards' stones are decided. By the captain's nigiri, eh?" Doumoto hmmed. "I didn't know that. I've only played in individual tournaments."
That made Hikaru remember the one tournament she'd participated in, and wondered when could she play in one again. Maybe she could ask this Doumoto when and where all these individual tournaments were, and see if she could enter in any of them.
Immediately, once the games had started, she switched over to Sai mode (as she'd taken to calling it at times), and Sai joyfully began calling out moves for her to play. He would have liked for Hikaru to try playing here, and see how'd she match up against these older men, but he knew that she and her Go wasn't yet ready for it. There was also that she had yet to really play her own Go against someone other than himself and no practice with it, or that she hadn't practiced actually switching back and forth between herself and Sai in the middle of a game. So far, aside from the lessons where it was easy to get away with it, she had turned into Sai before every game had been played.
He really would have liked for Hikaru to be able to try to play as herself against someone else, minus those of her Go classes, which couldn't count too much.
Incredibly to everyone there, Hikaru, through Sai, had managed to win all three games with very little fuss. The three men stared at the boards in shock, while the lady from the counter went behind them and snatched the cigarettes from Doumoto and Soga's mouths, muttering how they shouldn't be smoking around little girls.
"I thank you three. That was a most wondrous collection of games," she said formally, fondly touching her fan to her lips. "I believe Hikaru is most kind to have allowed me to play and to have brought me here."
Now that got people's attention, wondering what she meant by that. But she'd already switched back to herself, sort of clearing things up and mostly just adding to the confusion.
Hikaru looked at the boards and cheered loudly, clapping her hands. "Wow, wow! Sai did really well, didn't he?"
"What on earth are you talking about?" the owner asked in bewilderment, at the same time as Doumoto exclaimed, "What in the…do you have someone you talk to in your head or somethin'?" That had actually been meant as a rhetorical question, and not meant to have been taken seriously…only he didn't know that he was sort of spot on.
Hikaru laughed in embarrassment, scratching the back of her head. She explained about her "affliction," which really did end up clearing things up, though it was still an odd revelation and a strange situation.
And then some odd man barged in, and that was how Hikaru and Sai met Kawai the Taxi Driver.
She came again and again, coming often and playing against many of the people there. The owner let her come in for free, and she even started helping play teaching games with Sai with people there. Kawai was a usual and a loudmouth, but Hikaru thoroughly enjoyed his presence and both playing him and just hanging out around the silly man. Doumoto had also helped her out with the tournaments, informing her about some of them and which ones were coming up soon. He'd also promised to help her into the next one that was nearing, and she gratefully thanked him.
Sai also made himself rather popular there, and though he tended to slaughter everyone there (most of the time by influence of Hikaru or even direct suggestion of slaughtering), everyone loved to hear him talk or start explaining things.
She had enjoyed there so much that she'd almost forgotten about the other Go salon and almost didn't care to visit it. However, she wanted Sai to play as many players as he wanted and could, and she didn't want to limit him. So off it was to this other Go salon, which had a Korean name.
She was waiting in front of her school when Kawai arrived, having offered to drive her over as he would have been passing by her school when he was getting off to break.
"Eh, eh? Another Go salon? Oi, you can't be abandoning us, are you? Hika-chaaaan! Nooo, you're replacing us!" Kawai exclaimed dramatically.
She rolled her eyes as Sai laughed at the man's antics.
"Don't worry, I'm not," she stuck her tongue out at him. "I'm just gonna see if Sai wants some more places to play at."
"Haha, he sure likes to play, doesn't he?" Kawai laughed. "You should learn and play Go yourself, Hika-chan."
"Un, un! I'm learning," she said. "I just don't think I should play yet. I don't think I'm really good enough to play anyone."
"Says you. You don't know," Kawai huffed, and she smacked his shoulder with a pout.
Soon enough they arrived there, and Kawai asked what time she'd think she would be done. She said probably late, and he made certain she had his number and that if she needed a ride, to just call him and he'd be back to pick her up and drop her back home.
When she entered the Go salon, it was full of Koreans playing and she hesitated. She didn't know Korean. She was good enough in Chinese and her English was great, but she hadn't managed to go into any Korean yet.
"Hello there. Please don't just stand at the entrance. Come in, come in," the owner, she guessed, said welcomingly to her.
She gave a hesitant smile and walked closer. "Hello," she greeted back. "Is it alright if I come play here?"
"Yes, of course. Just pay the fee and you can play whoever you want. You speak any Korean?" he smiled at her.
She shook her head, looking somewhat embarrassed.
"It's alright. I can help translate for you. My Japanese is very good," he assured her. "I don't really have much to do right now anyway."
"Thank you!" she beamed at him.
She immediately found someone to play and Sai had as much fun as ever. There were definitely much stronger players here, though Sai was still stronger than any of them. She played a great game with the first guy, and had drawn attention. She and Sai began playing even more, and she started to slip in and out between 'Hikaru' and 'Sai', and she was able to quickly establish her MPD to everyone there. At first, everyone seemed like they didn't know how to take that, but it didn't take long until most there had learned to accept it, with a few still holding back and being a little reticent and wary.
The owner, who she had learned was named Hon Ryuu, was very helpful in helping her interact with everyone, though when she went into Sai mode, he had trouble following and sometimes looked a bit lost. She and Sai felt really sorry about it, especially since he'd been nice enough to help her out.
She liked the place, and so did Sai. There were many there that had even offered to help her learn Korean, and she thought it was very kind of them and she was looking forward to coming back to there soon.
Taking her phone out, she began typing rapidly onto the qwerty keyboard to Markus King, the American amateur friend she'd made over NetGo.
Good game today. Want a replay?
She got a quick response she grinned at.
She typed out the moves quickly, after pointing out she'd been white. Of course, he was still rather confused on how she'd managed to do international texting and without any payment involved, but he didn't have to know that she'd messed with some lines…satellites…computers in buildings of that which she should not have any business going into…
She just said that the Japanese had advanced high-tech technology that did some awesome stuff.
Then she sent a simple text to Ogata detailing an emoticon for glasses (^0_0^) and then a wink (^_-)-* . She snickered when she got a fish in return o゜))彡.That man and his fishes…
He was quick to reply and call her a "ramen junkie."
"Sai~ Let's come back tomorrow, 'kay?" she grinned brightly up at her ghost.
Sai smiled down at her, patting her head fondly. "Hai, hai! Let's come back!"
And so it was that Hikaru continued to visit both the Heart of Stone and this new Korean Go salon earnestly.
Hikaru had been in the middle of playing someone, when she heard someone hesitantly call out to her, as if unsure if it was who they thought she was.
But it wasn't her name they called.
She forced herself to remain calm, and remembered that she was currently 'Sai' anyway. She turned slightly in her seat, giving a gentle smile to who had addressed her, and was surprised (and very freakin' nervous) to see the teacher from the Kaio Go club from the tournament.
"Hello, but I apologize. Do I know you?" she spoke softly, continuing to smile at 'Yun-sensei' as Sai.
He cleared his throat in embarrassment, but didn't back down from approaching her.
"I don't know if you remember, but I am the teacher from that school tournament you participated in. The one where your school, Haze High, beat Kaio?" he tentatively told her. "My name is Yun Seondo. Aside from being the supervisor for the Go club at Kaio, I teach English for all high school grades."
"Eh, Sai-san, do you need me to remember that to tell Hikaru-chan?" Ryuu asked, after greeting Yun familiarly.
"That would be nice, thank you," Hikaru turned to him with an appreciative smile that he turned slightly red at and rubbed the back of his head.
Yun was slightly confused, and Hikaru took that as her chance to introduce her MPD aspect to him. He was most probably going to be one of her teachers after all. He took it much more calmly than she'd expected he would, but she continued on, wanting to apologize for the tournament as she hadn't been truthful about herself in it (on a whole other level…).
"I am sorry, Yun-sensei," she addressed him by title, trying to get used to it early anyway. "I was not really a Haze High student when I was playing in the tournament. My dear companions wanted to play in it and was not allowed to without a third compatriot. I volunteered as I loved the game. Hikaru will most probably be one of your students in two years. I believe she has had everything set up with the principal to enter Kaio in high school."
Yun blinked, feeling slightly off balanced. "I…I see. Of Hikaru-san, does she play Go?"
"Not truly," Hikaru said sadly. "She knows the basics, and has been practicing tutoring others and Life and Death problems. But she has not played another with her own Go."
Yun looked thoughtful, and when he addressed Hikaru, he was noticeably gentler.
"Sai-san, have you brought her into your world? Our world?"
Hikaru stiffened. "…No."
"It would be nice to, wouldn't it? Wouldn't you like for her to play too? I bet she'd make a great pupil."
"She would," Sai murmured, unheard by all.
Hikaru stayed quiet, guardedly watching the Korean teacher speak to her.
"Perhaps you can try and let her see about playing on her own sometimes? How about now? Do you think you could see if you're able to switch over control?" he asked kindly.
Sai could see Hikaru looked uncomfortable, though only he would notice after having been with her for so long and so closely.
He also saw the fingers of her left hand twitch under the table from where it was hidden.
Hikaru swallowed. "I'll…try."
And when Yun smiled softly at her, Hikaru closed her eyes and took a deep breath, and Sai could see her somehow just come alive and really be herself. It wasn't really something he'd thought of, or had noticed.
"H-Hello?" Hikaru asked, as herself, in confusion.
Yun continued to smile softly at her. "Hello there. I'm Yun Seondo," and he quickly retold his introduction to her, leading to her bowing several times and apologizing for the tournament, now able to say sorry as herself as well.
"Hikaru-san, let's play Go," though his tone was still gentle, it was now a bit firm too. "I would like to see your Go, Hikaru's Go."
Sai saw that Hikaru's fingers had twitched again, before her hand slowly rose from under its hiding place under the table and she reached out to the stone bowls. She fingered a stone carefully, flipping it between her slender fingers a few times before stopping it in the correct position to hold the Go stone to make a move. Her hand trembled for a moment before she decisively moved it and the stone hit the board with a resounding clack! and she took her first step into the Go world as herself, finally playing someone for the first time.
Yun was smiling.
And they played a game.
That night, as Hikaru moved through her home like a ghost (having been kindly dropped off by Yun), Sai watched her quietly. She didn't say anything to him, or anyone really, and just continued to be lost in her own head ever since leaving the salon and having played that one game with Yun.
"That was a great game, Hikaru-san. Very well-played."
Hikaru blankly checked her phone, seeing several messages, but she didn't heed them.
"You're unused to playing, so your moves sometimes were a little shy and unconfident."
She ate a quick dinner, noting that it was getting close to midnight.
"It would be nice and please me if, once you graduate and finally enter Kaio High, if you were to join my Go club. I think you'd like it a lot."
She trudged up to her room, locating her laptop and tiredly flipping it open and starting it up.
Hikaru sat rigidly on her seat, her hands tightly clasped together on her lap as she stared at the game on the board. Sai was able to see her back severely unbending, her shoulders quivering just the slightest. Every so while, her fingers would twitch in their bound position.
Her head bowed a bit and she continued to gaze uncomprehendingly at the game as a few silent tears rolled down a snow-white face.
She hesitantly stared at her screen before she reluctantly located the program and clicked on it. She looked at her screen emotionlessly, before she made a decision.
"I was hoping, if you were open to it, that I could teach you and guide you in Go, and help you grow while your Go takes shape, and Sai could play freely as he wants."
Hikaru clicked the button and made everything final. Sai gave a very pleased smile, and let his hand comfortingly settle onto her head.
Shirayuki was reborn into NetGo.
Started 4/30/13 – Completed 4/30/13
Two years had passed by rather quickly, she realized. It amazed her and she could hardly believe it at times.
"You're too slow."
Hikaru glowered at Ogata, and pouted as she made her move. She ignored Sai giggling over her shoulder, but concentrated on the game.
"I don't have all day."
"Ugh!" she clutched at her hair and chucked one of her stones at him. He caught it neatly and then tossed it back to her calmly. "You're insufferable, you know that?"
"Megane-chan is so mean," she muttered.
Nothing much had changed in the years that had passed. She supposed things had progressed though. She was going to enter Kaio High in a few days, and she'd been playing Go for quite a long time now, as both herself and Sai. They continued to teach with Shirakawa, and she found she really did like it a lot. She could see why Sai had enjoyed being a Go tutor in those days.
Her Go salons were like second homes, and between the Heart of Stone where she had fun and made different challenges and different ways to play Go, and Cho Rok Bic Na Mu, the Korean salon where she was drilled on Korean (she can speak conversations now!) and had round tournaments with the patrons there to mimic how it was in the Korean kenkyuusei institutions and was also learning about foreign Go there as well. It was new to Sai too, so he was very excited and eager about learning along with her. It helped her learn Korean faster, as Sai was learning as well, and they could practice together.
She had nothing to say about the internet terror reign she and Sai shared on the internet, other than be amused. She hadn't noticed at first, just eagerly playing as Sai and battering against all the opponents without care. But then she realized, as one day she idly glanced at the counter to see that there was a monstrous amount of people watching on the game and there were also conversations taking place while she and Sai played (as well as actual forums dedicated to their games!), that she'd drawn attention to herself (mentioning it to Marcus had him asking incredulously if she really did just notice just then). It made her a little wary and paranoid, since as a computer enthusiast she knew that others versed in computers would undoubtedly try something. Needless to say, when the first one tried to locate her by trying to trace her IP address, she was quite glad she'd prepared for the intruders.
She'd made an outrageous defense system that was practically impossible to break through, hid her IP address, decked out her system with virus traps for anyone who tried, and basically made a warzone out of her computer system for any idiot who decided they wanted to try and best the great Shirayuki.
Yet that led to another problem, as due to her ego, many recognized the Falling Snow triumph screen. Therefore, it wasn't long until Shirayuki of NetGo was linked to the Shirayuki hacker/cracker extraordinaire. Talks of her as herself sprouted up in forums, though only fellow computer enthusiasts would have recognized the connection and were the ones chattering about it.
There was also that Ogata had found out about her/Sai's NetGo account and had irritably confronted her about it. And then he later found out about her singular Go account, which was how he found out about how she was playing on her own and forming her own Go. He'd immediately demanded a game with her, though she'd initially refused as she thought and told him that she needed more time practicing with 'Yun-sensei' before she went out and played anyone seriously.
He looked at her dumbfounded, before looking so ridiculously offended and slighted that she couldn't help laughing at him.
"What? Why on earth would you have gone to someone else, when I am perfectly here and healthy for you to play with? You should've come to me first! Why you insufferable little girl! I'm a 9-dan, you know! Shouldn't I have been the obvious choice to help you?"
She just replied "but you're the enemy" and allowed him to sulk to himself, refusing to admit that he was pouting about it. Like he was now.
"Don't sulk," she ordered in amusement. "You can't still be irritated by it, right? It's been at least a year since you found out. And I acknowledged your '9-dan status,' Megane-chan. No need for you to pout and coerce to get your ego stroked more. Plus, I'm playing regularly with you now, aren't I? Besides, I probably won't be able to practice and play with Yun-sensei as much, since I'll be going to school and he'll probably be one of my teachers. It'll probably be seen as favoritism."
"Yeah, yeah. As for school, you're going to Kaio now, right? In a few days?"
"Mmhm," she finally made yet another move.
"Do you need a ride there?"
"Nope. I'll be fine with transit," she told him cheerfully.
"I'll see you in three days in the morning then."
She pouted and glared at him. "But I just said –"
He rolled his eyes and interrupted her. "Kaio is more than just a few blocks away. You'd have to wake early to get ready and then make it to the earliest train there. Alone. In the morning. Non-crowded hours where God knows what happens. Quit complaining, I'm picking you up," he said finally.
"Bah! I better get a breakfast out of this," she glared at him.
"Of course. You'd probably eat ramen, junkie," he glared back.
Sai chortled and danced away, entertained by these two as always. More often than not, Hikaru was caving into certain demands of Ogata's, and he was quite glad as most of them were very responsible orders.
