Waya finished drinking his soft drink when he heard Shindou's voice. Shindou had taken a week long trip to China to play in an international Go tournament and Waya missed his friend. In the beginning of the week, Shindou had sent a few emails, but it trailed off to nothing as the days went on. Waya wanted to know how Shindou fared against Isumi's friends. He was just about to greet Shindou when he spotted Touya walking alongside him.
Just seeing him made Waya remember that Shindou went to China with Touya to also visit Touya's parents. It wasn't like he forgot that Shindou betrayed everyone by dating Touya. Okay, so not betrayed exactly, but it wasn't like there was love lost between them before they started dating. Waya saw Touya touch Shindou's arm. Or maybe their supposed rivalry was really just a front. It wouldn't have surprised Waya. The two of them had been pretty obsessed with each other when they were younger.
Waya walked towards them. "Hey, Shindou! How was China?"
Shindou laughed before he grinned. "Le Ping, I can't believe you followed us to Japan."
Waya groaned. "Not you, too! I'm never going to China."
"You should. It was great traveling there. I brought back some interesting kifu. I'll show you them during lunch."
"That's great, thanks." He glanced at Touya and fought back an eyeroll. "How are you doing, Touya?"
Touya glanced at him. "I'm fine, thank you. Shindou, I'm going on ahead. I'll see you at lunch?"
Waya scowled. It was like he didn't exist when Touya had Shindou's attention. He cleared his throat until Shindou's gaze returned to him. Waya beamed at him. "We still have time before our matches. Tell me more about your trip."
"Sure!" As Shindou chatted about his trip while they walked towards the elevator, Waya felt a twinge of regret that he hadn't been there with his friend. When Isumi went to China and finally regained his confidence with Go, he had a great time and fond memories. The same could be said with Shindou who talked of going back there again in the immediate future.
"You really should come to China with us the next time we go. You'll be mistakened a lot for Le Ping, but once that passes, you'll have so much fun." Shindou wiggled his fingers in front of him. "I can see why Touya-sensei enjoys playing there. It's like a whole new frontier of Go almost."
"Japan is still the best though," Waya said.
Shindou grinned. "Of course it is. We're here. All of us."
It was good to hear that from Shindou. When they'd both been insei and beginner dans, it'd been hard watching Shindou blaze the Go world with his potential, catching the attention of not only Touya but plenty of pros ranked high above them. It was a mystery around his friend that Waya still hadn't been able to solve, but after seeing Shindou in every Hokuto Cup until they turned eighteen and winning his matches each time along with Touya, Waya couldn't ignore the truth. Shindou was destined for greatness.
Sometimes it hurt to know that Shindou started playing Go late compared to most insei and didn't have a teacher to guide him, but was talented enough to overcome his disadvantages. Waya was good enough to become a pro and win plenty of his matches, but he looked average when compared to Shindou or Touya.
Not that he was bitter towards Shindou about it. Shindou had no problems staying up late with him to play matches or to look over kifus. Waya liked to think that his Go grew in strength and power because of Shindou and his help. Then again, he liked to think Shindou grew in strength because of Waya's help, too. Once upon a time, he and Isumi took Shindou to Go parlors so he could get over his fear of playing adults. But that was neither here nor there.
Then Shindou brought up Touya in the conversation. "Touya introduced me to this amazing restaurant in Beijing. We had the duck and this clam dish with black bean sauce. I think you'd really like it."
"It sounds good. Hey, do you want to go to NcDonalds during lunch? Isumi and I are going there."
"Sure. I'll ask Touya if he wants to come, too. He makes the best faces when I take him to places like NcDonalds." Shindou laughed. "He doesn't understand the finer things in life."
Touya was a Touya and completely understood the finer things in life. Waya was pretty sure if it wasn't for Shindou, Touya would never have entered a NcDonalds in the first place. Even though there would be other people there with them, Waya didn't want Touya to be there, too. Touya was going to take up all of Shindou's attention and it'd be like none of them were even there in Shindou's mind. Waya didn't like playing second fiddle. Not in Go and not in friendship.
"Yeah, yeah. Don't worry about Touya. He'd follow you to the ends of the earth." As much as Waya disliked Touya, he couldn't deny how much Touya loved Shindou. Touya would follow Shindou anywhere.
Shindou scratched the back of his head as he gave Waya a sheepish grin. "I don't know about that. Hey, we better hurry up and get to our matches. I don't want us to lose by forfeit when we're in the building."
Waya's opponent was a 4-dan he'd never played before. Once the niceties were out of the way and the 4-dan placed his stone down to start the match, Waya stared at the board to figure out his own first move. He once asked Shindou what he saw when he played a Go match and Shindou said he saw the universe. Waya didn't see the universe, but he saw endless possibilities before him. He just had to narrow it down.
Waya placed a stone on the board. He had a plan. It was too soon to tell, but if he remained calm and focused, Waya knew he was going to win. A few rows down, he spotted Shindou. Shindou had his fan clenched in his hand as he placed a stone down on the board. Waya had asked about it a few years ago but Shindou didn't give him a reason. Waya wondered if Touya knew why Shindou began playing with a fan.
