Nase's foot was tapping nervously as she smiled at her date. He returned her smile but seemed at an equal loss for what to say. They met eyes briefly and quickly looked away. Nase raised the menu in her hands and studied it intently, even though she already knew what she wanted.
"May I take your order?" asked the server, cheerfully, interrupting the long silence.
"Oh, um, yes! Yes, I would like an iced coffee," Tanigawa-san said.
"And you, miss?"
Nase looked up. The server was a girl, about Nase's age or perhaps a little younger, wearing a cute blouse with puffed sleeves and a frilly skirt. It was demure but charming. Nase wished she was wearing an outfit like that instead of the suit jacket she had on for her match earlier this morning. She didn't have the girl's long eyelashes and hourglass figure either.
"Do you need more time?"
Nase shook her head. She'd been staring. "Sorry! Er, I would like a cappucino, please."
After the server left, the silence stretched out again.
"So, um, Tanigawa-san. What do you like to do?"
"Ah, well, I'm not in any school clubs or anything, but I like to listen to music and go to the arcade."
Nase smiled, again, in response, but didn't know what else to say. She liked to listen to music too? What if he asked her about her favorite bands? And she hadn't stepped foot into an arcade in years.
"That's very interesting," she said after a pause, then winced. It sounded so condescending!
Her date must have agreed because he narrowed his eyes a bit and said, in a somewhat pointed tone of voice, "What do you like to do, Nase-san?"
She couldn't say the obvious answer, not after what happened on her last date. She thought frantically. "Uh, I like to...I like to watch movies?"
"What kind of movies?"
What type of movies did she like? She just watched the big blockbusters like everyone else did.
She forced a laugh. "All kinds, I guess?"
At that moment, the server arrived with their drinks. Nase's cup had a pretty design of two lacy ferns in steamed milk. She took a careful sip and pursed her lips at the taste.
"Could I have some sugar, please?" she asked the server, who nodded and returned with a little cut-glass pot with sugar cubes shaped like little flowers.
"I prefer to drink my coffee black," said Tanigawa-san, stirring his drink with a straw. The iced cubes clinked against the glass.
She didn't know what to say in return so she added several lumps of sugar to her drink and stirred it slowly, waiting for the sugar to dissolve. The steamed milk ferns disappeared into the foam.
"Excuse me, but--"
She looked up. The server was still at the table, biting her lip and watching her.
"You wouldn't be, by any chance, Nase Asumi-san, 2-dan?"
Nase blushed. "Yes, I am. But how do you--"
"Oh, I'm a friend of Hikaru's! Shindou Hikaru, that is. He got me to start playing go. I'm not any good, but I do like to keep up with his career, and of course, I noticed you because there aren't that many young female pros. You're only a couple of years older than me and you're already a 2-dan. That's so amazing!"
Nase blinked and blushed even more. "Oh, um, thanks. What's your name?"
"I'm Fujisaki Akari." The girl--no, Fujisaki-san--beamed at her. She really was very pretty, Nase thought, giving her a tentative smile in return.
Tanigawa-san cleared his throat.
"Oh, but I should let you get back to your...are you on a date?"
At Nase's nod, Fujisaki-san looked a little crestfallen and bowed very hurriedly before retreating.
"2-dan?" Tanigawa-san asked with a lifted eyebrow.
"Oh, well, I'm actually a professional go player."
"Really? I didn't realize one could play go professionally," Tanigawa-san said and didn't inquire further.
The rest of the date didn't improve at all, and Nase was stirring the remnants of her now-cold cappuccino without much enthusiasm while her date finished the rest of his drink, then made an ostentatious show of checking his mobile phone.
"I'm very sorry, Nase-san, but I really have to go. You don't mind if I get up first? I'll pay the bill, of course."
"No, wait, I'll pay for my drink."
She started to pull out her wallet, when Tanigawa-san said, "No, no, please, what would people say of me if they knew that I let you pay? I don't want to be called stingy." He smiled and swiftly gathered his belongings as he got up. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Nase-san."
"Same here," she said, but he had already turned to leave.
She buried her head in her hands and groaned.
"Didn't go so well?" She looked up to see Fujisaki-san, smiling at her sympathetically.
"It was epically bad. That's the last time I let my friend set me up on a blind date."
Fujisaki-san shook her head. "I know what you mean. I've been on some pretty terrible blind dates too."
"Boys are terrible," she muttered and finished the last of her drink.
"Girls are much better," Fujisaki-san agreed as she gathered up the cups. She lingered at the table, cups in hand, and added, "It was so great to meet you in person, Nase-san. Good luck on the next round of the Meijin preliminaries."
Nase stared at her for a moment, her heart suddenly beating more quickly. "Thank you."
As Fujisaki-san turned to go, Nase reached out and touched her elbow lightly. "Wait, Fujisaki-san--"
She took a deep breath. It was now or never. "Would you like to play a game of go with me sometime?"