title: Destined Rivals
fandom: Hikaru no Go
characters/pairings: Akari/Mitani, Waya, Isumi, implied Shindou/Touya, Sai, Touya Kouyo
rating: G
warnings: death, spirits, anachronism
summary: Some matches can't be stopped, not even by death.
notes: written for the blind go challenge.

She stood in the Room of Deep Contemplation, taking the few moments she might have to actually be in the space before the match was set up. She looked down at the chairs on the floor, uncertain which one Hikaru would use. It was exciting, even though she was a rank amateur. Standing there, though, she hoped that she could feel a bit of the tension, the excitement, that Hikaru would feel.

"Akari-chan?"

She turned quickly, smiling brightly. "Yes, Amano-san!"

He liked her enthusiasm, he was always telling her. Not everyone is destined to play go, he assured. We still have a place in their world. Unlike many of the Weekly Go staff, Amano-san had never been an insei, even, either. Because of that, she felt less apprehensive around him.

"We'll need to stay out of the way for a bit now," he informed her. "I'll be in here, with the photographer, and a few others. You stay in the observation room," he ushered her out, and toward the room in question as he gave her instructions. "There won't be much for you to do. Watch, play along with some of the others while you can. Perhaps, record commentary when you can... Mostly, this will be a personal experience for you." He winked at her, and patted her shoulder. "This match will be historic, so try to follow along. But don't be discouraged if it doesn't make sense, always. The level of play here should be above any other in Japan right now. So, just do your best."

"Yes, Amano-san!" she brightly replied. The observation room was actually really small and crowded. It wasn't at all what she expected.

"This will be the first title match you've watched, right?" he asked.

"Yes! Ah, actually... Hikaru let me come with him for a few games for Honinbou a few years ago," she amended quickly. That time, though, the match was in a fancy hotel, and the viewing area was a little makeshift lounge. There was even a bar.

He shook his head, and rubbed the back of his neck, embarrassed. "It always sounds odd to me, to hear Shindou-honinbou referred to that way."

She blushed, and laughed nervously. "Well, he might be Honinbou and all, but he's still the bratty kid I've known all my life, so."

"It's good, it's good!" he assured her, laughing. "Hopefully, you can get a good interview with him when it's over!"

"I'll break his arm otherwise," she assured him, smirking viciously.

"Well, make sure the hand he uses to hold stones is still good," Amano begged, and then he bowed, and went to prepare the room.

She didn't have much to do, so she sat in the corner, staking out a place for herself, and she got out her cell phone, so she could text people, at least. About a half hour before the match was due to start, a lot more people started to come down, including the 2-dan who was going to be the match recorder, and the Go Association official. Ten minutes before the match, Hikaru's friends came in; relieved to see someone she knew, she grabbed Waya's sleeve. "Hey, guys!"

Waya blinked, and stared at her hand, shocked, but Isumi, who was much more of a gentleman, sat down across from her. "Hi, Akari-chan. Are you here as a reporter?"

She released Waya's sleeve, and waved her very professional notebook in the air. "Yup. Though, I doubt I'll get to contribute much. Congratulations on winning 10-dan, Isumi-san! I was really excited when I heard!"

Waya sat down heavily next to her. "Well, I'm just glad that Ochi can no longer go around flaunting his title. Isumi-san completely dominated him all through the match."

"Waya," Isumi scolded. It was so cute how the two of them acted around each other.

"What?" Waya sullenly defended himself. "Am I wrong?"

Isumi sighed loudly, but Akari lost interest in their cuteness. She sat up straight, and leaned over Waya. "Hikaru is here." She only got to see him for a moment, but he looked so different. His demeanor, his walk...

It was unsettling.

She bit her lip. She'd had a bad taste in her mouth about this ever since Hikaru started to make the run for the Meijin title. "This is the first time they'll be playing in each in a long time, right?"

Isumi and Waya shared a look. "At least five years, yeah," Isumi sighed heavily as he pulled out the stones, passing the blacks to Waya, who wasn't paying attention.