He grunted as he placed another stone on the board. That was something a friend should know, not just a significant other. He'd known Shindou for just as long as Touya did, but there was plenty about Shindou that remained a mystery to him. Waya liked to think he was an open book, didn't hide anything from Shindou or the rest of their friends, so it was only fair if Shindou was the same way.
Okay, he needed to stop thinking about Shindou. If he lost this match because his mind was elsewhere, he was going to be upset at himself. It wasn't even Shindou really. It was Touya. Yeah, it was all Touya's fault. Touya was a friend stealer. Waya definitely didn't see what Shindou saw in Touya.
It was time for lunch and Waya slowly got to his feet. He was in a good position to win his match after lunch as long as he didn't make any careless mistakes. He found Isumi and Ochi outside the room. Then Shindou and Touya appeared.
"Sorry, guys. I had to peek at Touya's board before we went for lunch." Shindou grinned at Touya as Touya let out a huff.
"We can discuss the match after it's done, Shindou. Quit being so impatient."
The two began to bicker as they left the institute and walked towards NcDonalds. Shindou was so focused on his discussion with Touya that Waya spent the walk talking with Isumi instead.
"I've been booked for a teaching festival at a local elementary," Isumi said. "I've never done something like that before, but it sounds like fun. You should join me, Waya. I think you'd enjoy it."
"Yeah, that'd be great, thanks." Waya mused about his Go career. He was a pro with a decent winning score to his name. But just winning matches wasn't the only way to progress in his career. Getting exposure through appearances and festivals was another way to become famous and schmoozing with the general public was something Waya enjoyed doing. He was a little biased, but he thought he was better at it than Touya was. Touya was forever polite, but only Go and Shindou made him a passionate man.
They arrived at NcDonalds and once they got their food, they sat at a table large enough to fit all of them. Waya ended up sitting next to Shindou's left with Isumi across from him and Touya across from Shindou. Waya unwrapped his straw and stuck it into his drink. Shindou and Touya were continuing their discussion from before, whatever it was. Something about chores.
"Ever thought about hiring someone so you don't have to argue about who does what chore?" Isumi asked as he picked up a fry. "It's not like either of you are lacking in yen."
Shindou blinked before furrowing his brow. "Oh, I guess that makes sense. Touya, what do you think?"
Touya nodded. "It sounds like a good idea. I'll ask Ichikawa if she can find someone we can hire. I think it's safe to say we both trust her judgement."
"Sure, set it up with her. Thanks for the advice, Isumi!" Shindou happily took a bite of his burger. "It's going to be nice coming home to Touya not complaining about all my stuff on the floor."
Everyone chuckled while Touya gave Shindou a steady look. "There is nothing wrong with having a neat home."
Shindou leaned back as he crossed his arms across his chest. "Of course not, but you should know that my attack is just a feint. I just want to see how you react."
Waya wanted to laugh, but knew it wouldn't come across very well while those two fought. Okay, so maybe Touya was good for Shindou in that regard. It wasn't like anyone else understood Shindou's obsession except the person who was just as equally obsessed.
During their meal, Isumi and Shindou got up from the table to order more food, leaving Touya and Waya by themselves. Waya was content to ignore Touya until their friends returned, but then Touya said his name, grabbing his attention.
"Yes?" There was a serious expression on Touya's face, one that Waya had never seen before, and he raised his eyebrow at Touya.
"I am aware that you and Shindou were insei together and have been friends for a long time."
Waya thought Touya would say more, but after a few moments of silence, Waya realized that was all he was going to say. "Yes, we have been? So has Isumi."
"Isumi isn't my concern." The dismissive tone of his voice was so absolute that Waya was impressed. Maybe it was true that no one else existed in Touya's mind except Shindou. "We're talking about you."
"Uh, okay." Then Waya narrowed his eyes. Did Touya not think he was good enough to be friends with Shindou? Because that was uncalled for. "Do you have a problem that I'm Shindou's friend?"
"Not at all. As long as you stay his friend."
Waya flinched at the strength of venom in Touya's voice. Where was this coming from? "Touya?"
Waya spotted Touya gripping the side of the table tight until his knuckles turned a different color. Touya stared Waya down like he wanted to attack him.
"Just because you're his friend doesn't mean you can try to steal Shindou away from me under the guise of friendship. I won't let you."
Waya raised his hands in front of him as if to ward off Touya's anger. "I don't know what you're talking about Touya, but I'm not in love with Shindou."
Touya scoffed. "I've seen how you look at him and how you look at me, like I shouldn't be by his side. You want to date Shindou!"
Waya was about to retort when he saw Isumi and Shindou walking back with more food. This wasn't a discussion he wanted to have in front of Shindou, so he got to his feet. "Touya and I need to chat outside. We'll be right back." He looked towards Touya and tilted his head. Hopefully, Touya wasn't going to fight him on this.
Touya nodded his head and stood up. "We'll be right back, Shindou."
