title: Ritualized
fandom: Hikaru no Go
characters/pairings: Shirakawa Michio
rating: G
warnings: none
summary: Shirakawa's life is comfortable...
notes: in May of 2011, i promised llamabitchyo fic for guessing my blind go entry correctly. it's to my utter shame and disgrace that i'm only just finishing it now. i had another idea based on her prompt, and it just kept expanding and getting more complex in my head... and i could never manage to write a damned word. so i finally decided, fuckit, if my brain isn't going to be capable of actually getting out anything for THAT idea, let's try something else. this is a ridiculously poor offering after making her wait so damned long, and i'm totally ashamed of my lack of 'carry-through'-ed-ness, but at least, after over a year and a half, it's done. meep.

At five am every morning, Shirakawa Michio wakes up, a remnant from his youth growing up in the country. He spends the first hour of his morning meditating, something he learned from a roommate of his in college whose family ran a temple. He runs from six to seven, taking a slightly different path everyday. He still marvels a little and is quite in love with Tokyo, so sight-seeing is still a big part of every run.

Every run, though, ends by going past the flower shop a few blocks away from his apartment. There, just before seven, the flower shop girl is opening her awning and setting out her flowers. He nods to her as he passes by, slowing down enough to see her smile and smell the fresh flowers.

He gets home, he showers, he eats breakfast. He used to read the newspaper. Now, he scans news links on his laptop. By eight-thirty, his dishes are rinsed off and sitting on the rack on the counter to dry, and he is basically informed about the major events of the day.

He spends the next few hours in study. He looks over kifu of significant games that have recently been played, breaking each down to discern the critical hands and any potential errors. He looks for ways to improve his own game by finding clues and signs of an opponent's weakness. He looks for inspiring hands that might change the way he thinks. He also looks over kifu from the past, either the far-flung past, such as a kifu from Shuusaku, or something more recent, like Morishita-sensei's Ryusei title match against Touya-sensei ten years ago. Shirakawa is especially weak at speed go, so he finds this match endlessly interesting.

At about ten thirty or eleven, he sets aside the kifu and the goban, and he gets ready for the day. He wears a suit everyday because he is a teacher. Even if it is at a community center, he still considers his appearance to be significant to his students. Once fully attired, his tie perfectly straight and his curly hair smoothed down as much as he can, he goes out. Many days, he meets a friend for lunch, though he just as often eats alone. He likes to have a light, healthy lunch, but he'll accommodate whomever he is with, if necessary. He arrives at the community center in the early afternoon, and checks in with the main office. He usually has about twenty minutes or more worth of work, answering messages or doing other administrative activities. Then, he sets up his hall for class.

He teaches class every day except game days, even on Sundays. On busy days, he has three classes a day, but on weekends, he only has one. Some people sign up for class and come regularly at set times, and some people come haphazardly, even at different times on different days. His early afternoon class is entirely made up of elderly folk, some who are just learning to pass the time, and some who have been playing most of their lives, and come for fun. The class that is scheduled for mid-afternoon has a slightly larger mix of students. Rarely, someone young might join, someone who is perhaps interested in their school's go club, or who has been introduced to the game by his or her family. Shirakawa used to think that he was a better-than-average judge of which of these young people would continue on in go and would need to be introduced to the insei program, and which were just going to learn to enjoy the game for fun. Shindou-kun blindsided him, though. That kid seemed mostly average to Shirakawa while he was in class, but suddenly shot up meteorically in the go world.

No one is perfect, though. There's no reason for Shirakawa to take it to heart.

He also has late classes, which have a lot more business people who wanted to learn go because either their boss or a client had taken an interest. It is a smaller, more focused group, but it is tiring. Those classes are almost entirely men, and Shirakawa has to work extra hard any time there is a woman in class, as the men would often be less than welcoming. They don't really enjoy go, and they are too preoccupied to appreciate the game.

Some nights, he has private tutoring sessions, so he gets his dinner on the go. Some nights, he has study group. He often meets another member of the group for dinner before going over. Some nights, he goes to Morishita-sensei's house for dinner. Morishita-sensei's wife is an excellent cook, and their home is very inviting. Even still, Shirakawa feels a bit embarrassed every time he stays over for dinner. He feels like an intruder, since he is still a bit awe-struck by his teacher.

Any night that he doesn't have work or a prior engagement, he buys ingredients on his way home and cooks dinner. Living in the city, he misses the fresh vegetables of his home growing up, so he tries to cook for himself and use as many tasty, fresh items that he can.

He watches television at night, or reads, or plays games online. Internet go is fun because you never know, really, who your opponent will be. He is in bed most nights before midnight, but he does occasionally go out for drinks with his friends. He doesn't hold his alcohol well, though, so he will carefully nurse his drink so no one notices.

On game days, he has no classes to teach, and he likes to arrive at the game location early. Socializing with fellow go pros is fun, after all. Plus, he likes to pick up a copy of Weekly Go, and check out standings and news. He's managed to become a 7-dan, but it might be a while before he gets to 8-dan. Not everyone does. He neither lacks nor suffers from an abundance of confidence. He is extremely pragmatic about his skills. He is probably a better teacher than he is a player, but he is still good enough to be challenging to anyone he plays, even those ranked above him. He doesn't think he'll ever have a title, but he'd never pass up the opportunity to try for one.