The intake of ramen was also thankfully cut down, despite Hikaru threatening riots if ramen disappeared completely or was cut down too much.
But at least Sai could be relieved that more proteins and vitamins were making their way into Hikaru now.
"Touya-sensei is waiting patiently for you, you know," Ogata commented carefully, out of nowhere.
Hikaru froze and Sai grew serious. They, too, had been longing to play the Meijin again. But they were both sure, even Sai, that they weren't ready for the attention to be shone onto them, had it become widely known that the famed Touya Meijin was eager to play a freshman high school girl, who was likely insane with some diagnosis of multiple personality disorder. They weren't ready for people to wonder about his interests in either of them, especially factoring her age, Go experience, and the fact she had some kind of mental disorder (and they would really like to avoid the focus on her supposed MPD, as most normal people were very wary and even frightened about such things and people who had them).
"I see," she muttered.
He sighed in exasperation. "You could always come over to his home and play, brat. I've invited you, and he's invited you through me, to come to his Go meetings every week."
"I just don't want any attention right now," she pursed her lips.
"Why? Because of Sai?" he asked sarcastically. "It's not like he's even real!"
Sai flinched and Hikaru glared at him, baring her teeth slightly.
"Be quiet! You don't even understand!"
"Then make me understand!" he glared back, and they were once more caught up in another glaring match, only this time it was much more serious.
"Sai is real," she said only, and he faltered, becoming confused.
"What do you mean by that?" he asked, taken aback.
But she refused to elaborate, so he frowned and studied her closely.
"I'm going to find out sooner or later," he declared. "So I'm not going to push now. But you better bet that I'm going to find out, somehow or other."
She grumbled under her breath, but didn't answer him. In retaliation, Ogata finished up the game and slaughtered her, making her indignant and Sai tutting.
'You, hush!' she directed to Sai. To Ogata, she waged war with her eyes, but he just smugly smirked back at her.
"This means war, you know," she hissed at him like an angry cat, which made him chuckle and therefore made her even more infuriated.
As payback, she made Sai blaze a massacre across the board (which he did to get back into Hikaru's good graces) and Ogata was growling in irritation.
"That isn't fair. You used your Sai hand –your…Damn it all, I don't even know what I'm talking about!" he threw his hands up in surrender.
"And you never will," it was her turn to be smug.
Ogata took to grumbling this time, but he sucked it up quicker than she had and graded her on her performance.
"You've grown a lot," he announced. "Amazingly, you've even gone passed Akira at this point. Maybe around Ashiwara's level…but you still suck against me. And if you played the Meijin against yourself, you'll be disgraced."
"I hate you."
Ogata merely chuckled and set them up to play another game.
A few days later, she was in front of the school after having been dropped off by Ogata ("I don't want to drive over there in your flashy car and grab too much attention!" "Too bad!"), and she was staring dreamily at the front.
"Kaio at last," she murmured, sounding and looking euphoric.
She ran a hand through her blondish hair, her natural raven locks peeking out from the new blond strands in the peek-a-boo style (or maybe she should call it the reverse peek-a-boo, considering the dyed hair was layered on top rather than underneath her natural hair). She smirked as she recalled Ogata's scandalized reaction the first time she'd showed it off, and Sai looked at her warily, seeing her conniving expression.
She also recalled telling him it was alright to feel flattered about the imitation, and that they could be delinquents together.
Hikaru chuckled to herself as she walked into the school, thoroughly amused about the recollection and more so when she remembered Ogata's indignity and further scandalized reaction.
"So you're here," Yun appeared by her side, smiling slightly.
"You know…you should join my club," he hinted strongly.
She hesitated. It would have been nice too, she thought, but she and Sai were worried about being found out if their play styles were recognized.
"Nah, I think I'd like to create a Hackers club," at his curious look, she chuckled nervously. "You know. Um…for the anime .hack/Sign. Yes. The anime."
"Well, alright. You need a supervisor for your club –I'll volunteer and you can use my regular class room, so join the Go club," he was smiling surely now.
Hikaru sweatdropped and twitched.
"Of course, snacks are available in all clubs, so your… uh, Hack anime club is available to choose any, while in the Go club we try to hold tournaments every Monday to dictate who gets to choose what snacks get to be served."
A glint entered Hikaru's eyes.
"You got it, Yun-sensei! Sai and I are joining up!"
'Sai, we have got to win that tournament all the time. Ramen,' Hikaru mentally salivated.
Sai sighed. "Of course, Hikaru. You really are, as Ogata-san says, a ramen junkie..."
Hikaru hid her pout from both Yun and Sai.
"I got you for Homeroom," he informed her, and she cheered with an enthusiastic clap. "I had to pull some strings, but I get to be your Homeroom teacher as well as English."
"You don't get a free pass in class."
They split ways since she was early to school and he had to go to the school office, and as she was walking she saw a familiar person. With a grin, she just barely stopped herself from rushing over and roughly patting his back in greeting.
However, she couldn't resist practically dancing over and stopping by his side, reaching out and tugging his hair.
"'Allo," she cooed, and she was gleeful startling Touya Akira from his reverie.
The boy, now older and had clearly lost a lot of his baby fat, looked at her in surprise.
"H-hello," Akira asked, confused and hesitant but smiling unsurely anyway. "I'm Touya Akira. Have we met…?"
"Akira-kun, I'm Shindou Hikaru and we're going to be friends~" she sing-songed.
She tapped his nose playfully and grinned.
"Remember my name, Akira~ Bai bai!"
She turned and danced off, inwardly giggling to herself. Akira didn't remember her, or rather he didn't recognize her. Mischievously, she thought she could have a lot of fun with this.
School actually kind of passed by and she was wandering around during the beginning of lunch break, seeing as how her club hadn't been set up yet and she was still on edge about joining the Go club, when she saw someone outside, sitting underneath a tree alone. He looked kind of…lost.
Practically bouncing outside and over to him, her loud entrance easily alerted him to her approach and he looked up in shock from his book to see her. She grinned widely and leaned over so that her face was to his level, as he was sitting on the ground. She held out her hand.
"Hi there! I'm 1st year Shindou Hikaru! Please to meet you, sempai!"
He looked taken aback and had to scramble to throw his hand out and accept hers, hastily bowing as well.
"H-hi. I'm 3rd year Kishimoto Kaoru. Um, how'd you know I was in a higher grade?" he asked, rather befuddled and out of sorts at the spontaneous meeting.
"I just know," she winked at him, as she straightened up. "Can I sit beside you, sempai~?"
"Uh, sure," he moved his book bag and she flounced over and plopped down at the vacated spot.
"Eh, aren't you eating anything, sempai?" she asked, cocking her head to the side adorably.
He cleared his throat awkwardly and blushed.
"N-no. I usually drink coffee," he gave her a small smile.
Hikaru stole his coffee cup and took a sip, scrunching up her face after.
"Eck. Sempai! Just coffee isn't healthy to have. And it's black coffee! How bitter," she huffed. "At least Megane-chan puts in lots of sugar and creamer."
He vaguely wondered who this 'Megane-chan' was.
Suddenly he felt something being dropped onto his lap and he blinked and was startled to find an onigiri on a paper towel.
"Baka sempai. Eat an onigiri too," she growled.
He blinked again and stared at her. What a bossy little kohai he'd somehow managed to pick up…
His lips twitched up and he ruffled her hair, although he was looking at the onigiri he'd picked up and was about to take a bite out of.
After that meeting, Hikaru was in such a good mood that she'd taken to dragging Kishimoto around and looking at the different clubs. Despite herself, she found a superheroes club and eagerly joined it as a side-member, and made Kishimoto join it alongside her as well.
Knowing she had to, she reluctantly made her way to the Go club, and although their meetings were after school, there were a few stragglers. Yun wasn't there, and hopefully he was finishing setting up her club so she could have something to do during lunch. She noticed, though she didn't say anything, that the closer she got to the Go club room, that Kishimoto started stiffening up and seemed not to want to go any closer.
She signed up quickly and after that, there was no more time to do anything else as it was time to have to go back to class.
"We have a classroom and a club," Hikaru crowed out in triumph.
Next to her, Sai had conjured up matching fans that marked victory, while dancing around and chanting "Banzai! Banzai!"
"Hikaru! Will I get to see more pretty snow on the screens?" he asked enthusiastically.
'Sure, sure, Sai.'
The group of people beside her, five people in total (Kishimoto didn't count, since he hadn't joined the club and she had just dragged him along), were her newest acquisitions and understood the underlying motive for the club.
"I'm the Empress, you're the Tutor, the General, the Advisor, the Minister, and you're the Financer," Hikaru decided decisively. "And you're the Consort," she pointed to Kishimoto.
He sputtered and looked at her in askance. "What? Why?!"
"Just 'cause I say. Agree, or I'll steal your coffee."
He snorted and took a sip of his coffee, but wasn't protesting.
"Great! Now let's get started, people!"
And when Yun entered his classroom a few minutes later, he gaped and could hardly recognize it. There were suddenly computers and wires everywhere, and all sorts of gadgets he didn't know where they'd come from.
"What happened to my room?" he asked faintly.
His classroom had been taken over.
Hikaru suddenly popped up in his field of vision, grinning as she held up a form.
"Sign this, please."
Without thinking about it, too dazed really, he signed it and then he realized he had and looked at her.
"What did I just sign?"
"Oh, nothing. Just you agreeing and signing over your classroom without a right to protest or make any comment regarding what happens here, along with a gag order for the duration of this club's existence."
He stared and gaped openly.
His classroom had not just been taken over literally, but legally while they were at it.
"Wasn't this a club for fans of an anime?" he blurted out.
She shrugged. "Yeah. Sure. You're completely right."
But as he listened in, trying to ignore how his old student, that used to be part of the Go club, just idly sitting there and nonchalantly humming as Kishimoto observed the chaos (and really, how did those two meet and he got involved with the likes of Hikaru?), he knew that though they were all speaking about characters and terms from the show, that they were all speaking in code.
At least Kishimoto looked and felt as lost as he did.
It became clearer and more obvious as the week passed, that this was as true as apple proving gravity. That being their continued confusion, and the club's shady talking and activities. Especially how they'd shiftily look over to them, the way they hovered over their computers and were doing odd stuff that didn't look like it had anything to do with that anime.
He was also pretty sure some of the stuff wasn't even legal, especially given that quiet and hush hush discussions tended to bring up words that he could catch and didn't want to hear (such as 'government,' 'security,' and something of 'firewalls' –what was this about firewalls? That didn't sound safe at all!).
It didn't take long for Yun to not only get fed up, but also catch on to what was really going on, and that by a "Hack club," actual hacking was taking place. After a while of sneaky, underhanded activities, Yun really did just get fed up with the "Hack" group and made them just become the IT club, so they could at least do legal techie stuff.
"Just do it! You're doing some kind of tech stuff I don't get, and probably won't ever –so at least, change the whole club, or make it clearer on what it is, and then keep on legal stuff, Hik –er, Shindou-kun!"
And though Hikaru finally agreed, Sai pouted. He wouldn't get to see as much falling snow as he'd wanted.
"Ogata-san," Ashiwara was in despair. "My computer is hopeless! I don't know what's wrong with it."
Ogata had initially tried to ignore him, but Ashiwara just grew louder and he couldn't avoid him. Taking one last drag, he rolled his eyes and faced his colleague.
"I have a…friend," Ogata hesitantly mentioned. "She's quite good with computers, or so I assume. She might be able to help."
He doubted it. He knew Hikaru liked computers and messing around with them, but he could hardly think she'd be able to solve this and fix the whole damn thing. Still, he called and asked, and she had him bring it over.
Nearly an hour later, he'd driven Ashiwara and his broken computer over to Hikaru's otherwise empty house, and helped set up the computer in the living room. Ashiwara's eyebrows flew up at first glance of Hikaru, and he sent a questioning glance towards Ogata, who determinedly kept looking elsewhere. However, the younger man sidled closer to Ogata and whispered to him.
"Hey…she's young and all, but is she your…?"
Ogata looked at him in mortification and a scandalized expression, which was becoming all too common with him.
"No! Definitely not! She's way too young. I swear, Ashiwara. What the hell?"
Ashiwara looked at him closely, before shrugging. "It's alright, Ogata-san. I understand. I won't tell anyone about your Lolita complex."
Ogata was this close to throttling the other man, or doing some other bodily harm. He wondered if Hikaru would mind if he buried the body in her backyard, and if she would keep it quiet for him.
Just when he was seriously contemplating the merits of murdering his colleague, Hikaru came out with some miniature tools, wires, and her own laptop.
"We should start with a cleanup. Usually, that fixes most bugs or glitches going on, so a disc cleanup and defragmentation is first on the list. Then we'll start down and see what else could be the problem," she relayed to them professionally, and Ogata was rather impressed. More so, since she seemed like she knew what she was talking about.
Though she did that, it didn't seem like it had worked, so they saw her begin to do a whole bunch of other things, until she finally hooked up her laptop to Ashiwara's computer.
"Okay, okay. Something strange is up, so let me just crack in there and see what I can find," Hikaru told them, frowning as she did so.
It wasn't long until, though they didn't understand anything that was going on on her laptop screen, that she seemed to have found what was wrong. She winced and looked surprised, so the two of them straightened up and waited tensely for the verdict.
"Ashiwara-san, you actually have something called the Dead Land virus," she said, seeming baffled. "It's a virus that attaches itself to your system, and begins to eat away at the data until it spreads out and destroys everything on the computer and nothing is left, and further worsens until it basically kills your computer. It's called Dead Land because your computer virtually becomes devoid of anything, as you can't access anything and things start disappearing."
Ashiwara looked upset and flabbergasted to have such a thing on his computer, while Ogata was surprised that she would know of such a thing.
"Don't worry, I can fix this," she said easily, and they were caught off guard by that. It had sounded so serious and not something easily taken cared of, and yet that was what she had said she could do.
In mere minutes, Hikaru had gone back to focusing intensely on her laptop and was rapidly pressing buttons and doing something that neither of them could understand.
"I don't know how you got such a thing on your computer, Ashiwara-san," she said suddenly. "I'm surprised. This kind of virus isn't common, and it wouldn't just randomly pop up into one's computer. It's really odd…"
"Me either," he said helplessly.
"No matter," she declared. "I got rid of it. I promise, not a trace of it was left behind. I was even able to relocate and bring back some files and programs you'd lost. Good thing you brought it to me so quickly and early in the stage."
"Yes, lucky," Ogata deadpanned. "How do you know so much about it, and how were you able to fix it so fast?"
Hikaru chuckled nervously, and debated how well she could outrun and hide from two grown men. She felt kind of cornered.
"Hikaru~ You have nowhere to run, kesesese~," Sai's eyes were twinkling.
'Sai!' she mentally pouted. 'Don't taunt me!'
"I, uh, er, invented it?" she forced out some chuckles.
She was stared at disbelievingly.
"You invented it?" Ashiwara asked at the same time as Ogata was like, "How good are you with computers really?!"
"Heh…eheh…eh…well, it's a long story," she said weakly, still trying to get out of it.
"We have time," Ogata was glaring.
"Plenty," Ashiwara was grinning friendly though, and seemed more like he was excited and interested to know.
"Ah, geez," she groaned.
She used to have such well-kept secrets. Well, with Ogata around, everything always seemed to unravel.
Started 5/7/13 – Completed 5/7/13
As you can see, since I've messed with the timeline and events, lots of things are different too (like Kishimoto already given up on Go, etc. etc.). I hope I'm making it easy to keep track of though, but these changes also really do mess with the time (such as earlier meetings that will result in something happening later on, or things happening earlier than in canon). Like the internet Go happening earlier (I put in the chapter before where in the summer break before the new school year of I think her last middle school year?), so that arc that's supposed to happen next in canon won't happen or will be much different.
Chapter 10: Shirayuki and White Snow
She'd always said that miracles were unlikely and would never happen for real.
Hikaru really wished a miracle would happen for her right then.
