The first time Hikaru had printed one of Sai’s kifu it was because Sai was making a fuss about one of his opponent’s moves and Hikaru didn’t really have the time to humour the ghost at the moment. Minati’s sister’s shift was almost over and he needed to leave, but Sai just wouldn’t shut up. So to placate the ghost he’d printed the kifu, waved it in front of Sai’s face and said ‘see – you can tell me about it later – now let’s go.’
That evening, when he dug out the kifu at Sai’s incessant prodding, the ghost fell silent.
Hikaru blinked, surprised at the lack of enthusiastic rambling, and looked up from the kifu at his sort-of-friend.
The look on his face was peculiar, even for Sai, and something about it made him stay silent, stopped the impatient words from spilling from his lips.
And in that un-characteristic silence between them Hikaru realised that Sai wasn’t even looking at the kifu itself – not at the small, numbered rounds that represented when and where the black and white go stones would have been placed on the board. No, Sai was not looking at the game he was so obsessed about.
Instead the ghost’s eyes were fixed on one word at the top of the page – his name. S a i, what Hikaru had explained to the ancient ghost was how his name was written in the often-used romanji of this time.
And Hikaru wasn’t sure what to say or what to do, because he could see that there was something there – something almost painful. So he stayed silent. And Sai stared, almost desperately, at the kifu bearing his name.
Eventually the moment passed and Sai started the enthusiastic explanation that Hikaru had expected and told him exaclty what was so interesting about his opponent’s moves in this game. ‘See, Hikaru, right here, instead of replying to my move he played a large attack elsewhere.’ And the teenager listened, with half an ear, because as easily distracted as Sai always seemed to get, he knew by now that things didn’t disappear just because you couldn’t see them anymore.
From then on, Hikaru made copies of all of Sai’s games. The ones played on the internet as well as the ones they played together. He had even written down that first game with Touya Akira, and the second one as well, the game with Kaga and with the guy hired to stop Mitani from cheating – all of them.
He kept them in a large binder, with ‘Fujiwara no Sai’ written in his best attempt at calligraphy on the front. And he placed this folder carefully in sight – because even if Sai could not touch things, he could still see it.
They never spoke of it. Sai never asked why he kept such a diligent record of the ghost’s games – when Hikaru usually had no patience or attention for these sort of things. And Hikaru never told him that he could read the silent gratitude on the ghost’s face, whenever he added something to the file and replaced it gently in its spot on his shelves.
They never spoke of it and they never would, but it was then that Hikaru started to understand the importance, especially to a ghost, to have proof of being alive.