"Everyone thought they were going to be great rivals. But it turned out, they just can't stand each other," he snorted, looking a bit too smug.

Akari looked down at the goban. "I don't think Hikaru ever hated Touya. I don't think he hates him now. But..."

There was another small commotion, and she looked up to see Touya sweeping past, his eyes down.

The unsettled feeling just got worse. Touya didn't seem himself either, though she couldn't say she knew him that well.

Isumi cleared his throat. "Well. They're going to see each other now. Though, they won't have to talk to each other if they don't want to."

"Be interesting to be in that room, watching them. Almost worth volunteering to record, or something," Waya muttered.

"Hikaru's never aimed to be Meijin before, right?" she asked under her breath.

Waya and Isumi shared a look again. Waya shrugged. "He's pretty much always been in the Meijin league. But... yeah. This is the first year he's actually... gone for it."

"I thought he was content to just be Honinbou," she muttered, putting her chin down on her hand. "He always said it was the only title he cared about. So, why now? Why... when Touya-sensei hasn't even been dead for six months yet? I can understand that Touya refused to let them postpone the title match. But... What is Hikaru trying to do here?"

"Good question," Waya muttered. "They're starting. I guess we'll find out through their stones, mm?"

It was Touya's hand first. Akari tried to pay as close attention as possible, but she kept puzzling over it. Waya and Isumi were talking about go, and hands, and historically what was good... A few other people came to join them, and the room got rather loud and crowded.

She couldn't think that Hikaru was mercenary enough to try to take the Meijin title from Touya because he was distracted. It just wasn't making sense.

"This doesn't make sense," Waya muttered.

"Eh?" she looked up, and realized that she had missed a few hands.

Isumi looked at her apologetically. "It's still early in the game. It's too soon to really see what shapes they are aiming for."

"But these hands aren't Shindou's!" Waya declared hotly. "He doesn't play like this... he would have attacked this stone here, no matter how early it was in the game!"

Isumi sighed, his brow creasing. Akari was just about to ask something, but then that Ochi that Waya and Hikaru disliked leaned over the board. "More than that, these moves... these aren't Touya's." He pointed his short fingers at a few stones on the board.

She looked at the stones, mystified. She couldn't read them like they could, but... "What does that mean?"

Waya scrubbed his mouth with his hand. Isumi sighed, and glared at the goban. Ochi made a face.

But no one had an answer.

Akari's cell phone jingled in a special way. She grabbed it quickly, and looked at it. "Sorry, I'll be right back, ok? Don't let me miss anything!" She smiled at them, and then dashed out, and down the elevator. She tapped her foot on the floor as the elevator sunk down, the ride too quiet and too long, her thoughts straying.

She was worried.

She found Mitani outside, his arms folded over his chest, his eyes closed, looking as if he was completely bored. It was bright out; the rainy season had given way to endless days of glaring sunshine, and humidity. Still, he looked as cool as could be as he leaned against the wall. Grinning, she grabbed his arm, pulling him down so she could kiss his cheek. "Thanks for coming!"

"Huh," he diffidently replied. "Never get to see you if I didn't chase after you."

"I'm worth it though, right?" she asked, winking.

"We'll see," he teased her.

"How much time do you have? Do you want to grab something to eat?" She took his hand, even though he was trying to pull away from her. Her parents didn't totally approve of him; they were still holding out for her to marry Hikaru. He was working his way through college, though. Someday, he'd be a doctor, and they'd have to respect him.

Well. A vet was a doctor, too.

"No time," he sighed, shrugging. "I have to get to my part time job."

"Already?" she sighed. "Aw, that's too bad."

"Can't be helped. I have this mad bitch girlfriend. She's like a vacuum in my wallet," he dramatically complained.

She slapped his shoulder as hard as she could, still laughing. "Watch your tongue, or you and your wallet can figure out how to get by without the sweet, beautiful, caring girlfriend." She turned quickly, tossing her hair in his face.