She debated the merits of darting passed them and heading towards her room, barricading herself in there…but doubted she'd get passed them. She was small and nimble, and pretty fast, but they were both rather large and bulky, with long limbs, and if they didn't block her way, they would just catch up to her.
"I'm really into computer stuff," she said slowly, mind working quickly. "I like researching stuff related to computers and experimenting. That virus was one of those experiments," she wasn't going to say it had been a deliberate experiment though.
"Wow! That's really interesting," Ashiwara said, completely interested. "You're really computer savvy, aren't you?"
She grinned at him. "Yep!"
However, Ogata was still watching her closely with narrowed eyes. Damn, this man…
Thankfully, after that, Ogata had to bring Ashiwara and his computer back to the other man's place, and Hikaru sighed in relief.
"Saaafe!" Sai cheered, throwing out a v-sign.
Hikaru gave him a withering look. "You were no help."
He grinned sheepishly at her. "…Let's play Go?"
She rolled her eyes. "Hai, hai…" she led the way up to her room.
Meanwhile, after Ogata had dropped off Ashiwara, he headed over to Touya Meijin's Go salon, where he hid his snort of amusement as he saw Akira staring in despair at the Sai Wall.
"I thought you said you were okay with waiting for him?" he asked dryly, coming up to the younger boy.
"I did," Akira said morosely. "I didn't say it would be easy. I'm going crazy waiting."
Ogata easily looked over to the spots that was where he'd made small, unnoticeable additions that were easily missed, like the shade of green Hikaru/'Sai's' eyes were, Sai was a girl, her real name was Shindou Hikaru, and to the upper left area he'd written she was attending Kaio with Akira…
"You appreciate life more now, don't you, though?" he asked suddenly.
Akira smiled slightly, ducking his head a little bit. "Yeah…I mean, I even made a friend on the first day of school, at the beginning of this week. I can't see her much, since she's in the advance classes…but she somehow manages to open my locker and leaves odd, silly notes. They're rather funny…I still wonder how she gets into my locker though…"
Ogata hid his twitch. "Yeah, she does that…" he muttered under his breath to himself.
He wondered if he had to add computer expert somewhere on that wall. He really should have thought of it, seeing how she'd managed to get all that information on him before.
He shook his head and left Akira behind, picking up his stuff in the backroom. Once he was done, he headed to his apartment and set up his coffeemaker, heading over to his computer to turn it on after. While waiting for the coffee to brew, he went to his search engine and decided to do some of his own info searching. He frowned to himself and typed in Shindou Hikaru, but nothing much came up. It seemed…oddly filtered.
On a whim, he typed in Shirayuki, seeing as it was her NetGo account. A bunch more stuff came up and he decided to narrow it down by adding 'computers' to the search. His eyes nearly popped out of his head at the results, where crazed fans and a bunch of computer enthusiasts and experts talked about this Shirayuki, who was an infamous computer hacker with amazing 'cracking' skills. And he managed to learn the difference, since he hadn't even known there was one.
Going further, he typed in 'Go' along with the other search words, and then he began seeing results popping up of people linking the hacker and NetGo personality together, and how and why that was.
He knew he'd found another piece to the puzzle that was Shindou Hikaru, though it also made her even more boggling.
When he'd gone to pick her up the next morning, she seemed entirely too innocent to be real, and had steadfastly ignored the happenings of the night before.
"I got your coffee, Megane-chan~ At least you drink it better than Megane-chan Junior," she said teasingly, but he froze and blinked.
"Megane-chan Junior? Who's that?" he asked, though he would deny to anyone that it sounded anything remotely aggressive.
Hikaru hummed, swallowing a bite of his scrambled eggs before answering. "A sempai at school. He wears glasses too~ I made friends with him on the first day of school."
"B-but I thought I was Megane-chan," he blurted out, and immediately he had to fight the urge to face palm. Really?
She giggled. "Are you je~al~lous, Megane-chan? It's alright. I don't really call him that, I was just describing him kinda. He's just Kaoru or sempai. Mostly sempai though."
"You call him by his first name?" Ogata asked, feigning curiosity. "What year is he in anyway?"
"Hai! And Kaoru-sempai is a third year."
"Isn't he a little old to be friends with a first year?" he asked, trying to be nonchalant.
"Eh? No way. Besides, I approached him first," Hikaru shrugged. "It's okay! Don't worry, Megane-chan. He's completely safe. Awkward and really lonely and lost, but safe. I think he played Go, but doesn't like it anymore. I wonder why…"
"Don't be nosy," he told her, though he was still frowning about this 'Kaoru.'
He dropped her off, still musing about the recent stuff he'd learned, though he'd tried to watch her after she left, to see if he could spot this Kaoru kid…
She left him, wondering what was wrong with him and what was on his mind. Seriously. Something must've been up. He was acting weird that morning.
Glad that she was early, she looked for Akira's locker and was delighted to see him already there.
"Akira-kun~" she bounced over to him. "You're here! I'm so happy."
She glomped him happily, ignoring his bright red blush and awkwardness in her arms.
"We never get to see each other," she pouted. "You're in none of my classes!"
Sai glared at him. "Yeah! Where are you, Touya-kun? She's always pouting about that!"
Hikaru inwardly pouted too. She wasn't always pouting about it.
"S-Sorry. I'm not in any of the advance classes, so I wouldn't be in any of yours," Akira smiled shyly.
It was so adorable, and she had the urge to coo and pinch his cheeks.
"Choose at least one of them! I'll help you," she urged. "Come on, Akira-kun. It's still early in the year; you can choose one my classes!"
"I'll try," he promised. "I like all the notes."
She beamed at him. "You do? Good, good! How come you don't answer back though?"
He looked startled. "Am I supposed to? I'm sorry! I didn't know. W-what am I supposed to write back?"
She shrugged. "Anything. You write whatever you'd like."
"How'd you get into my locker though?"
"Oh, look! That's my homeroom sensei, I think I see. Gotta go!" Hikaru said hurriedly, and rushed away. Thankfully, she really did see Yun.
"Hikaru-chan," he greeted her.
"Morning, sensei! Where are you going?"
"To class," he said dryly. "You know, the room you magically transform every lunch? And yet somehow it's all back to normal in time for class…"
"My team work wonders," Hikaru nodded sagely.
"I wonder though, why you seem to play so nonchalant in club. Even Sai…" Yun prodded. "At your level, you are definitely more than good enough to challenge the top members."
She smiled mysteriously, which Sai echoed, although his was marred by giggles. "Sai and I agreed to lay low…Until today."
He blinked. "Today?"
"For the tournament today. Laying low means being underestimated…And I can slaughter them and choose next week's snacks."
He inwardly paused and reran that through his head again, before he stared at her as they continued walking.
He shook his head. "Speaking of your strength, even though I'm glad you're in the club and playing against others your own age and getting in more practice…I'm not sure you should enter into the club's team. It would be…unfair and rather traumatizing for the others to play against you for a spot, and it would be easier to keep your involvement in last year's tournament quiet."
Hikaru nodded in understanding. "Okay, Yun-sensei. I got it!"
"Did you finish your English homework?" he asked, remembering it.
Her smile looked oddly stiff then. "E-English homework –y-yes! I-I did."
Actually she wasn't sure, since she and Sai had been up all night playing simultaneous games on NetGo and also with each other.
"Oh, look at the time! I think I have to return a book to the library before school starts. Bye, Yun-sensei!" she said while looking at her bare wrist, and then quickly hurrying away.
Sai urged her to hurry.
Thankfully, she actually had managed to at least do half of her English homework, and hurried to finish it before school started. After that, school was rather uniform and nothing exciting happened until lunchtime. There, each of them was working on various things on the computers, though the General was working on fixing a computer given to them by the teacher next door, which was having problems.
Kishimoto, as had become the usual, was once more by her side.
He was a quiet person. He didn't talk a lot, and preferred to just let Hikaru jabber on. He liked listening to her; he'd even told her so. He would tell her that she was really lively, and comment how sunny she was. She wouldn't think anything of it, but somehow she thought that maybe he was just so used to being alone and living a static life, that maybe that's why he really didn't mind her butting into his life and forcing him around (though really, he seemed much more willing to follow anyway). He would tell her often that she brightened his life up and that life in general was much more than it was before for him.
It was kind of sad and made her worry for him.
She tapped a few keys, entering the code in for the new program they were installing into the computers. She was just about to finish the installation, when a message for "Shirayuki" popped up. She had kept a screen up, though minimized, for Shirayuki's messages to be sent through, but hadn't expected any at that time. So it was a surprise to see it.
She glanced up and watched Yun warily, but he was busy on his own laptop. She bit her lip and carefully turned in her seat to look at Kishimoto, who looked back at her surely, though a bit curious. But his mouth remained close and he didn't ask her any questions.
That day, she learned yet another thing about him. Sempai could keep secrets.
Hikaru opened up the message and read it in plain view of her sempai, and quietly and quickly penned a message back as Shirayuki, and then closed the window. She went back to finishing the installation without a glance back at her companion.
Time passed by almost too quickly, but school could do that. Things remained static for her too, on certain things. She was happy spending almost all her time at the Go salons, outside of her schooling. She had nothing else to do, and no one and nothing at home for her.
Sai was rather sad about that, but loved all the Go time they had and had all but decided that it was okay anyway –he at least could be there for her.
Yun still tutored her sometimes at the Korean Go salon, though mostly he practiced English and Korean with her instead. Ogata was just everywhere, and she didn't want to admit that it would probably feel strange if he were to suddenly not be in her life anymore, since he'd practically shoved himself into it and made himself a presence (and one that wouldn't go away).
He was still the enemy.
Kishimoto was still so shy and lovely, but she was working hard on opening him up. He was even harder to break out than Akira, who was just shy and not used to being social, as opposed to Kishimoto who was withdrawn and introvert, preferring to be alone or be by her.
As for Akira, she was delighted on the progress she was making with him. He was becoming much more social with her help and prodding, and had managed to reach out to his other classmates and at least be on good terms with them, rather than being shunned and isolated, and therefore becoming further awkward. It made the mission of helping him live life more, that she'd assigned herself right after playing their last game together, be that much more successful. She'd finally decided after the game that she'd been much too hard on him, and then had come up with the mission, and was quite satisfied with how it was going so far.
However, though she was amused and entertained that he had still not recognized her, she was seriously debating on springing the truth on him after New Years, if he still hadn't figured it out –really, she hadn't thought anyone could be that dense and forgetful. Was her looks that changed? All she did was dye her hair mostly blond, cut it short, actually wore girly clothes and spoke and acted normally around him…
He had also agreed to transfer into her English class, and though he was struggling just the slightest, she was helping him along. And the notes he'd sent back! He left her his response notes in his locker for her to pick up, and they were all both adorable and sweet. Akira, not sure what to write or how to come up with something that would be normal, had taken to writing kifu back to her. Sometimes, the notes were outright responses to what she'd written to him, or he'd write a notation about a class or something that had come up, or even a Go saying. More likely than not, the notes had something to do with Go.
She wanted to pinch his cheeks all the more, like some terrible aunt or other relative.
But all the time passing by, had made it quickly enter winter. The cold had come swiftly, and now even snow had started to drift onto the streets. It was nearing Christmas as well…
Despite her name, Shirayuki, meaning 'White Snow', Hikaru herself hated snow and the cold. Once upon a time, she admitted she used to love the snow, but time and memories had made her more bitter and resentful of it, and even holidays of the season. She especially hated the winter holidays.
"Hikaru?" Sai asked hesitantly, his hand tentatively reaching out to grip her shoulder.
She gave him a brief halfhearted smile, before going back to gazing outside with darkened green eyes. Sai frowned and floated closer, hugging her from behind. He kept his ghostly arms wrapped around her as he laid his chin on her head, and together they both watched out of the window.
"It's cold," she murmured, and Sai was sure that she somehow wasn't really meaning the temperature.
"It is," he agreed anyway.
"People are transient, you know? They flitter in and out of lives…I met so many wonderful people, and I know I like them all…but they are transient. Temporary and fleeting. They're here now, but like everyone else, they will all leave. I'll be abandoned again," she muttered that last part so softly, he was sure she hadn't meant to say it aloud, much less for him to hear.
"Okaa-san, Otou-san, please come back…come back! Please…Don't leave me here…"
She closed her eyes and laid her forehead against the glass. Winter…they all left her…Otou-san during winter, when the first drop of snow fell…and Okaa-san during Christmas…
It was always so lonely during this time…
"Hi-ka-ru~ I'm here now," Sai said melodically, injecting slight cheer into his voice.
She blinked and turned her head towards him, eyes a little more bright and attentive.
"You…you are, aren't you, Sai?" she murmured, looking at him as if seeing him for the first time. "Promise…promise you'll never leave me?"
"Hai," he nodded enthusiastically, hugging her tighter. "I've been here for around a thousand years, Hikaru. I'll be here for a thousand more," he was certain. He would definitely never leave her side.
She leaned her head against him and tried to hide her sniffle.
She should call her grandfather. Usually, at this time of the year, he would be in Kyoto with his old friends. He had always invited her, but she always declined…but maybe this year, she could at least give him a call…
She did so and he was delighted, asking after her and even after Sai, though he was still asking if she needed an exorcist –especially since that friend of a friend was there with him, and he could ask right then and there. She laughed and said no, while Sai pouted beside her.
After she hung up, she was surprised when her door was knocked on and she and Sai opened it to find Kishimoto on the other side. His face was bright red as he thrust a present at her.
"My-my family and I are going to out of the country for the rest of the holiday break, and I wanted to drop this off to you," he said quickly, face still bright red.
She smiled widely and took the present, setting it down before going forward and hugging Kishimoto tightly, surprising him and making his red face become redder.
"Thank you, sempai! Have fun with your family and on your holiday!"
He gave her a brief grin and a nod, and then he was jogging back down the walkway and to the waiting car. She closed the door after and picked up the present, coming with Sai back to the living room.
"It's cold, it's cold! So let's sit under the kotatsu!" Sai sing-songed, dancing around her.
She giggled slightly and went to the kotatsu, sitting there and putting the present in the middle. She smiled a little as she lay her head down on the kotatsu and poked the present.
"Maybe a little holiday spirit isn't bad…"
After that, she was continually surprised. Akari, who was out of town with her parents, called her and wished her 'Merry Christmas,' and that her and her family's present was hidden in Hikaru's own backyard, which Akari had decided to hide there as a joke. A string of phone calls reached her from patrons of both the Heart of Stone and the Korean Go salons, wishing her happy holidays and their own presents waiting for when she next visited the salons. Shirakawa had even called her, sounding rather flustered as he apologized for forgetting to give her his present when they'd last had Go class together, in which a holiday party had been held instead and a specially made chocolate cake for her had been made by some of the students. Even her father, which more than shocked her, had sent her an email, though she was dubious and skeptical if it was really from him and not his secretary.
Akira called as well, which pleased her immensely. He sounded awkward and shy as he greeted her 'Happy Holidays,' and had said that he had her present with him, and that he'd give it to her when break was over, and apologized that he didn't know where she'd lived so he could bring it over. She just waved off the apology and happily told him her address for next time.
She felt like she might be falling in love with snow again.
The doorbell rang again, and she headed towards it, wondering who it was this time. Seeing who it was, she should've known. Though she rolled her eyes, this time she even smiled widely.
"Ogata-san, you're here. Welcome inside."
He blinked at her and huffed straight after, burrowing further into his scarf that hid the lower half of his face, as he glared at her with his glasses falling down his nose a bit. He was holding a large container in his arms that looked rather heavy.
"Don't call me that," he huffed again. "I'm too used to this 'Megane-chan' business. If you change suddenly, I might think something's wrong and I'll have to drag you to the emergency room at the hospital."
She couldn't help genuinely laughing, letting him inside.
"Baka! You talk strange, Megane-chan. Just put whatever that is over there," she pointed at the kotatsu.
However, he went to an empty space on an empty stand, and placed it there. Taking off the lazily wrapped paper around it, he revealed the container to be a large fish container that housed a few tropical fish already in it. He set it up and plugged it in.