On Sundays, after class, he walks home so as to go past the florist shop, even though it is closed. The girl was once outside, washing down some buckets in the alley next to her shop, and once, she was on the balcony above the shop. She must live there, so there is a chance, at least, of seeing her on the weekend. He calls home on Sunday afternoons. Sometimes, plans would arise that would prevent this; in which case, he will just call home later. The latest he's ever called home on Sunday was ten o'clock. His mother had been quite put out. Their conversations are mostly the same. He assures his mother that he was doing well in the 'big city,' and that he is still able to support himself with go. She tells him everything that is going on at home, which, depending on the level of gossip, could take a few minutes or even up to an hour. At the end of the conversation, she asks him if he is getting married yet. She nags him about starting a family, and maybe even coming home once in a while. She lists off all the eligible young woman in town, and slyly suggests that he take back a 'souvenir' sometime when he visits.

It's normal.

He is comfortable with his life.


When he was thirty-seven, his mother called him on a Tuesday to inform him that his father died. Her voice was soft and sad as she told him about his father's illness. He'd been updated every Sunday, of course, but ever since he left home for Tokyo when he went to college, he'd been hearing about his father's poor health. He made arrangements at the community center and with the Go Institute, and he went home for his father's funeral. He wore a black suit that he'd bought when Morishita-sensei's uncle had died, and sat in between his brother and his sister. His sister was holding her youngest baby in her arms, and the child was restless and fussy. Shirakawa distracted himself by gently touching the baby's head as his sister dejectedly rocked him. Everything blurred together. It seemed like everyone he'd ever known before he left home paraded past them, but he couldn't really distinguish.

Afterward, he walked down the long, narrow path behind their house. This had been the way to school when he was young. He met up with other neighbor children on this dirt road and they played and laughed on their way to school. Leaning against the tree on the crest of the hill was his friend from down the valley who used to always wait for him there on their way to school. Shirakawa smiled, as if he'd been expecting him. They chatted while the sky got darker and the moon got brighter. The fields became perfect little dark squares.

He avoided looking his friend in the eye. They'd known each other... too long. And Shirakawa hadn't come home for his friend's wedding. It had been true that he'd had an important league match, but he could have made his friend's wedding a priority. Shirakawa put his hand on the tree, near where his friend was leaning. Growing up in the countryside, there just wasn't that much to do. Shirakawa kissed a girl for the first time when he was nine. He considered her his girlfriend for two years, and then both of them just got tired of that little game. Among the kids of about the same age in town, there were always games to play.

He and his friend were fourteen when, while goofing around in the tall grass near the riverbank, they'd kissed, hot, wet kisses which urged their hands to explore. His friend opened his pants first, but Shirakawa wasn't a slacker. They'd jerked each other off, gasping and grunting, trying to keep their voices in check. They never talked about it, but it was something that just happened from time to time. They both had girlfriends. It was different with his friend than with a girl. Shirakawa was seventeen before he slipped his hand inside his girlfriend's bra. He was always awkward and shy around girls, never sure he was doing their right thing. With his friend... it was easier. More comfortable, perhaps.

But. He'd gone to college in Toyko, and his friend went to the local agricultural college. They didn't send each other letters except for the traditional New Year's card. Shirakawa and he had never gone beyond jerking each other off. He'd never felt too inclined to get on his back and spread his legs, and he didn't know how his friend felt about it, but those hot, wet kisses had been seared into his mind. He'd only been that passionate with one of his girlfriends in his whole life, but she and he just weren't on the same path in life. After college, she went to volunteer with a medical group to rural areas around the world, and he, well. He'd become a go pro.

He had let the conversation with his friend lapse, staring at the moon. His friend tried to probe into his personal life, but Shirakawa didn't want to talk about it. He already knew his friend had three children. He was running his family's farm now. He was the eldest son, after all. His life was different from Shirakawa's.

Shirakawa didn't want to talk about it.

They parted amicably, Shirakawa finally looking his friend in the eye. He kept walking away, though. He spent the next day with his mother. He let her dote upon him as he took care of her. He had to leave the next day. He suggested that his mother come to Tokyo to visit before the weather got cold. She just smiled at him and laughed about how she'd never been more than two train stops away.

He left early the next morning. He had to transfer trains twice. He had too much time to think, even though he'd brought along a magnetic goban and some reading material. He just couldn't distract himself.

He never really had the chance to get to know his father well, but that was mostly because he'd never really tried. He was the second son, and he'd always felt like his father considered him an unnecessary spare. He was mature enough, though, to know that was his own insecurity. He felt numb, but he just couldn't make sense of his father's death, and his thoughts infuriatingly kept drifting back to standing under the moon by the tree with his friend.

He kept thinking too much.

It took him a few days to get back to his routine once he came back home. Morishita-sensei insisted on his coming over for dinner as soon as he arrived in Tokyo, and again the next night. Shirakawa was uncomfortable with how caring and open Morishita-sensei's family was, and he didn't know what to say when they left Shirakawa alone with Morishita-sensei in his study, but Morishita-sensei didn't seem to expect him to say anything. That Sunday, he called home as usual, and talked to his mother. There were long gaps in the conversation but neither one of them felt like hanging up. He promised his mother he would come home again soon as they said goodbye. They had been on the phone for nearly three hours.

That Monday, he got up again at five am. Instead of meditating, he found the photo album he'd been thinking about all week, and looked over all his pictures from his childhood. He didn't get out to run until nearly six thirty, so he cut his run short so he could still pass the flower shop at just before seven. He nodded at the girl as he passed.

And then he stopped.

He jogged back slowly, and smiled nervously. She blushed, and smiled back at him, turning her eyes away.

He said hello.