He grabbed her arm, and pulled her close. His hands, warm and a bit sweaty, went to her waist. "Hey. What's wrong, Akari?"

She blushed, and fidgeted, moving closer to him. "It's nothing, really. Just. Something about this match... it's bothering me. I can't help feeling..."

"What is it?" he murmured, pulling her into his arms. She blushed brightly, and looked around quickly. While she was distracted, he brushed a quick, airy kiss over her lips.

She looked him in the eye. "I just can't shake the feeling that Hikaru isn't himself."

He grunted, but he squeezed her comfortingly. "Give up, Akari. You'll never figure out what's going on inside that guy's head." Even though his words were harsh, his tone was placating and sympathetic.

She sighed, and put her arms around his neck, hugging him quickly. "I know. I just worry. Go on, Yuki. Don't be late because of me, ok?"

He looked her in the eye, making sure she was going to be fine, and then he nodded once. "Call me tonight, ok? I'll be home around eleven. Tell me all about the match, ok?"

"Got it," she said, relieved. Mitani would be able to make more sense of it, at least. And if he couldn't, at least he'd listen to her.

Since she really couldn't do anything at all for Hikaru, that was all she actually needed.





He leaned back, and looked up at the ceiling. The door to the traditional garden was opened, and he was reminded of his grandfather's house just then. It was a tactile sense, like the air was the same, and the floor felt the same. The rain pouring outside was the same.

But his grandfather was gone. And the ceiling didn't hold any wisdom that would make what Touya just said make more sense.

"See..." Hikaru closed his eyes. "The thing is. The thing is, you're insane." He sighed deeply.

"Shindou, you're the one who told me..." Touya implored, leaning forward.

"YES!" he exploded, surging forward. "I told you about Sai, and about how he was gone." He sighed, and put his face down in his hands. His hair was getting long. It was convenient to have a short curtain to hide behind. "He's gone, Touya. I'd love to help you... help your father..."

Touya grabbed Hikaru by the arms, and shook him. "Shindou, the monk said there was still a chance! It doesn't... it doesn't even matter if it doesn't work. Don't you understand? My father's soul... can't be at rest..."

He looked away, because it was painful to see Touya's eyes in such pain. He had wanted to pay his respects at Touya-sensei's funeral, but he didn't want to cause trouble for Touya. And now... this... "Touya, I understand... I do... but... they're both in the same world now! And." He bit his lip, and closed his eyes. "If there were a way for me to contact Sai, believe me, I would have already."

"Shindou..." Touya crumpled up. "I know it's crazy. And I know it's... hypocritical of me. I know... but I don't know what else to do! He can't find rest until he's had this. Please. Please, just... just try, for me, for him, for the both of them. If it doesn't work, then... maybe my father's soul will understand that he needs to move on to find what he's looking for. Shindou. Do you want my father's soul to wander the earth for a thousand years, like Sai?"

Hikaru stood up abruptly, pulling away from Touya. He went to stand in the doorway, and he watched the rain, he watched the garden choke with the falling water, the surface of the small pond indistinguishable from the sky falling above it. He breathed in the wet, clean air, and closed his eyes.

"I'll... try. On one condition. If I do this, you have to forgive me."

He could hear Touya breathing behind him. Considering. His body ached; it was the same sound he made when he was looking down at the goban, considering a move. "Yes. All right."

"I never lied to you, Touya," Hikaru added sadly. "Do you understand now?"

Maybe Touya nodded. Maybe he didn't. After a minute, he got to his feet. "Shindou. Thank you."

"Don't thank me," Hikaru muttered. "That crazy monk was just trying to sell you charms, you know."

Touya didn't say anything, and Hikaru watched the rain fall, rather than turn to see the expression on Touya's face.





"Shindou," Touya smiled brightly, taking Hikaru's down coat. "I wasn't expecting you. Did something happen?"