She didn't know to be amused or to be in shock.
And she wondered how in the world he had managed to carry it without spilling water everywhere. It was already filled with water and the fish, and it must've been some feat…
Especially in his shiny, expensive car and his horrific driving.
"Merry Christmas," he deadpanned, turning back to her.
She blinked. "Shouldn't you have kept it wrapped and revealed it until it's already Christmas?"
"I got impatient and I had to set it up quickly anyway."
He looked around and raised an eyebrow. "What kind of house is this? Nothing's festive."
"I don't usually celebrate this time of the year," she answered honestly.
He huffed again and pulled his scarf up to further hide his face, which by now only his eyes and glasses (and up) could be seen.
"Tch. Figures. C'mere, brat. We're fixing this place up."
She didn't know how to feel about fixing her home with Ogata, who intruded and yet didn't feel like an intruder. Her home was cleaned up, and soon Ogata had found Christmas decorations lying around somewhere and then they were actually putting up decorations around the house. They didn't have a tree, so Ogata just rolled his eyes and went into her backyard, finding not only Akari's present but also a small flower that he placed into a cup and hung small ornaments onto the cup, placing both present on the kotatsu and the "Christmas tree-flower" in the middle of thekotatsu.
Having almost forgotten, he shoved a handful of coupons for a ramen bar at her, said it was from Ashiwara as a thank you for fixing his computer, before also shoving a friendship bracelet made from also Ashiwara, which was a Christmas gift and an outreach of friendship from him to her. She gushed over it, making Ogata stomp into the kitchen and start baking, after finally discarding his huge winter coat, gloves, and scarf.
She wondered what his problem was.
All in all, it turned out to be a better Christmas than she'd been expecting, especially in comparison to previous years. She had a great Christmas dinner, comprised of soba (as close to ramen as she could get right then), fried battered shrimp tempura, rice, and ended with manju for dessert. They drank matcha tea with the meal, and afterwards felt rather drowsy. She was surprised and a little thoughtful as to why and how quickly she offered to let Ogata sleep over, and he was too tired to protest too much anyway. In fact, he'd collapsed onto her couch and sprawled all over, immediately dead asleep as soon as his head hit the couch's armrest. His long legs easily reached over the other side of the couch and its armrest, and his arms were haphazardly dangling to either the ground or over the back of the couch.
Hikaru was laughing quietly to herself, while Sai was shushing her.
She settled herself under the kotasu, letting her legs sprawl out in front of her under it, and lay her head down on her arm which lay on the surface of the kotatsu. Her other arm slowly reached out, and she used a single finger to lightly trace the flower cup, a small smile playing on her lips as she drifted to sleep. Sai smiled himself, relaxing next to her as he also happily sat under thekotatsu in enjoyment.
When morning came, Ogata was still out but Hikaru was quick to open her eyes. The window showed the outside was coated in a thick layer of snow, and she let herself smile and enjoy it for a bit. Then there was an unexpected knocking on her door, and she went to answer it in confusion. Sai followed after, also wondering.
She paled quickly once the door was opened, and a police officer was the first person she saw.
"Shindou Hikaru? You are under arrest for electronically 'breaking and entering' into the PSIA systems. Please come with us quietly, and do not resist arrest."
She barely refrained from cursing aloud, nervously glancing at the still dead asleep Ogata as she hesitantly walked forward and was gently turned and handcuffed. Sai was still watching horrified.
"It shouldn't be too bad," a younger officer chirped up, once she neared the police vehicle. At least it was extremely early in the morning, and everyone was still asleep and wouldn't see this. "I hear they'd like to draft you as a consultant, and you might get to help them and the DIH out."
The officer she'd met at the door and was the one leading her to the car shushed him, and then she was put into the car.
Well, her anonymity was definitely blown now.
Started 5/20/13 – Completed 5/20/13
Chapter 11: Take Me Down to the Slammer
Ogata woke up with a bad feeling. He didn't take it as a good sign, and he most assuredly didn't like having woken like this.
"Oi, chibi! Are you awake yet?" he called out, tiredly and irritably sitting up from the couch.
If he didn't wake up fast enough, Kami knows that girl would be eating ramen already and being unhealthy again. It's been a long estimated two years since his meeting with this abnormal girl, and he still didn't understand how he ended up concerning himself with her…or why for that matter. However, the fact was (strangely and rather sad as well), she was the closest thing he had to an actual real friend.
He didn't think it said much about him or for him.
Ogata, still half asleep as he looked around for Hikaru, went around the house once before realizing it was too quiet and he hadn't seen even a single hair of the girl. More awake, he rushed through the house again and definitely was sure that he didn't see her anywhere in the house. Panicking, he rushed for his phone and agitatedly started calling hers, only to find her cell phone innocently sitting on the seat Hikaru had sat in right in front of the kotatsu.
Now he was definitely alarmed and wondered if some abductor had taken her from right underneath his nose.
Hesitantly, he slowed himself down and sat on the couch, taking deep breaths to try to calm himself down. He had just about calmed himself and was going to try to think of all the things she would probably be doing, in the instance that she might have just left the house of her own accord and hadn't warned him. There certainly didn't look to be any kind of struggle going on, and he would have woken up for sure then. And if it was one of those acquaintance kidnapping types, then Hikaru would have definitely woke him up, just for her own amusement rather than politely let him sleep on, and informed him about her plans.
There was a knock on the door and he tensed up, his head immediately snapping towards its direction suspiciously. If that was Hikaru…He bristled and stomped in that direction, sure it was her and he was just ready to, as she would probably call it, "whine" at her. Hmph, she was just impossible sometimes…
But it wasn't Hikaru, as he realized, and he just barely kept himself from visibly deflating in front of this unfamiliar newcomer.
"Hello, can I help you?" he asked dully, wishing this man would just go away and leave him be, that way Ogata could hurry and continue his search for the missing girl.
"Hello, I am looking for Shindou Hikaru?" the man asked hesitantly.
He blinked. "Chi –" Ogata cleared his throat. "Shindou-san? She isn't here…May I ask who you are?"
"I'm, um, Yun Seondo? One of her teachers from school."
"Oh. You're that Yun," the blond said flatly.
Yun sweatdropped. 'That Yun?' He had no idea what the other meant by that, or how the other knew him. His only other thought running rampant and on repeat in his head was: 'That is Ogata 9-dan at the door, that is Ogata 9-dan at the door, that is Ogata 9-dan –'
Hikaru was nowhere in sight and there was a famous and well-known Go player in her home for some reason.
"Do you…do you know when she will be back?"
Ogata looked hesitant and then frowned. "She is…missing. I'm unsure as to where she's gone. I just woke up, and I can't find her."
"Even though it's like her," Yun agreed, "It is still worrying. Can I help you search for any clues that might lead to where she went?"
Though further reluctant, Ogata agreed. He was getting extremely worried about her, though he was loathed to admit it to just himself, much less to anyone else. They started searching through the house, and Ogata decided to further search through the second floor. He'd never been up here. Ever. And it was definitely strange to be up there now, especially with Hikaru not there with him. It felt a little creepy (he felt creepy), and he felt a little self-conscious.
The feelings were expanded on exponentially once he'd reached her room and actually entered it.
He didn't feel like he should be in her room, more so when she wasn't there with him –although, he was also sure he would be just as alarmed to be in her room with her too. He gingerly searched around, sweatdropping to himself as he saw his "Wanted" poster displayed on her wall, and looked more like a mug shot with his picture up, CGed into looking rather like a mug shot and a placard with his name, date of birth, weight, and age photoshopped in. He didn't know when the portrait and side-profile pictures of him were taken, but he hadn't noticed or remembered any time she had taken pictures.
Meanwhile, Yun had found her phone and was tentatively calling through her contacts to see if any of them knew where she was or had Hikaru over currently.
"Yo!" a loud, boisterous voice called out and he winced from the volume.
"Hello, is this a Kaga?"
"Yeah, who cares? This Hika's phone, ain't it? Whatcha doin' with her phone?"
He cleared his throat awkwardly. "She's missing and she left her phone behind. I was calling through her contacts to see if anyone knows where she is right now?"
"That baka. Wonder what she's up to. Or maybe Sai pulled another of his Go crazed hijacking. Oh well. When you get her, tell her I'm still a rounin, so if she wants to hang, she can come over anytime."
"Good. See ya, mister!"
And then there was this Doumoto and a Kawai and an Akira –dear him, was that Touya-kun (he had noticed that Akira had recently transferred into his Advanced English class, and that Hikaru was actually helping him out a bit, but he hadn't known the two were friends or knew each other in the first place)? He called each one, and no one knew where she was. It was rather disappointing and even more worrying than before.
Sighing, he went to go find the other Go player in the house.
"Far from Folsom Prison, that's where I want to stay. And I'd let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away~" Hikaru sighed and blew her bangs in agitation.
"Hikaru, Hikaru! We've been captured by the law! They'll torture us! Sentence us to a painful death! Quickly! We must commit seppuku!" Sai wailed hysterically.
"Sing some other song that isn't so depressing," an officer on watch twitched.
"I wear this crown of thorns upon my liar's chair. Full of broken thoughts I cannot repair~"
The officer groaned and slammed his head onto his table.
"She has a lot of odd friends," Yun twitched, holding up her phone.
"That she does," Ogata agreed.
"How long have you known her?" Yun asked, actually really interested.
It was strange to know and even see in person that Hikaru knew a highly renowned Go player, such as Ogata Seiji –9-dan and student of the Meijin.
It was even stranger when he heard of how Ogata and her were introduced to each other and how they came to be and stayed friends through the years, as Ogata reticently informed him. Although, something felt missing between the unfortunate run-in at that children's tournament to Ogata spotting her outside of the Meijin's Go salon and dragging her in…
"Well, I met her –"
"You met her, unofficially, at the school tournament where she faked being in Haze High and then officially met face to face in the Korean Go salon she frequents," Ogata immediately and dully cut in.
Huh. He was kept well informed about the going on's of Hikaru's life…It made Yun wonder all the more about the connection between the two, of how close were they and just what were the two to each other…
"Where are her parents?" Yun asked, looking around and finally noticing that fact. "Should we not inform them?"
It had gone beyond his notice, between the frantic searching for her whereabouts to the fact that in all the time he'd known Hikaru, her parents had never been a presence. She'd never mentioned them and they never contacted him or made any kind of distinction in making themselves concerned or present in their child's activities.
"Her father is currently abroad, working on an overseas assignment for the company he works for. Her mother is studying at Tokyo University to become a doctor," Ogata told him, scowling as he did so.
"So they're not around?" Yun frowned at that information.
"Shindou-san's parents do not reside here at this time. She's been living alone in this house," Ogata's scowl deepened.
However, that brought to mind of why was Ogata in her home alone with her, last night?
Ogata also wouldn't want to admit that he kind of only recently found that out due to, since he figured out you could actually look up a person online for whatever information that might be available, he had gone back to researching Hikaru again, with this time keeping to her name. Filtered though he was sure it was, he had found her parents' profiles on some sites, and both had listed Hikaru as family and specifically a "daughter." So he read up on them and found out what he could.
Suddenly, her phone rang and they looked at each other. Yun answered it and put it on speaker.
They gave another glance at each other.
"Who is this?" Ogata barely refrained from snapping at the speaker.
They heard breathing on the other side for a second before the dial tone replaced it, signaling the speaker had hung up.
"Well that was rather odd," Yun said sarcastically, eying the phone suspiciously.
"Hm," was all that Ogata replied, frowning at the phone.
He knew that name and he recognized the significance of it, could probably even guess the subject that was behind the call with that name being involved. It actually didn't bode well, if her absence had anything to do with that kind of business.
A phone rang again.
It was his phone.
10 minutes earlier in another place…
"Hey, when do I get my phone call?"
"Hey, Megane-chan!" Hikaru's voice said cheerfully.
Ogata twitched, while Yun blinked.
"Don't 'Megane-chan' me, Shindou! Where have you been? We've been looking all over for you," he growled into the phone.
"'We've?'" her voice was questioning.
"Your teacher," Ogata glowered, though she couldn't see him.
"…Hello, Shindou-san," Yun sighed.
"What's with all this Shindou-san?" she huffed. "Megane-chan calls me Chibi and Hikaru, and Yun-sensei just calls me Hikaru-chan…so why are you two being so weeeeiiiiirrd?" she sounded like she was pouting.
They looked at each other and turned away quickly, turning red.
"One minute!" they heard in the background.
They turned confused gazes at each other, but before they could blurt out their questions, Hikaru was already hurriedly rushing to explain.
"Soooo…I just called to reassure you I'm alright and things are fine…and that I'm just in jail and there's nothing to worry about," she rushed through the last part.
"You're in jail?!" Ogata managed to screech, and he hadn't even known he was capable of doing such a thing.
Yun stared at the phone slack-jawed, and kind of in shock.
"You…you…idiot! How in the hell did you get in jail? Why are you in jail?" Ogata yelled into the phone, throwing any other attempt at decorum and trying to not look so close to her.
Yun broke out of his shock and started to freak out as well, slightly hyperventilating as he muttered things like 'Jail? She's in jail?' to himself.
"Long story! Actually, I'm not quite sure how I got caught – " Honestly, Ogata didn't even want to point out that she was referring to getting caught, rather than the actual deed that got her into jail in the first place. "Anyway, if you two would be dears, could you find the stash of money under my mattress and send it my way for bail? I always have cash on hand in the house."
They both wondered how one can have that kind of money just lying around in a house, considering bail money was usually not 'light.' And since Ogata knew what type of crime, he was definitely sure it wasn't.
"Ah, crap. Gotta go. Jail cell's callin'. Find my money! Ta-ta!"
And then that was it. A click and then she was gone.
"This wouldn't happen to have anything to do with her computer skills, would it?" Yun deadpanned, startling Ogata by his sudden words and what he'd asked in the first place.
"How'd you know she was good with computers?" Ogata looked at him in surprise.
"She continuously transforms my classroom into a techie's dream spot, runs the IT club that might or might not still be running illegal computer activities, even though I told them to stop after stopping them from trying to masquerade their hacking club as some anime club and just keeping it as the IT club, and then magically transforms my classroom back like nothing had happened to it."
"…She does that."
They both shared a sigh at that.
"And it's more likely a 'cracking' club," Ogata muttered, and Yun looked at him in confusion.
He mentally face palmed. "Dear God, that girl is rubbing off on me," he muttered to himself.
They looked for her supposed secret pile of cash, and were rather surprised that they'd found it rather quickly. And then proceeded to stare at the literal pile of cash.
If this was the cash she 'had on hand,' did she even leave any in the bank?
Neither of them even wanted to think about how and where she got all this money from.
Yun grabbed a garbage bag and came back into her room, where they both began to shove handfuls of the money into the bag. After filling up the bag and emptying the hiding place, they quietly got into the car and drove over to the police station.
When they entered the station and shoved the bag at the nearest police officer, they asked for her and demanded her release.
They were stared at weirdly.
Once everything got settled and put into the right order, they did actually manage to pay the bail and still have a lot of leftover money from the stash. However, they were put off when they were informed that she would not be able to be released until the judge in charge of her accepted the bail and had the paperwork done and everything else…and he wouldn't be available until the end of the week.
Grudgingly, they left…
"Hey, aren't you that Go player that molested that girl, the same one in jail and that you were asking for?" someone called out.
Ogata stumbled terribly, eyes wide in shock and horror.
Yun stared at him dumbly. And then he was glaring.
"I-it's not what it sounds like," Ogata stuttered. "That's not what happened."
"Cause I'm all alone. There's no one here beside me. My problems have all gone. There's no one to deride me, but you gotta have friends..."
"Please! No more of the depressing songs!"
Hikaru pouted and instead started to clang an imaginary cup against the bars morosely.
"I'm all aloooonnnneee," Sai echoed her. "Besides you," he cut himself off, looking at her, before flopping back onto the floor.