Waya walked outside of NcDonalds with Touya right on his heels. Once they were outside of hearing distance from Shindou, he spun around to face Touya. "Okay, explain to me why you've got it in your head that I want to date Shindou? Because I really, really don't."
"You could have fooled me." Touya gestured with his hand. "Then perhaps you should explain to me why my presence with Shindou bothers you so much?"
Waya snorted. "That's easy. I get the two of you are dating and before that you were rivals, so you've been filled with thoughts of Shindou since we were in middle school, but you're not the only one who gets to have Shindou's attention. Okay? His friends deserve some time with him, but every time you're even near his orbit, you take up all his focus and that sucks. So no, I'm not in love with Shindou, but I'm his friend and I'd like to spend time with my friend without getting ignored because he's so focused on his boyfriend."
Touya blinked as he stared at Waya like he had never thought about it like that before. Perhaps for someone like Touya, he hadn't. "I see."
Waya nodded. "You're the only one in love with Shindou around here, I promise. But you're going to learn how to compromise and share his attention, okay? You can't monopolize his sole attention just because you're his boyfriend."
Touya rubbed his chin in thought. "Ah, I see. I suppose you're right. I always want Shindou's attention, even before we began dating. When we were just rivals, I'd been told by too many people that I was obsessed with Shindou to the point of angering those people because I ignored their own accomplishments." He shrugged and Waya wanted to laugh. Even though Touya knew what he did, he did not care. Of course. "He runs, you know."
"Shindou." Touya looked down at the ground. "He doesn't mean it, but ever since I met him, he ran from me. He infuriated me and kept my head spinning so hard that I didn't know where I was. That didn't change when he became a pro because he took that long span of time away from playing matches."
Waya remembered that. Even now during that period in May, Shindou wasn't himself. The Go Institute knew not to schedule him for games during that time because he wasn't going to show up. He nodded. "I remember. He wouldn't respond to us either. But he's moved past that. He's not running anymore."
Touya looked up and Waya wanted to step back from the intensity of Touya's stare. "I know that. I've been dating Shindou for a few years and I know he's not going to run. He's made his peace with his Go. But I knew then what I know now, what I'll know for the rest of my life and that is Shindou is the only person I can never get enough of." He sighed. "So I shouldn't be surprised that I'm not the only one who feels that way. I never was."
Waya knew that feeling. Even though they were all in their early twenties, Waya still didn't understand how or why so many high ranking Go pros, including Touya's father, were interested in Shindou when Shindou had first started out. It wasn't like Shindou offered up an explanation. Waya doubted that Touya would explain it either.
"Shindou's a great guy." Waya stuck his hands into his pockets. "So look. I've never particularly liked you all that much, but Shindou obviously sees something in you and it's not like I can fight against you dating him. And as his boyfriend, you're obviously allotted more time with him than his friend. But you gotta give the rest of us mortals some time with Shindou, too."
"I can try." Touya glanced back towards NcDonalds. "I usually don't eat during breaks, but Shindou has rubbed off on me. I'll leave those times for you and the rest of Shindou's friends. But tonight, I'm taking him home after our matches, so don't bother asking him over to your apartment for Go."
"Thanks." Waya took a deep breath. He could be charitable, too. "You're not so bad, I guess. At least Shindou's happy with you. It's not like he could do worse."
"Of course he can. He could be dating you instead."
It wasn't like Waya was attracted to Shindou in any way, shape, or form, but the insult still hit its target inside of him. Waya's eyebrow twitched. No, he wasn't going to rise to the bait. This was one attack that wasn't going to land.
"Don't be jealous that I got to spend more time with Shindou when we were younger because you were too stubborn to realize his worth." Waya gestured dismissively. "We should probably head back inside before our friends worry about us."
Just as Waya began walking back inside the NcDonalds, he noticed Touya's clenched fists at his side and fought not to grin. His attack, however, hit its target just fine. While Touya had to beg for insight and kifu from Shindou's opponents, Waya received his knowledge from Shindou first hand. Nowadays, with Shindou dating Touya and the two of them living and traveling together, the pendulum swayed in Touya's favor, but Touya could never get back the years where he wasn't close with Shindou.
They returned to their table and Shindou gave them a questioning look. Touya bowed to them as Waya sat back in his seat.
"I'm afraid I need to cut my break short and return to the institute. It was a pleasure having lunch with everyone."
"Touya?" Shindou asked.
"I'm fine, Shindou, I promise. I just remembered something I needed to do." Touya bent his head to kiss Shindou on the cheek. "We'll play Go after today's matches, okay?"
Shindou nodded. "Okay."
Waya took a big bite of his hamburger as Touya left NcDonalds. He actually won a match against Touya Akira. It wasn't a Go match, no, but it was a match nevertheless.
"Hey Shindou," Waya began as Shindou stared at the door. "Did you know there's a new ramen shop opening up a block away from the institute?"
Shindou turned his head back towards Waya and beamed. "There is? That's awesome. Oh right, I was supposed to show you the kifu from China. Here, take a look at this one."
As they talked, Waya couldn't help but grinning at Isumi and Shindou. It was like old times when they were insei and it felt good.