Hikaru rubbed his hands together, warming them up after the long walk from the station. "No, not really. I was just at the salon today, and you didn't show. That lady there said your father came home today, so I thought I'd just stop by, since I didn't have anything else to do."

"Ichikawa," Touya reminded him kindly. "And that was nice of you. I think."

Hikaru rolled his eyes dramatically, and leaned against the wall. "I heard your dad really kicked ass in Korea. Did he say anything about the matches?"

Touya's shoulders slumped just a little bit, and he turned to look at the small salon where his father must have been, concern bleeding from his gaze. "He... hasn't said much of anything, really. Ah. Though he did mention how pleased he was that you made Honinbou." Touya turned back to Hikaru, smiling like he did when they were in grade school.

Hikaru narrowed his eyes. "Yeah, well... no one will put much faith in that 'til next year. Everyone just assumes that Kuwabara-sensei was ready to retire. Is your father ok? There's nothing wrong with his health, is there?"

"Oh, no!" Touya assured Hikaru breezily. "No, I mean, mother might prefer it if he didn't travel quite so much, but... no, it's just..." He ran out of words, expressing the vague concern that he clearly had for his father with a halfhearted shrug.

"Hm," Hikaru sighed. "Touya. Is he. Is he looking... for Sai?"

Touya pressed his lips together, and his expression hardened. He didn't look at Hikaru as he replied. "Why don't you go in and greet him. I'm sure he'd be pleased to see you."

He nodded in response, but really, he didn't want so much to see Touya-sensei. Still, with heavy feet, he went to the door of the salon, and knocked softly, sliding it open. Touya-sensei sat in the middle of the room before a goban, like stone, his hands on his knees, and his eyes on the stones.

Hikaru felt his heart sink.

He entered the room, and slid the door shut behind him. He sat down next to Touya-sensei, leaving the spot for Touya-sensei's opponent free. "Touya-sensei. I hope your trip went well."

Touya-sensei did not look at him, but he raised his chin a bit, and took a deep breath. "Shindou-kun. Good work, becoming Honinbou."

Hearing that from Touya-sensei was nothing but embarrassing. Hikaru ducked his head down, and blushed. "Ah, well... I supposed I'll need to prepare now to defend the title. I doubt many will take me seriously, still, until I do."

"I've seen the kifu," Touya-sensei said absolutely. "Kuwabara-sensei did not just hand his title over."

Hikaru's body relaxed, deeply relieved to hear that. He'd fought for that title, and yet he was treated as if he'd been given a favor. "So, did you face any interesting opponents? Is this one of your matches in Korea?" He looked over the board, discerning the shape to determine the strength of Touya-sensei's invisible opponent.

Hikaru's throat constricted. He recognized the pattern. This was...

"...Your last match with Sai," Hikaru whispered hoarsely.

Touya-sensei's lips pursed slightly, and his eyes narrowed.

"Touya-sensei, did you... do you travel so you can find...?" Hikaru asked apprehensively, looking up at Touya-sensei.

He inclined his head a bit to the side. "Mm. Sai was not in Korea."

Hikaru's heart froze. He shut his eyes, and balled his hands into fists on his legs. "He's gone, sensei. Sai. He's." He couldn't make his voice work anymore. It hurt, just like that morning when he woke from dozing at the goban... the emptiness still gnawed at him.

"Mm," Touya-sensei replied, his posture deflating just a bit. "I know."

Hikaru jumped to his feet and ran out of the room. He hadn't heard Touya open the door and he didn't know how long he had been standing there, but it didn't matter, because he just needed to get away. It wasn't fair. And it was all Hikaru's fault, his stupidity, his arrogance...

He grabbed his coat, ignoring Touya calling after him, and he ran outside. The cold air was biting, and his cheeks burned from the freezing tears. He couldn't see where he was going but he didn't need to see well to just get away.

"Shindou!" Touya yelled, grabbing Hikaru's sleeve, spinning him around. Touya was out in the freezing night without a jacket at all. He was already shivering, and his breath came out in white vapors. Hikaru watched the puffs dissipate into the air. "Shindou, just... just stop. Shindou..."