While she clanged her imaginary cup, crouching in front of the bars of their cell, Sai lay spread-eagled on his back and had his hair fanning out on the floor behind him. Stray strands stuck out crazily and he was staring at the ceiling with a crazed look in his eyes. Hikaru glanced at him dully, before staring back out of their holding cell and clanging her imaginary cup.
"I gotta go pee."
The week passed by both quickly and yet contrarily slow. Ogata was the one to pick her up that Friday, as Yun was stuck in school. When he came in, he was both caught off guard and yet somehow expecting the scene that greeted him upon his time to collect her from her jail time. He wondered why he wasn't used to the oxymoron's he was forced to continuously face because of this girl.
"And don't forget to brush your teeth and wash yourself thoroughly! Even down there," he heard Hikaru say, and there was a loud round of raucous laughter exploding from the same direction he heard her voice in.
The officer leading him rolled his eyes, fondly smiling. "They worship her and think Sai should have been an Emperor in his time."
Ogata pinched the bridge of his nose. "Yes, it typically happens to the both of them. She and…Sai were born to rule the world, I should think."
The surrounding prisoners in the holding cells around hers were all greeting her goodbye, with some embarrassingly sobbing. He didn't want to ask or even know.
"Bye, favorite temporary inmate of all time!" one of them called out to her.
He really didn't want to know.
"Bai bai~" Hikaru called back, following him and the officer back out. "Wish me luck on my trial!"
"Good luck!" the others chorused.
Ogata sighed and dragged her out of there.
She'd missed a week of school and it was the weekend already. She was stuck at home, and she would be with or without having been ordered to stay there, considering there was no school. Ogata was just waiting for her to snap.
Hikaru had paced angrily, like a hungry tiger, in her living room for a very long time after arriving home. He stayed quiet, watching her. Afterwards, she stalked through her home, but didn't seem to be doing or looking for anything in particular. He watched her march through the place without purpose. And when Yun arrived, looking thoroughly harassed, he also witnessed Hikaru's odd behavior.
"Should I ask?" her teacher asked him.
"No. I wouldn't know either."
Yun frowned, but shuffled around the papers in his arms before straightening them and putting them onto a nearby table.
"Her assignments," he muttered. "I had them collected and put together, so she can work on them."
"Right now, she looks like she's ready to do anything but work on schoolwork," Ogata noted, catching a glimpse of her as she stomped through the kitchen.
"I wonder what's wrong?" Yun wondered aloud.
"Damn it! I'll find out who the hell you are and get you back for selling me out!" they heard her yell angrily.
"I'm guessing that was our answer," Ogata said dryly.
She irritably left the kitchen and finally came towards them.
"'Lo, Yun-sensei," she acknowledged him briefly. "My preliminary trial is on Monday, so I have to miss another day of school. Can you miss it too? I need someone to be there apparently, to act as some kind of guardian. My parents are out of town, and I don't want to trouble my grandpa about this or let him know what's going on."
Ogata was taken aback and frowned, feeling…irritable? He automatically assumed she would have asked him for such a thing, so he hadn't expected her to turn to someone else.
"I'm available," he kept his tone neutral.
"I thought about it," she said honestly. "But you know, you're Ogata 9-dan. It would be bad for you to be connected to me or this kind of thing, right? So I thought I'd asked Yun-sensei instead, since he's not famous and well-known. No offence," she directed to her teacher.
"None taken," he held up his hands. "I'll call in that day then."
Ogata nodded, going along with it…but he still wasn't too happy.
Started 6/12/13 – Completed 6/19/13
Chapter 12: Mercy Me
To be honest, despite humming cheerily and grinning, Hikaru was actually in a real bad mood (Sai was equally in a horrible mood, but more depressed than angry). But she didn't want to worry Yun or Ogata, who had insisted he come anyway…wearing that silly disguise from the last time he pretended not to know her, at that school tournament. The baseball cap hid most of his blond hair, and the sunglasses obscured his eyes. She was, however, once again taken aback that he wore casual clothes, and it seemed strange to see him in them. But he did look pretty good in them, and anonymous enough and different from his usual look to not be recognized, just like last time.
The trial itself was oddly straightforward and quick. She was smug and rather impressed with herself in that she had managed to slip into Sai mode, and fool the rest with her MPD, remaining consistent with her diagnosis, which helped to not leave any loose ends or any room for doubt or to be caught.
When it came to the end, they wanted her "guardian" to step forward. Being that she didn't want to involve her grandfather and worry him, she thought between Ogata and Yun. Eventually, she'd ruled out Ogata, since she knew how high-profile that guy was.
Presenting a nervous Yun, they'd rattled off things he'd have to do in regards to her, and the occasional phone report to them. Deciding she was getting off with just a slight slap on the wrist, she patted her back mentally and told herself it was a job well done, with Sai sighing in relief beside her. But it wasn't over.
Then they were handing out her sentence, and she inwardly glowered. It was still considered light, considering what she was charged with, but she didn't like the restrictions she had to deal with. One, she had to wear an ankle monitor with a GPS that monitored her location at all times. She was also confined to her home and her usual routine, considering they were aware of the usual things she did, like the Go salons she visited, and had to report any variations in it. She also had a stupid curfew at 10 –she was usually in her home by then anyway, but that she no longer had the option to do so if she so choose, irritated her.
She also had to do free consultations with the PSIA/DIH in regards to computer programs, from simple tech problems all the way down to hack/cracking problems, which was probably why her sentence was so light in the first place.
She grumpily headed with the other two back to her home, although Yun had to leave after, whereupon she sat on the couch and poked at the ankle monitor, narrowing her eyes at it.
"Don't poke it," Ogata rolled his eyes.
Sai hid behind an unknowing Ogata, peeking warily at his host.
"Why not?" Hikaru huffed. "It's annoying."
"It's what you get."
Hikaru frowned and ignored him, continuing to examine the ankle monitor. Maybe she could…
"Here," Ogata plopped down a plate in front of her and she jerked up in surprise at the loud clack! the dish made on the table. She was even more surprised to see a sweet confectionary on it.
"What is this?"
"It's a strawberry shortcake," he gave her a 'duh' look.
"I knew that! I mean why'd you give it to me!"
Ogata humphed and turned away from her.
"You…seemed upset lately. I thought you'd like something to cheer you up."
Sai cooed at the sweetness, clapping his hands happily.
She blinked before she grinned widely. "Okay, I'm demoting your enemy status again."
"And what is this about this enemy business?! And when do I get to stop being an enemy?!"
"When I say so!" she said cheerfully, with Sai shaking his head and giving her a look, which she ignored.
"That's it!" he snatched her plate away, and she threw herself after it.
"Nooo! I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I don't mean that! You're the best!"
"That's better," Ogata grumbled, handing it back slowly. He sat down beside her. "How many people do you know anyway? When we were going through your contacts, there was a ton of people."
He tried to sound nonchalant and vaguely grumpy, and for the most part he succeeded…He didn't want to sound like he was obviously interrogating her, of course, but he was rather curious and there really had been a lot of names in her contact list in her phone. It was mind-boggling.
But then she started listing off names after naming an estimated ridiculous number, and while incredulous at so many…he was also strangely irritated how many names he'd recognized as malenames. How many guys did she know? Or rather, why did she know so many guys?!
Frankly, though he wouldn't admit it, he disliked the idea that she knew and was familiar with so many males, and that there were so many in her life.
The idea bothered him, but he couldn't pinpoint why. He was just very sure that he didn't like the fact that she did. Dealing with Yun having told him how many people he'd had to call from her contacts and the example list of names (which was more than a handful already) he'd rattled off to Ogata had the blond feeling oddly bothered already, but now knowing more, he was even worse off.
He almost changed the subject and asked how in the world did she get along and got all those other prisoners to like her…when he backtracked and decided he was better off not knowing. He shuddered just starting to think on how, and immediately reversed his brain into some other direction.
"Mmmm, I think Hiroshi-san would like this~ And Hiroki-san too! Hey, I didn't think there'd be such cool guys in jail, but I'm really surprised they got on so well with me and Sai. I guess it must've been –"
Ogata immediately stood up and grabbed her finished plate, heading to the kitchen.
'I DON'T WANT TO KNOW!' his mind screamed.
He retreated into the safety of the kitchen and decided to wait it out for a bit, hoping she'd come to quickly forget about it and something else would come up for her to talk about. When he finally came back, she started chatting about all the things she planned to do to weasel out the weasel who'd sold her out. He sweatdropped, but it was much better than having to deal with listening about how in the world she managed to win over some criminals.
When he left her, he'd gone over to Touya Meijin's house with him once again wistfully looking out of his window, and once again the familiar game was played out on the goban before the older man.
"How is she?"
"Disgruntled, pouting a lot, and scheming," Ogata informed his mentor.
He truly admired the man's resistance and patience. Akira, likewise, had said he'd wait for 'Sai,' but even he had his moments. Kouyo was almost saint-like in his patience. However, he had certain things to tide him over.
He inquired into Hikaru's wellbeing and what was happening in her life. Though he never played against her himself (preferring to have their next game face to face), Kouyo watched her games online as much as he could, when his schedule allowed. Akiko was even kind enough to watch and record the games that happened when he wasn't able to.
He frequently, through Ogata, invited her to attend his Go meetings, and was hopeful each time, despite the continuous declines. That fateful game was replayed constantly. Sometimes, usually entertained and amused by Akira's wall, he would go visit his salon and sadly gaze at it (though he did respectfully ask the patrons there to not mention that game to anyone until Hikaru/Sai was ready to enter the Go world).
Ogata felt a little pity for his mentor, being so close to some sort of rival as he'd never been before.
"Would you like me to replay some of her recent games?" Ogata respectfully inquired.
"That would be nice," Kouyo murmured, resetting the goban and stones in front of him.
Sometimes he wished Hikaru would just come over and stop being afraid.
He knew she was too, despite her not saying it outright or showing it. "A thousand years of Go to ponder" indeed. He thought that was true, and she seemed very sincere about such an odd, vague statement…but he could see that she also didn't want to go outside her little bubble.
She was happy behind her computer, being anonymous and not having to let anyone in. She reached out and played Go, and she accumulated friends and was usually so well-liked, even from the beginning…But it was a control she had, and that she could do or say what she wanted. Reaching out to Kouyo meant stepping into an unknown world, and more exposure than she was used to or was comfortable with.
She liked the isolation she was in, and the way that she raised herself and was in charge of herself and her choices.
It made him uneasy and just a little sad for her himself.
Continuing her irritable mood, she went to school (after reassuring Ogata she wasn't going to murder anyone), and wore a terrible scowl as she trekked through the hallways. Sai patiently walked by her side, trying to console her, though it seemed like nothing helped.
"Hika-chan! Or is it Sai-kun?" she heard someone purr out, and then someone was draping themselves around her shoulders.
Hidaka Aiko rubbed her cheek against Hikaru's and Hikaru blushed red, chuckling a bit at the older girl.
"Eh, sempai~" Hikaru leaned back and tilted her head backwards, gazing at the other with wide eyes, turning the tables. "Are you teasing me, Hi-da-ka-sempai~?" She added in an extra pout, getting the expected blush and Hidaka moving back, gaining her own pout while nervously straightening down the front of her uniform.
"Hee! Hika-chan's so cute," Hidaka grinned, squealing happily.
Sai agreed vehemently. "Hai, hai! So cute~" He happily hugged his charge from behind, copying Hidaka's actions from earlier.
Hikaru grinned back, feeling slightly uplifted.
"Ohhh, why is Hika-chan wearing the boy's uniform today?"
Hikaru hid her grimace, instead bowing at the waist like a gentleman, before straightening up and offering a mischievous grin.
"My girl uniform was kidnapped by the Nekomata, used as a religious item, and is traveling the world to be worshipped."
Hidaka burst out into laughter, eyes twinkling with mirth.
"Right, Hika-chan. Whatever you say. Anyway…there was something I wanted to talk to you about," she turned solemn, and that made Hikaru uneasy.
She took Hikaru's arm and delicately led her to a more secluded place, closing the door firmly and turning back to Hikaru with a serious air.
"You know how the Go club is now also going back to having lunch meetings again, now that the school year's more firmly started? Well, Touya-kun joined the Go club in your absence, as a favor to the principal, and he's…being bullied."
Hikaru immediately had a thunderous expression on her face, as well as Sai beside her. She was thoroughly displeased with this new turn of events.
Hidaka further explained that Akira was mostly ostracized and isolated from his peers in the club, while three of them –Itou, Kojima, and Okamura –were the main culprits and went further, like making Akira play blind Go in a storage room, while making him clean up. Of course, Hidaka managed to interfere in that incident, but she was sure more was happening that she wasn't catching.
Oh, it was on. It was really freakin' on.
Her poor, kawaii little Akira-kun was being bullied, and she was not in the mood to be nice or to come back and hear such a thing. She was really not in a good mood. This? Only exacerbated things.
It was so on.
Being in the irritable mood that she was in, it was only fair that she take out her aggression on them and teach them a lesson. Besides, it's better than taking it out on the poor student body that also had to deal with her.
Apparently, to various sources and all corroborating…lunch was hell that day. At least for the Go club.
Hidaka purposely settled herself in the best seat in the room, where she could see the entire place and not miss a thing. Wearing a suspicious smirk, she waited in suspense. Yun glanced at her confusion, wondering what was running about in her head, though not too much since he was despairing about Hikaru's situation and wondering what he could do to help. Actually, he'd been so troubled about Hikaru's problems, that he'd been missing out on a lot of things and not noticing some stuff, like the annual teacher convention that was supposed to be mandatory but he completely neglected in favor of studying up Hikaru's criminal charge and sentencing. There was also paperwork, things he needed to grade, the Go club (yes, really), school duties…
Ah, but Hikaru had been arrested. Excuse him if he'd been very distracted as of late!
The door slammed opened and everyone jumped in their seats, some of them scattering Go stones onto the floor and around their area. Hikaru stood in the doorway, wearing a rather…scary, demonic grin on her face.
"Heeeeere's Hikaru!" she giggled, rather insanely in several people's opinion. "My Wendy's! I'm home."
And she swung the hitherto shinai in her hand forward, and pointed it rather dangerously at the group of people.
"What the hell? Is she also in the kendo club too or something?" someone muttered.
Hikaru twitched and discarded the bamboo kendo practice sword, whipping out a bokken instead.
"Nope, Yankii," someone corrected the first person.
Yun continued filming, having started to film at Hikaru's entrance. He'd noted that she probably didn't have many home videos of herself, and it was such a shame to have none in one's youth. He personally decided he'll film many home videos himself, even at scenes like these.
"Come play with us, everyone," Hikaru sing-songed, Sai's voice blending with hers.
Huh. Yun hadn't realized that those two could do that.
"N-no thanks, Hika-chan," Okamura, the poor fool, said. Hidaka shook her head.
Scarily, Hikaru was suddenly behind him, and she was placing the edge of the wooden katana against his throat. He visibly swallowed, staring up at her with wide eyes.
"Hello Okamura-kun. Come and play with us. Come and play with us, Okamura. Forever…and ever…and ever…" Hikaru/Sai said eerily.
"Nooo! I don't want to play with you!" Okamura shrieked, rapidly escaping from underneath her bokken and running away from her.
"But all work and no play makes Okamura a dull boy!"
It was a train wreck no one could escape from or stop staring at.
Hikaru cackled. "Little pigs, little pigs, let me come in. Not by the hair of your chiny-chin-chin? Well then I'll huff and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in!" She stared specifically at Okamura, Itou, and Kojima, with a malevolent glint in her eyes.
She chased after Okamura, even cutting a chair in half with her wooden sword.
Kojima ducked under a table, while Okamura ran towards the door and Itou just stood there in numb shock.
"Come out, come out, wherever you are!"
"Stop quoting The Shining!" Okamura screamed. Hidaka blocked his exit, with a smirk.
'Things are never dull with Hikaru and Sai around,' Yun mused.
She captured the three of them and dragged them to the center of the room, placed them in front of three gobans while she sat on the other side.
"Do you have the slightest idea what a moral and ethic principle is? Do you?" she hissed, losing her maniacal grin in favor of a dangerous snarl, narrowing her eyes at the three as she continued to quote.
Without further ado, she demolished all three of them in Go, at the same time, purposely switching between Sai and herself at the same time to mess with their heads.
Meanwhile, in the back of the room, Akira gaped at his formerly missing friend, hand still holding a Go stone absentmindedly. The girls he'd been tutoring shook their heads collectively.
"That's what those three get."
"Mmhm. But I think Sai-kun's been corrupted by Hika-chan, especially since they can now speak together."
"Sai-kun?" Akira was brought back to them.
"Uh huh. Hika-chan's got another personality or something."
What in the…?
Hidaka also approached Yun at that time. "Eh, Yun-sensei, you're not going to stop her?"
"Hmmm, no. It's better she take out her aggression here, and with Go," Yun nodded his head in decision. "Besides, it's entertaining."
Hikaru finished against the three in record time, before turning to face the rest of the class with a menacing look.
"What was that Eagle's song? You check in and never come out?" she growled.
She then proceeded to massacre the rest of the entire class mercilessly.
Akira was still shock at the pitiless play of Go against the class and Hikaru's harsh discipline against the Go club (though he kind of figured out that this might have something to do with his treatment by most of them…). And there was this something about a Sai?!
Sai cheered beside her, having fun with all the games and fun-type of lecturing they got to do against everyone. He also thought that Hikaru and Reiji-nii really would have probably got along very well, since they were very alike, especially how overprotective and vengeful they got on behalf of their loved ones. It was really endearing, when Sai thought about it, on the parts of both his elder brother and his mental twin.
Hikaru headed over to Akira after she was done, humming cheerily as she reached him, glomping him happily.
"Akira-kun! I've missed you!"
And then she shook her head and her demeanor changed, Sai recognizing the change. Everyone was too busy bemoaning their crushing defeats and wallowing in depression and self-pity.
"Akira-kun," Hikaru smiled gently as Sai. "It has been a long time, has it not?"
Akira blinked at her and then fainted.
Started 6/30/13 – Completed 7/2/13
Chapter 13: The Better Con
Akari was pulling her hair out, and Hikaru couldn't help giggling at her friend.
"I'm serious, Hikaru! We need a third player," Akari pouted. "We won't be able to play in any tournament, if we can't even get a third player for the boys' team."
Hikaru scrunched up her nose and sat up. "So what do you want me to do about it?"
"Can you help us find a third player?" Akari asked her desperately.
"One –opposite Go team," Hikaru deadpanned. "I'd be helping out the enemy."
"Some competition we'd make!" Akari threw up her hands. "There's you, Sai, and Touya Akira in your Go club! Urusai, Hikaru!"
Hikaru stopped her snickering. "Well, two. How exactly am I supposed to help you find a third player? Am I supposed to go walking around as a walking advertisement or something?"
"No," Akari glowered at her. "You know some Go salons, right? Just…ask around for any Haze High students playing Go in them. Or something."
Hikaru waved her off exasperatedly. "Alright, alright. Got it."
And so, that was exactly what Hikaru did.
Surprisingly, it was the Korean Go salon she went to often that immediately gave results. Ryuu frowned as he recalled what another Go salon owner he was friends with had told him.
"There is a Haze 1st year named Mitani Yuuki that goes to a Go salon not far from here."
Bingo. Hikaru finally had some good luck coming.
However, she noticed the frown on his face and curiously asked if something was the matter.
"This Mitani basically performs Go cons over at that Go salon," Ryuu explained in disappointment. "Apparently, he's good on his own, but the other owner tells me how Mitani-kun ends up cheating his opponents instead, and wins money off of them."
Sai bristled beside her, ranting about cheaters and dishonor, when he quieted down upon seeing his charge. Hikaru's eyes went steely, and her face was blank of all emotion, causing Sai to wince and Ryuu to grow uneasy.
"Can you help me get in touch with this other Go salon? I'd like to offer my services," Hikaru gave a cold smile that made the other two shiver.
Sai didn't know how he could have forgotten just how overprotective and defensive Hikaru could get on his behalf. No matter how upset he could get, Hikaru would get even more upset. If anything relating to the past was brought up, before Sai could even shed tears, grow upset, or angry –Hikaru would react first.
Anything upsetting him or reminded him of his past, Hikaru took it personally.
This situation truthfully had nothing to do with him, except for the fact that there was cheating involved, and he hated cheating and that it had caused his death. Or rather led to it. But Hikaru would link it even more than he did, and she would get offended and angry on his account.
This inevitably headed towards some sort of slaughter by Hikaru's standards, and Sai sort of felt sorry for this Mitani, even though he was still disappointed in the boy's choice to get into cheating.
Hikaru began making some calls after she'd been directed on how to contact the Go salon where the trouble was. It wasn't long until she was hired to straighten Mitani out (er, well, her words had been "take him out," which sounded too ominous for Sai…). And the following calls had him confused and had her doing all sorts of things that he didn't understand.
Also, apparently she called the local police, who were in charge of watching her situation, and had to report her change of routine, as was what was required from part of her sentence. Her exact report being "I'm going on a hired mission to take out a Go terrorist and see to it he learns his lesson. I will also, prior to the execution, be stalking him and learning his methods and characteristics, as well as use my homemade binoculars and tapping system to further spy on him."
The police wasn't quite sure how to take that, and basically shrugged her off. What harm could she really do, all by herself and with no computer anyway? Plus, they weren't sure if they could even really take her seriously, especially with the way she'd reported that. And especially because they still remembered her last stint from prison.
She was probably very harmless without a computer, barring just being a very witty, clever, and observant girl. What could she really do with homemade binoculars and whatnot? Or even since she wasn't really doing anything illegal, so it's not like they could really do anything. Er, minus the stalking thing –but they were pretty sure that she was just exaggerating and being her usual odd self.
So they just gave the okay and "Make sure to be back by 10 for curfew."
Inwardly, Hikaru was laughing maniacally.
And so, that was how Sai landed being with Hikaru, outside an unfamiliar Go salon and hiding in the bushes with her. She crouched low, her homemade binoculars (which were actually very hi-tech and well made for having been made from scratch by Hikaru) held high and pressed against her eyes, while she watched the entrance. Atop her head was some branches and leaves from the bushes, which helped her camouflage well…but had been unintentional and had just gotten into her hair as she camped and hid in that spot.
The two watched as a red-haired kid left the building, and had Hikaru 'hmphed!' and narrow her eyes as she watched him leave.
"Well, we've got his routine now," Hikaru muttered. "Seems pretty reliable on the time and like it won't change. He's got a certain slot in the middle of the afternoon set aside for this place."
Sai nodded enthusiastically. "Yup, yup! And he goes in the same direction every time."
Hikaru frowned. "To home maybe, since it's in that direction, if I remember the map and his address I pulled up. But most probably to where his sister works, since her workplace is also in the same direction. And according to the phone calls and to the recordings of what he said in the Go salon to the other people who frequent there, he does well in school, even if he isn't completely smart or studious. The grades I pulled up correspond to that, so at least he's not a complete liar."
Sai sighed inwardly. Maybe she will lighten up on Mitani now…
"But his games of Go…" Hikaru growled low in her throat. "Unforgivable!" the branch she held in her hand snapped in two from her grip, and Sai's eyes widened as he watched her warily.
She started muttering to herself as she started to pack up her things and then led the way back to their home, in which she only brightened up when she saw the box outside her door.
"Ohh, it came!" she crowed happily, taking the box and carrying it inside.
"What did?" Sai became curious, but shared her happiness.
"My new laptop," she said matter of fact. "They've got my original bugged, so I had to get a new one. My phone's got an inbuilt scrambler I made, so they can't do the same to it, but the home phone's not secure. Which is okay, since I don't use it all that much anyway. I went and complicated my internet situation long before too, so that's a no go for them either. They're watching my main bank account, though there's several other secret ones I got."
"Um…" Sai sweatdropped. But then he remembered what she last said and remembered what she told him about banking in that time. "If you couldn't use your money in the bank to buy the laptop without them knowing, how did you get it anyway? Did you use all that money you have stashed around here?"
"Nah, that's stuff for emergency," Hikaru waved a hand, finishing getting her new laptop out and starting to get it set up. "I could have used my secret accounts, but I don't want to chance those and those are basically for long-term emergencies anyway. Eh…I just bullied Megane-chan into getting it for me."
Sai blinked, but grinned widely. "Aw, that's nice of Ogata-san!"
He shook his head at her insistent dismissal of the poor man.
"I want to cheat his cheating butt," Hikaru muttered. "Show him what it feels like. Make him stare wide-eyed in horror and see how victory slips through his hands as I maul his stones! Mwahaha!" she ended up laughing crazily at the end, and Sai tilted his head as he watched her in horrified curiosity.
But he couldn't help picturing her like a tiny kitten, jumping onto a Go board and scattering various stones, while reaching adorable paws towards Mitani's defenseless stones and trying to 'maul' them. Mitani was also, hilariously in his opinion, cringing away in fear.
Suddenly, he noticed Hikaru had stopped talking and when he looked over to her, she looked uncomfortable and really apologetic for awhile.
"Not that I condone cheating or anything," she muttered, looking shyly at him. "Even if some things I do are like cheating…like conning…lying…Right. Ahem."
He smiled fondly at her. "I'm truly not as bothered as you, Hikaru."
Hikaru fidgeted. "I don't want to upset you."
He patted her hair. "Silly Hikaru. Besides," he smiled mischievously. "I believe that Mitani-kun needs to be schooled on just how to con someone."
She gave him a Cheshire grin. "Damn straight I'll show him just who's better at this game."
Sai amusedly thought if she was talking about the game of Go or who was the better con artist.
It was therefore not a surprise when Hikaru marched into the Go salon the very next day and found Mitani, who had just finished beating yet another customer and who she strode towards, steps increasingly becoming and switching to a more refined and graceful stride.
Ah, it was his turn first then. Sai smiled behind his fan, having flapped it open. Let the play begin…
"I suppose you think yourself brilliant," he spoke quietly, and Hikaru echoed him. He lifted his chin up, and Hikaru did so also. "Do you want to test that brilliance?"
The boy-child smirked at them, though he could only see Hikaru. Sai narrowed his eyes at the obvious dismissal. He won't take them seriously, will he? Then the two of them will just have to teach him a very hard lesson. Very like the one Akira had to learn, before they set him straight.
"I'll play if you put up some money," Mitani snickered, though inwardly he wondered what the hell was this girl's problem.
Hikaru deftly reached inside her jacket and pulled out a large stack of yen notes held together neatly because of a rubber band. Everyone's eyes, most importantly Mitani's, widened exponentially.
She smiled icily. "Well, child. Let's play."
Sai chuckled gently behind his fan and settled himself to enjoy the show.
It was actually very beautiful, in a way. Sai admired the way that Hikaru just somehow managed to rearrange everything and mess with Mitani's mind, and yet have not a shred of proof she was doing it. Her face was a wonderful poker face, and revealed nothing with the gentle smile she created for her 'Sai' persona or the soft look on her face. She sat there like a noble, playing calmly, while Mitani looked like he was losing his mind.
She was doing exactly what she wanted. Being completely obvious in her cheating, and yet not being so outright that fingers could be pointed to her. She was showing him up, even in the arena of cheating, which he thought he was supposed to have an edge on.
Before Hikaru came barging in, of course.
At one point even, Sai was pretty sure Hikaru had somehow managed to change the pattern of the board to emulate a happy face, before she changed it again. It was talent, he swore. True talent!
It was so obvious in the end and there was no way Mitani ever had a chance. Hikaru had out-cheated the cheater. And won a lot of money, while she was at it…
Sai had nothing to complain about, considering Hikaru felt so guilty afterward that she spoiled him rotten, finding and letting him watch a lot of Touya Kouyo's past games (Watched! Not just read!) and also let him play online Go all night.
He felt so loved.
Sai increasing felt amused as Hikaru continuously came back to the Go salon and challenged Mitani, who lost to her better cheating every time. She continually cheated him out, and it looked like he was close to cracking pretty soon.
And, just as he'd predicted, Mitani muffled his yell of frustration after yet another failed game, and glared at Hikaru, who was currently acting like herself. The place, and Mitani, had soon learned of and got used to her MPD, since she was coming over all the time to beat Mitani into submission.
"I've had enough! Play for real! I know you're cheating, but I can't prove it!" Mitani scowled. "Just…just play a real game! I will too!"
A real match with her real strength, huh…
"Hikaru, why don't you play the game yourself this time?" Sai prodded her.
She glanced at him.
'Why? You're doing well in beating him.'
"'You've' been beating him, not me. Maybe the 'you as me' is beating him, but it's your skill and talent that managed to do all that impressive maneuvering. I haven't a clue to be able to do such a well done con and be able to cheat like that. So why don't you beat him once again, with your strength, and with a real game?"
Hikaru was pretty unsure about it, but after an encouraging look from Sai, she went for it because she just wanted to make Sai happy.
She was surprised that she was strong enough on her own to beat Mitani.
"You shouldn't be so surprised," Sai chided her. "You play against the likes of Ogata-san, Shirakawa-sensei, and Yun-sensei frequently. That is not to mention the numerous other customers andmyself. You are quite skilled on your own already."
Hikaru nodded absentmindedly, still staring at the board. Then she started to address Mitani.
"Hey, I want you to join the Haze High School Go club," she said suddenly and Mitani stared at her incredulously, after finally getting out of shock of being straight out beaten (and badly at that).
"What? No way! I don't want to. I have better things to do with my time," Mitani huffed.
She thought this would happen. She then began listing aloud where he lived, his phone number, his grades from the year before, his current grades, what he did on the weekends, and that he liked cats and secretly collected strays at his home.
Mitani gaped at her (along with the patrons and owners of the Go salon, who had been eavesdropping on them every day).
"How do you know all of that?! Why would you want to know all that?!"
She shrugged. "I always gather blackmail material on everyone. That's just easy stuff I got. I got even more on you. So if you don't join the Go club…"
"Okay," Mitani squeaked, eyes wide.
Hikaru nodded in satisfaction, while Sai clapped for her.
"She's a dangerous foe, she is," one of the customers muttered.
"Definitely don't mess with that one," another agreed.
Sai laughed at them. This was really nothing, compared to what Hikaru was usually up to…
"And yeah! He was so stunned. It was really funny," Hikaru giggled, finishing her recounting of what had happened with Mitani to Akira, who looked dazed.
"Am I going to get used to all the shock that comes with knowing you?" he asked rhetorically.
"Probably not," she grinned at him and patted his head.
Sai felt sorry for him. He knew Hikaru could be a handful, and it had just gotten even more worse after Akira had found out that she was 'Sai.' He wasn't even sure the poor boy had managed to process that fact still.
So far, after fainting from shock before (and all the chaos that had abounded and he couldn't believe was happening –really, Sai couldn't blame the boy for fainting when he was being overloaded and too much was happening and there was too much information he'd just learned), Akira hadn't known how to approach Hikaru at all. At first, he had been extremely cautious. He wasn't too bothered by Hikaru keeping it from him, since he found out about her MPD at the same time and he couldn't really blame her too much with that and all (never mind it not being real). It was just…
It was Sai, and Akira knew he'd been creepy-obsessive about the other for quite the while. He really also just didn't how to be around Sai…
To Hikaru, it was kind of adorable and hilarious Akira's obsession, hero worship, awe, etc. was. It made her just want to "pinch his cheeks and coo over him." It seemed like Hikaru got that urge around Akira a lot. Sai was afraid for the poor boy's cheeks.
Well, at least now Akira was talking normally to Hikaru, and not embarrassingly stuttering and running away.
"Hey, let's play a game, Akira!"
"NO!" and Akira was scrambling away and had a wide-eyed and crazed look.
For some reason, Akira kept having this unusual reaction to being asked to play a game with Hikaru/Sai, and almost seemed terrified.