"Touya..." he started, but his voice cracked.

"Shindou..." Touya sighed. "Don't you think it's about time you told me your secret?"

Hikaru hung his head down. "N-not now..."

"You've been saying that for years now!" Touya barked, gripping Hikaru's sleeve, digging his fingers in. "It's past time, really!"

"Touya..." Hikaru hiccupped, and fresh tears poured out, freezing over the previous ones. "Touya... you don't even have a jacket."

"Shindou..." Touya sighed, and Hikaru bent his head down, letting the tears freeze his eyelashes together. Touya stepped closer, providing Hikaru shelter, and he put his hands on Hikaru's head.





On the way out of the Go Institute, Hikaru ripped the charm off his neck, and threw it in the nearest trash bin. Touya noticed that, but he said nothing, and he didn't follow suit. They walked together, passing up several nearby locations, until Hikaru just turned into a bar. It looked dark, and quiet, and he'd never heard of it before, so he assumed no go players frequented it.

They went to the back, and got a booth. Touya ordered a sweet sake, cold, and Hikaru ordered a whiskey with water and ice. Touya teased him, something about becoming a businessman.

They didn't look at each other while they waited for the drinks.

Hikaru finished half of his before Touya's drink had been put down. He wasn't used to the whiskey, and it was bitter, and burned, but the pain was half of why he had ordered it. Touya took a deep breath, and offered a weak toast.

After about ten minutes, they ordered a second round, and Hikaru took more time with that whiskey.

"I'm grateful," Touya said quietly, and the attempt at conversation was shocking enough to Hikaru that he looked Touya in the eye fleetingly. Touya smiled, and sipped his sake. "I'm really grateful. I didn't know how I would feel if I had lost the title... but it's done now, and it's a relief. I feel like I can start over again now. Like I can reclaim it honestly next year."

"It's not a title that I really wanted," Hikaru said softly, and then he realized how bitter he sounded, so he tried to smile for Touya.

"This match is going to be historic," Touya laughed nervously. "That's a bit daunting. There will be lots of questions that we won't be able to answer."

"You should have thought about that before you asked me to do this," Hikaru whined. "I could have told that would happen! Sheesh. I've been through this before, you know."

"I know," Touya said somberly.

"You promised to forgive me," Hikaru reminded Touya warningly.

"I do," Touya said, and he took a long swig of his sake. "I... understand now. I. I couldn't have imagined, what it was like, being in the middle of a game, but not being in control, watching from there... it was... I'll never forget it. It was like being in the eye of a storm. Was it like that before, too? Was this what it was like when Sai..."

"Stop," Hikaru begged, and he put his face in his hands, covering his eyes. "Just. Stop. It. It wasn't enough." He took a deep breath, trying to swallow the lump in his throat.

"Sorry," Touya exhaled. He pushed his hand out, just grazing Hikaru's hand on the table. "Sorry. I'm sorry, Shindou." Hikaru nodded a little, but there wasn't much he could say. There wasn't anything he could say. "Th-thank you. I... I can't know what it was like for you. But my father is at peace now. Thank you."

There was silence for a few minutes then, and the ambient noise from the bar drifted over them. The news was on the television, and there was a small discussion going in the opposite corner about it. They couldn't hear the words, but the cadence of the conversation was like an arrhythmic melody.

"I hope you'll be able to forgive me for all these years of..." Touya said quietly, drifting off.

Hikaru took a deep breath, and then he bumped his hand against Touya's. "It's time for more than your father to find peace, I think," he said, and then he downed the rest of the whiskey. He motioned to the bar that they needed another round.

When the drinks came, he raised his glass for a proper toast. "Come on. Let's get drunk tonight."

Touya's cheeks pinked, and he smiled nervously. Hikaru could easily guess that he'd never been drunk before, but there were first times. Touya raised his glass and touched Hikaru's glass. "All right. Let's."








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