Started 12/29/13 – Completed 12/30/13
Chapter 14: Pressure Play
Sai looked at his host, wondering about her pale face. She was in the bathroom, and while he waited outside…she had been taking a long time and he'd worried. Hence, he'd peeked in and saw Hikaru looking pale and looking down, though he avoided looking down as well.
He blinked. "Hai, Hikaru?"
He blinked. "Huh?"
"Oh God, I'm bleeding! I'm dying, Sai! DYING!" she screeched, and Sai's eyes couldn't help but zero in on what she was staring at, and oh Kami –
She really was bleeding to death!
Ignoring her feminine parts, Sai began nonsensically screeching with her. He ran out and looked for her phone and lunged for it –only for his hand to go through.
"Damn you, hand! Damn you!" Sai yelled dramatically as he glared at his hand. "Why must I be unable to touch anything?!"
Hikaru screamed again in the bathroom.
Sai twitched and threw up his hands, glaring at the ceiling now.
"Kami-sama, why?! Hika-hime is dying!"
Hikaru ran out of the bathroom and towards her cell phone, rushing passed Sai as she grabbed at it. She clicked the first number that was on her history and called.
"Hello?!" Hikaru was screaming into her phone.
"Hikaru? Why are you screaming at me?" Yun's voice asked in alarm.
"YUN-SENSEI! I'M BLEEDING TO DEATH!"
"WHAT?!" Yun was screaming now too. "I'M COMING, HIKARU!"
He hung up abruptly and Hikaru kept screaming her head off. It wasn't actually too long until Yun was knocking frantically on the door and then (probably remembering the backup key under her doormat), the door was soon opened and he was rushing through the house and up the stairs.
"Hikaru?" Yun practically threw himself through her bedroom door.
He saw the blood too, and (ignoring her state of dress) charged towards her and picked her up, running out of there and to his car with her in his arms. He then began speeding his way to the hospital, with Sai invisibly urging him to go faster. His hand fumbled into his pocket, trying to grab his cell phone, and he glanced at his mirror to see Hikaru in the back. She was babbling incoherently in panic, and he flinched as her voice went at high pitch.
Finding his phone, he finally dialed the number he needed.
"Hello?! This is Yun, Shindou Hikaru's guardian! I'm supposed to report a variation to the routine, if there is any?"
"Uh, yes. What is she doing that is different –?"
"Hospital! Damn it, HOSPITAL! SHE'S BLEEDING TO DEATH, IDIOT!"
"Okay, I'm done reporting! I got to go!"
And Yun continued to practically race through the streets, breaking several street laws, and running every red light in his way.
The younger officer looked at his superior.
"I'm sure they're being dramatic," the older officer twitched. "They always are. Especially that girl."
The younger one wasn't so sure, and looked uneasy. "But maybe…"
His superior frowned. "Well…just in case. We shouldn't just dismiss it just because of that girl's usual antics. It might really be urgent."
The two of them looked at each other before sighing.
"I'll get the keys."
"I'll find someone to cover us."
And so the two went off to follow the GPS tracker to the correct hospital and make sure things weren't as bad as it sounded.
The doctor looked from the man to the young girl. He blinked slowly.
He ignored the police officers waiting anxiously behind the two.
"From what I'm understanding of the situation, it's really nothing to be alarmed about," he told them bluntly. "It sounds like she's gotten her menstruation."
They all blinked at him.
"Her period," the doctor said plainly, raising an eyebrow.
He was still stared at, before the girl began to flush red and the man began to shift awkwardly. The two police officers breathed sighs of relief.
"I'm her…" the man glanced at the officers, "caretaker. Recent appointment. Um…I don't have any daughters or other female companions," he explained as his excuse.
The doctor looked at the girl. She shrugged.
"It didn't cross my mind. I don't think about these things. I'm more busy tinkering with computers, creating software, whatever…And I don't have female companions either!" she tacked on in a rush.
The others gave her a strange look.
"Akari doesn't count," the weird girl huffed. "She hasn't gotten her menstruation yet."
"What about your mother –?" the man's hand immediately covered his mouth and his eye looked like it was twitching.
"Her mother is currently unavailable," the man gave him a rather fixed smile.
The doctor looked at him. And then he looked at the girl, who was starting to wear a dark scowl, and then looked back at the man.
He nodded tentatively.
Yun inwardly sighed in relief, having averted that as much as he could. That talk would have been a disaster in the making, and he could just imagine Hikaru growing into a terror with ire raised. She would have been screaming and ranting, charging all over the place, throwing things around…
Or maybe she would be calm. Eerily calm. Like the calm before the storm.
Or maybe Hikaru would be melancholic, staring out his car window with forlorn eyes and body postured with feigned indifference.
He admitted being worried about her. He would have preferred it if she would have thrown a temper tantrum, rather than she was like at the moment.
Looking into his mirror, he saw that the police officers were carefully following behind them. He waved at them out the window and one of them waved back, before the police car was pulling back and then taking a different turn. He parked at the store and went in, letting Hikaru quietly stay in the car. When he came back, he gently handed over the bags with feminine toiletries into her arms, with her taking them with a blush and a quiet "Thank you."
He was still worried about her. She tried to ignore his worried stare.
Hikaru awkwardly held the bags in her arms, before peeking inside curiously. She rummaged around, pushing aside things and looking at what he got.
"There's chocolate in here," she commented.
Yun cleared his throat clumsily. "I heard women like to have chocolate around when they're on their monthly."
"Aa. Arigato, Yun-sensei."
He wondered if he should call Ogata. The Go Pro had a habit of needling Hikaru and getting under her skin. Maybe he could get her to forget about being upset, and distract her from it. Aside from that, Ogata was actually pretty good at getting Hikaru to talk and even making her feel better…
Anything was worth a try at this point.
Ogata put out the cigarette on the doorstep. He pinched the bridge of his nose, before shaking his head. Reaching into his pocket, he grabbed the spare house key he'd gotten made for himself, deciding to forgo announcing his presence and not knock or ring the doorbell.
Besides. She had keys to everything in his life. A key to her house was nothing.
Walking through the door, he saw Hikaru sitting by the table in the living room and doing her homework, which was normal, but something seemed off. He quietly noted that Yun was in the kitchen making dinner, but Ogata's focus was on Hikaru, who looked and seemed much too reserved.
"Yun-san, I am taking Hikaru. We'll be back," he said suddenly, and reached over and grabbed her arm, pulling her after him. They were out the house in seconds, without bothering to wait for a reply. Well, he didn't. She was caught off guard as well.
"Hey, hey! What did I say about weido Go people that insist on invading personal space and being grabby? Do I need to call out 'child –'"
Ogata shoved his hand over her mouth.
"Quiet, Chibi!" he said irritably. "Don't call me that, remember? Geez, you're such a loud mouth."
Hikaru grinned at him as he took away his hand. "You're so easy to tease, Megane-chan. And fun teasing too."
He grumbled a bit, before he remembered just exactly what he had set out to do. He opened his mouth, but Hikaru turned to look at him and had such a helpless look on her (he'd never seen that on her and never in front of him) that he couldn't help but stop short of actually talking.
"Don't, please," she practically begged him, which was such a not-Hikaru thing to do.
She got what she wanted and got her way. She was more of a taker (not that people were all that unwilling) and a manipulator.
Hikaru didn't beg.
"There's a park nearby. Let's go there," he said instead, averting his eyes away from her.
"Y-yeah! Let's go on the swings, okay?"
He ignored the tremble in her voice.
Hikaru hadn't been able to get out of her funk the entire week, though the visit to the park with Ogata had cheered her up a lot. But she was still being…moody.
She refused to think she was depressed.
The only other person who was nearly as moody as her was Kishimoto. She knew he got quiet and got into these kinds of moods often, but she'd sit with him at these times and they'd quietly sit together until he got over it. Or sometimes she'd distract him, chattering about something or making him go and do something with her.
She'd been out of it, so she hadn't been much help to him this time. So when she found him studying in the back of the library, she took a seat next to him and kept quiet.
"Are you okay, Hikaru?" he asked softly, turning towards her.
"I was gonna ask you first," she pouted, but it was a muted effort.
They were silent again, before Kishimoto sighed and ran a hand through his hair.
"I used to be an insei," he admitted in a quiet, pained voice. "I was good at Go. I thought I was good enough to go Pro too. But…I wasn't. I was nowhere good enough. So I quit the Go Institute and played Go at this school's club. It just…My love for the game died. I played here and I was the best, but I wasn't enough to become professional. I became bitter and I just…stopped. I stopped playing. Being a Go Pro was all I dreamed about before, and now? Now I don't know what to do. I have to catch up on my studies, figure out which university I want to go to, what career I'm thinking about…I had that all answered with Go, and now that being a professional is out of the question, I feel lost. And a part of me still misses playing Go and having it in my life…"
"I am a…difficult kid," Hikaru finally started, after a pause after Kishimoto's confession. "My father used to say I was just precocious, and all this was a phase. But I know I can be…odd. And that my…eccentricities can be hard to handle. My mother didn't know what to do. She didn't know how to handle me. My father accepted me better than she had, but he also wasn't sure what to do with me. Eventually, we all split apart. Basically, I was the one who drove them away," she shrugged. "One is hiding from me all the way across the ocean, and the other is trying to make a new life and pretend she doesn't have a family. I'm just…here."
They glanced awkwardly at each other, before he patted her head fondly.
"You're not difficult. You're…Hikaru," Kishimoto gave her a small smile.
"And being a Go Pro isn't the only way to love Go," she told him firmly. "I don't care about being a Pro, but I still love Go lots!"
"Yeah, I know…Meeting you, I'm starting to slowly fall back in love with Go," he murmured.
She beamed happily at him.
"But I still bet you'll somehow eventually become a Go Professional," he teased.
She pouted, but this time it was a genuine pouting session.
But as she coaxed him to come with her to the Go club meeting she attended after school, she was happy to see him being easily welcomed back.
Although Hikaru was rather pleased that once Kishimoto was back, he'd been given back 1st seat and captaincy of the school Go team (he was still easily the best of them, and Akira didn't want the spot while she was banned from it), that didn't mean that Hikaru was all that happy with the club.
"But I'm sick of ramen!" Okamura complained. "We always have ramen!"
Hikaru narrowed her eyes at him, and those that had been quietly or just the slightest bit vocal (not too much –they knew better –and definitely not as loud as Okamura) had all quieted down.
"What did you say?" Hikaru scowled.
"No more RAMEN!" he practically wailed.
It was like fires literally lit up in Hikaru's eyes.
"How dare you! You…you…you HEATHEN!" Hikaru threw a textbook at his head, which he barely dodged. It embedded itself into the wall behind him.
Okamura gulped and stared.
"How dare you speak about Ramen that way?! I-I…I will train Haze to beat Kaoi! You hear me?! I swear it on my grave!" Hikaru vowed, capitalizing the 'r' on her ramen for good measure.
She then turned on her heel and exited out dramatically.
"What have you done, Okamura?" Itou asked in horror.
"Oh God, we're doomed," someone moaned out.
Hidaka shook her head. "That's what you guys get. You should know better than now, about Hika-chan and her ramen."
Some of them turned to Yun, who shut his video cam shut and shook his head.
"You reap what you sow," he said cheerily.
Hikaru stormed into the science room of Haze High, scaring the hell out of the small Go club residing in there.
"You!" Mitani jumped up to his feet. "I have words for you, Crazy! What the hell are you doing, recruiting me into this club when you don't even go this school? You're not part of this club! In fact, you're in the rival school and its club!"
Hikaru gave him a bland look. "So?"
He gaped at her. She ignored him and turned to the others.
"I'm training you for the tournament. And you better damn well win."
A dark shadow passed over her face as she glared at them menacingly.
The group watched her wide-eyed, while they nodded dumbly in response.
Correspondingly, the next few days (after school) were pure and utter hell for them. Hikaru grilled them every day since coming to them. She had them playing Go with buckets of water on their heads. They were doing Go while doing jumping jacks.
They were playing Go for hours on end.
By the time they got home, it was nighttime. And they still had to do homework!
"Chin up! Back straight!"
"Faster, you fools! Move your fingers! Like the wind!"
"Mwahaha! We'll WIN!"
It was horror.
When the time came, the rest of the tournament couldn't believe their eyes. Because the door to the building burst open, and four figures in intimidating black wardrobe smoothly walked in and all badass-like, with the American band ACDC playing "Hells Bells" in a music player that Shindou Hikaru was holding as background music to their entrance. They even wore dark sunglasses.
"Hikaru," Mitani whispered through the corner of his mouth. "Why are we dressed in black and walking in like this, with music?"
"Shhh. Just do it! Like we rehearsed, everyone!" Hikaru just whispered back vehemently.
And then she strode to the sign in area and continued their epic entrance.
"Haze High, back in black, people!" she announced.
Kaio High, her school, were staring at her and her group in shock. Kishimoto, though, just looked amused.
"Psh, what did you all expect?" Hidaka muttered, rolling her eyes at the others. "It's Hikaru."
Yun was just glad he'd managed to catch that all on his video cam, and decided that this would be a perfect thing to show Ogata, who'd probably be (reluctantly and reticent in admitting) upset he'd missed it all.
Hikaru swung her arm out, holding her closed fan. "Onwards, Team Haze! Conquer!"
Tsutsui, Mitani, and Akari sighed, but went to their assigned area and sat in their seats obediently.
Hikaru inwardly pouted that this year everyone had to go and decide to make the tournament teams co-ed. Bah –they were just afraid of her. Hmph.
The tournament progressed and Hikaru was smug (and had no qualms showing it either) that her team were steadily beating the opposition, right until the very end where they were facing off against Kaio once more.
Akira, who sat in the crowd, held up two miniature flags that represented either schools and waved them weakly. There were frequent glances over to him since the beginning –maybe Hikaru should send him over to Ogata for tips on how to disguise oneself?
Anyway, Akira would of course cheer for his school, but…well, Hikaru was his friend.
Then the game was on and everyone went to concentrate on it. By the end, Kishimoto wasn't a surprise at having won against Tsutsui, though that Hidaka had lost against Mitani was. Even more surprising was that Aoki had lost against Akari.
But then Aoki looked at Hikaru and gave a weak grin and a wink, so she got that he'd tossed the game and it was supposed to be an olive branch to her.
Oh, alright. She'd forgive those Ramen Heathens and the Go club.
The doorbell rang and Hikaru grumpily got out of her bed, since Sai wouldn't quit poking her to get up and answer the door. Geez, who was bothering her this early in the morning? It was a Saturday! It was time to be sleeping in, damn it.
The door opened and the police officers she most frequently interacted with were on the other side.
"Ohayo, Hikaru-chan," the younger one grinned at her.
The older officer elbowed his partner as Hikaru sent a sleepy grin back at him.
"What's wrong?" she muttered, swaying slightly as she yawned.
The older officer handed her a box. "This came in. They would like you to figure out what the problem is and send them instructions on how to fix it."
She scratched her head. "Eh, my first consultation. Oh, fine. Ruin my weekend, why don't they…"
She grabbed the box from them and they left, so she headed straight to her kitchen and new laptop. Grumbling about early mornings and not being able to go back to sleep now (she would probably put it off, regardless of whatever they wanted, but she was too awake by then), Hikaru started to set things up and work on the thing already. It turned out to be a laptop that was fritzing for some reason.
"What's wrong, Hikaru?" Sai hovered over her shoulder.
"Malware, maybe," Hikaru mumbled, going through the easy stuff first to rule them out. "I'm working on it."
It didn't even take that long in the end.
She snorted and Sai glanced at her in confusion.
"Hn, this is easy. They're having trouble with these things? Sheesh, it's elementary!"
That settled it. She wasn't even going to bother consulting them and telling them how to solve it (she was much too lazy anyway, to write out instructions). She'll tell them what the problem was, even though she couldn't believe they couldn't figure it out by themselves and quickly at that.
Hikaru was just going to solve and fix the damn thing herself.
Started 2/1/14 – Completed 2/25/14
Chapter 15: Amateur Engagement I
Ogata snorted at her as he stirred the pot. He put the lid on it and began cutting up the vegetables.
"Figures," was all he said, after she told him she'd had her first consultation job and had ended up fixing the problem herself and sending it back, with a puzzle and clues kind of problems to force them to try to figure out what she'd done to fix it, instead of writing out plain instructions.
She raised an eyebrow at him. "What, no lecture on not being difficult and just doing what I was supposed to do?"
"Hn. If it's supposed to be as easy to fix as you say it is, then they should have been doing their jobs. As it is, you're only teaching them how to do it without giving the easy way out. They're learning, are they not? It's like shidougo."
Hikaru snickered. "Does everything have to be Go to you?"
"Yes," both Ogata and Sai said at the same time.
She rolled her eyes as she got up from the kitchen table. "I'm going to get something from my room. I'll be back in a bit."
Hikaru slowly trekked up to her room and had found the interesting Go magazine she'd been reading, that had had Ogata's interview in it and that she'd wanted to tease him about. She was about to leave her room when the front door to the house opened and she could hear her mother's greetings. Slightly closing the door, she left it open enough to hear out but would hide her.
Ogata had frozen in the meanwhile, caught off guard and looking from the pot and the vegetables and then the entrance to the kitchen. Tiny footsteps sounded and soon enough Hikaru's mother walked through the entrance and stopped short, seeing him there.
"Oh, um," Shindou Mitsuko started awkwardly. "Hello."
'Hello?' he stared. Was that it? Wasn't she going to question his presence, who he was?
"Hello," he answered stoically back. "Ogata Seiji…Pleased to meet you, Shindou-san."
She looked startled that he seemed to know her, before she just smiled tentatively.
"It's…nice to meet you too. Are you a friend of Hikaru's?"
Friend? She would know that if she'd been here! And wasn't she going to further question him being there? Wasn't she going to be suspicious? Or upset that her daughter had some older man alone in the home with her?
Where was this woman for all this time? It had been a little over two years since he'd met and kept close to Hikaru! And this was the first time he'd seen her in that time. Where had she been? What had she been doing? Why hadn't she been here?
"I'm dating Hikaru," he said suddenly, staring straight at the woman.
She looked taken aback. "D-dating Hikaru? Oh. Well…" she glanced at the pot and food around and then back at him. "Thank you for taking care of her."
Thank you for taking care of her?
Ogata kept staring at her, his incredulousness hiding inside. Was that all she had to say about that? Hikaru was fourteen. Damn it, he'd wanted to make this woman react, make her get upset, to-to care!
Didn't she care at all?
But she only gave him a much surer smile. "Sorry for intruding. I'm just going to go upstairs and grab some clothes, and I'll leave you two to lunch."
She left him behind and he clenched his hands tightly, knuckles turning white as he stared in disbelief at the floor.
Hikaru was much more active than him, if only in how hard she was clutching her knees to herself as she sat by the crack in her doorway. She heard her mother enter her bedroom, rummaging around for awhile, before seeming to be done with her task. For a second, she thought she'd leave without saying anything at all to Hikaru. But then her mother hesitated by the stairway.
And that was it.
Her mother's footsteps echoed down the stairs and then the front door opened and closed. Her mother didn't have anything else to say to her. Or cared to say anything else.
Hikaru swayed as she got up, Go magazine left forgotten on the floor as she stumbled out of her room. Sai silently held onto her, holding her in his ghostly embrace and trying to seep his comfort and support into her.
When she reached the kitchen, Ogata was still in the same position he'd been in since Mitsuko had left him behind. Hikaru slid onto a chair noiselessly.
"We're dating, huh? Told you you were a pedophile," she teased mutedly.
"I was hoping she'd punch me," Ogata muttered, finally moving and getting back to his cooking. "…And technically, I'm an ephebophiliac, Chibi," he finally did some snark.
Hikaru only smiled a bit, before looking down at the table tiredly.
"I was a Yankii," Ogata was admitting all of a sudden. "I was an angry little shit when I was a kid, and I was trying to rebel against my parents. I still don't really talk to them."
Hikaru blinked. "What? Why not? You've gone all respectable now, and have a reputable title and a good job."
Ogata shrugged. "A Go Professional isn't a respectable job to them."
"What? But you're renowned. You're…a 9-dan. How can they not see how well off you are now?" Hikaru scowled.
He shrugged again. "I'm not a lawyer or a doctor or even really world famous. Being a Go Professional really isn't seen as too high in their eyes."
"That's just ridiculous," she grumbled. "You worked really hard, and they can't see that."
"Well, when you live in the kind of family I have, it's a bit underwhelming. I have an older sister, who is a recognized specialist in cardiology and is one of the best cardiac surgeons alive. My younger sister is a prominent international lawyer. I have two brothers, with the younger one as a nuclear physicist and the older one as a world-renowned fashion designer/photographer. Even a fashion designer is more respectable a job than being a Go Pro –Eiri is more famous and it's a more normal job than being a Go Pro, even if it is outside of the box as well. That's not counting my father, who is a business tycoon and adding to the family fortune, since we're already 'old money' anyway. My mother is also the current Minister of Foreign Affairs."
Hikaru opened her mouth to say something, but she really couldn't find anything comforting to say. That was a lot to live up to –and, though she didn't want to admit it, a Go Professional didn't exactly amount to the same sort of calling in comparison. She inwardly winced, and felt a little sorry for Ogata for having a family like that.
"But you already knew a lot of that, didn't you," he stated, giving her a pointed look.
She looked guilty and gave him a sheepish grin. "Yeah, I did…but I didn't really think about it, until you brought it up now. Especially since we don't really talk about your family or they're not really brought up much."
"They think I've been wasting my time and life anyway," Ogata rolled his eyes as he shut off the stove. "I could've been busy doing something else, and really making a name for myself in the world. Like…I had a real talent with the piano. They always say I should have gone on with it, and become a famous pianist."
"But there's no guarantee you'd become really famous or earn a lot as a pianist," Hikaru blurted out.
He pointed the ladle at her. "According to them, it's better I was broke and unknown, than to have gotten such an odd profession. How can I, or any of them, come out and say what I do for a living to everyone else? Go is actually not that popular or known. It's really a, to be truthful, obscure job, and they think it's nonsensical. Even doing some other sport would be better to them."
Hikaru wrinkled up her nose. "But you like Go."
"They're just dumb," Sai agreed, frowning and pouting as he crossed his arms across his chest.
"Doesn't matter that I do. That's not the point, Chibi," Ogata rolled his eyes again, scooping up some stew into a bowl and putting it in front of her. "Now be quiet and eat up. Or else you'll stay a midget forever."
"Don't call me short, Megane-chan!"
He just smirked and didn't answer back. He was just glad he'd managed to distract her and take her mind off of her mother. Still, his problems were nowhere near hers, and it made him irritable. Family disagreements and whatnot, Hikaru was just neglected and alone.
He had yet to make a full judgment on the father, but he firmly decided that he couldn't stand Shindou Mitsuko.
Hikaru was very excited. According to Markus, the International Amateur Go Cup was coming up and he was going to be coming to Japan. He was going to go there and she would get to meet him in person, and even more –he'd invited her to the tournament! She'd really only gone to school tournaments and that one with all those children. This was sure to be different and thrilling.
She was also thrilled to know that she was entering her own first amateur Go tournament. Doumoto, one of the patrons of the Heart of Stone and who had played against her the first time she'd gone to that Go salon, played in tournaments himself, and had helped her apply and enter this coming one.
She and Sai had agreed that Hikaru would play most of the games, as it would be a good lesson and practice for her skills, and Sai would comment and lecture about the moves as she played against her opponents.
'It was almost like teaching the Emperor again,' Sai mused. Then again, with Hikaru's nickname in her IT club…
"I'm so excited!" Hikaru squealed quietly to him.
"Me too, me too!" Sai cheered, waving his sleeve-clad hands around. "Hikaru, don't forget to text Ogata-san some of the games, remember?"
"Hai, hai, I remember," she rolled her eyes. "It would be much easier on him if he was just here."
"Hikaru! You know he has an event he has to attend," Sai admonished her.
She pouted. "Bah, that must be so boring since I'm not there to spice things up."
Sai hid his snickers behind his sleeves. "Of course, silly girl. Let's get ready now, okay?"
Hikaru found the sign-in area and signed in, before she set off to find an area to wait in before she was going to be ushered into a seat. She found a chair by the wall, with one seat next to it occupied by an older man, though he wasn't too old and seemed to be in his twenties at least. She mentally shrugged and went over, plopping down onto the unoccupied seat and startling the other.
"Hullo," she waved.
He awkwardly waved too, wearing a confused expression on his face.
"I'm Shindou Hikaru," she introduced herself.
"Er, um, I'm Kadowaki Tatsuhiko," he fumbled to introduce himself back to the odd girl. "It's nice to meet you, Hikaru-chan."
Hikaru practically beamed back at him. Finally! Someone who didn't care for formalities! Even if it was probably because he thought she was a little girl or something…
"Nice to meet you too, Tatsuhiko!" he seemed bewildered at the use of his given name and without any honorific, but oh well. He started it. She inwardly giggled. "Are you going to play?"
"In the tournament? Yes, I am," he confirmed, smiling widely at her. "I thought I'd really like to get back to being active in Go again, after my college years in it. I'm hoping to try to pass the professional Go exam this year, and become a professional Go player. This is probably my last amateur tournament either way."
"Really? Have you done a lot of amateur tournaments then?" she asked curiously.
He told her he had, and that he'd even won the collegiate title versions of Meijin, Hon'inbo, and Juketsu. He really hoped that meant he was good enough to go Pro, but he was being cautious and "keeping all his cards."
"If you go to the finals in this tournament, I will cheer for you in the professional exam," Hikaru promised.
Still, she inwardly pouted. Again, with this professional business! Well, at least he didn't seem odd or as obsessed like the others she'd run into. Maybe the professional world wasn't completely made up of lunatics…
Someone made an announcement the tournament was starting and they bid each other goodbye.
"See you across the board, Tatsuhiko!" she winked at him before dancingly walking away.
He blinked. "She's playing?"
Honestly, for some reason he hadn't been expecting that.
Nor that he would be facing her in the finals of the tournament either. In fact, he was currently sweating as he tried to figure out a way out of the trap he'd fallen into that she'd set.
He'd heard she'd crushed her opponents. He'd also heard something about a split personality? That hadn't been clear to him. But what was clear was her talent and skill when it came to Go. She was absolutely monstrous on the board, and all the while she wore a happy smile on her face.
"I have nothing," Kadowaki sighed.
She was still grinning happily, looking over the board with avid eyes.
"Sugoi! Tatsuhiko, that was an awesome game! I really had lots of fun!" Hikaru complimented him. Her fan, which was now a constant fixture by her side by now, was flipping open and close as her eyes darted over the board.
"Aa, me too," he grinned wryly. It was a good game though, despite his loss. "I really enjoyed it. Although, I think I should practice a bit more before taking the exam now."
"Ehh? Why?" Hikaru asked in confusion.
"I was beaten rather badly," he chuckled, rubbing the back of his head in embarrassment. "I should get better first, and try for next year."
Hikaru scrunched up her nose. "No way! I think you're plenty good to pass the exam! Besides, you'll get stronger playing against stronger opponents. If you become a pro, you can play against lots of strong players and get better like that!"
After saying that though, Sai gave her a knowing look that she ignored. Sai was getting a little bit more interested in this professional world of Go now, and he knew that Hikaru was reluctantly becoming interested as well. However, he also knew that she still had her reservations about it, and he admitted that he sided with her. Of course, that was partly because he was biased and sided on everything with Hikaru, but he also did feel a bit wary of the professional world, alongside his host for a great deal of many of her worries and rightly earned prejudice against that world.
But Touya Kouyo had shown them the bright aspect of that world, and they couldn't deny the hunger they both had gained for that world after that special game.
Sai also knew, despite Hikaru's numerous exclamations against the man, that Ogata was also a fond and oddly positive part of that world as well. Even with their rocky beginnings with that man…
Kadowaki hmmed. "Well, I'll give it a go. Giving up before trying at all is the worse, and I hate that kind of thing. I hope I'll get to see you as a pro then!"
"Hehe, I'll bet you'll pass," she nodded surely.
"Nah, I meant that you as a pro too," he grinned widely. "I don't think there's any way you couldn't be one!"
She blinked and stared at him, feeling uneasy. She laughed nervously. "Who knows, eh?"
But Hikaru was still very reluctant to enter that world, and so Sai was as well.
Ogata muttered under his breath, his fingers flying on his phone's keyboard.
"Hoho, youngsters! Always on their phones," Kuwabara cackled, the irritating old man coming into view and sitting down across from him.
Ogata flushed slightly red and had automatically moved to put away his phone, when he inwardly huffed and frowned at the old man and only gave an acknowledging nod at the man's presence and then turned back to his phone. He'd been in the middle of texting Hikaru about the latest game relay she'd sent him, this one being the finals that she'd fought in against someone named Kadowaki (whose name Ogata vaguely remembered from somewhere).
"Keheh, are you perhaps talking to a young woman? Maybe your girlfriend, Ogata-kun?" Kuwabara continued to heckle him.
Ogata's eye twitched and his flush darkened a bit.
"No, I'm not," he said, though probably a tad bit too brusque. "Not that it's any of your business," he couldn't help adding rudely.
Kuwabara chuckled. "You sound so defensive, Ogata-kun. Maybe you're not talking about her because you are ashamed of her?"
"I am not ashamed of Hikaru!" Ogata blurted out in his burst of anger, before inwardly cursing. Damn that old man. He'd made him slip. But he couldn't help himself –with Hikaru and her situation, especially with the latest incident with her mother, he was extremely protective (he knew he was, and even if he didn't know why, he couldn't help it) and he'd always –even, strangely enough, from the beginning –liked and was fond of her very strongly. He wouldn't let anyone talk badly of her, even if slightly or unintentionally.
"Oho! So her name's Hikaru, eh?"
Ogata glared at him. "Excuse me, I have some business I need to take care of," and then Ogata abruptly stood up and started to walk away, leaving the other before he could further make him react.
Kuwabara continued chuckling quietly, watching the younger player walk away in agitation. Ah, but this was so interesting! Ogata was usually cool-tempered, or at least reserved and stiff. He usually never reacted that strongly to Kuwabara's jabs, and most times even played it cool or responded with well-hidden barbs. He also, despite Kuwabara grouping him with the other youngsters, didn't casually use his phone (especially texting) out in the open, and especially on the job.
But it seemed that there was a girl out there with the ability to twist that man all around.
She was nearly bouncing on the balls of her feet, as she waited with Ogata at the airport for Markus to arrive. It was time for the International Amateur Cup, and she couldn't wait. She was looking forward to seeing a tournament filled with really strong and very experienced players, compared to the likes she was used to. Sai was just excited to see more Go and the potential of the others, as well as hopefully getting to play.
Their combined excitement, despite Ogata not knowing about Sai and not being able to see him, was still driving him up the metaphorical wall.
"He's coming, so calm down," he rolled his eyes.
Hikaru smiled brightly at him. "But it's that I finally get to meet a friend! And I get to experience a new, different aspect of Go! I know you're used to Go things and stuff, but I haven't been able to do all of that just yet. But I will! Just you see."
Ogata's lips twitched up. "Of course. Maybe I'll bring you along on one of my jobs to a Go event one day, if you want."
Hikaru beamed brightly at him. Then she heard that Markus' flight just came in and clapped her hands eagerly.
"This is going to be so much fun! Do you think I could convince Markus he should slaughter everyone on the board?" Hikaru asked cheerfully.
Ogata sighed, but hurried up to her side and grabbed her hand, so she wouldn't get lost. "What is it with you and slaughtering your opponents on the Go board?"
"Because Board Slaughtering is fun," both Hikaru and Sai said mischievously, gaining similar glints in their eyes to each other.
Sai hummed happily. He couldn't help being so influenced by Hikaru. She was so infectious and slaughtering people on Go boards really was fun.
Reiji-nii would be so proud.
Started 3/5/14 – Completed 4/6/14