title: the Bride
fandom: Hikaru no Go
characters/pairings: Sai, Sai's mother, original characters
rating: G
warnings: none
summary: Sai is introduced.
notes: intended for blind go round 009, but didn't make it.

He was not allowed to fidget, so he didn't. But, that was really hard. He felt really strange in these fancy clothes, too. These were the kind of clothes his older brothers wore most often. He didn't wear things like this. He wasn't old enough yet.

He was sure he wasn't old enough yet.

The nanny was brushing his hair, so he was sitting very still. Outside, he could hear the cicadas. He wanted to go and see them... One of his cousins said he ate a cicada once. Sai didn't believe him.

A door slid open, and then his mother strode inside. Sai sat up very, very straight, even though he'd already been sitting up pretty straight. "Good morrow, Honored Mother."

She gazed down at him. She seemed to be immensely tall, like taller than the trees in the courtyard. She was wearing one of her finest robes, and her lips had been painted. She smiled at him, and he felt all warm inside. "Sai-san. Is he ready?"

Nanny pulled her hands away and smiled brightly. "I'm sure everyone will be very pleased, ma'am." She bowed, and backed away on her knees.

Sai looked up at his mother, confused. "What is happening today?"

She held her hand out to him, so he stood up. "Come along, my son. Today, we are going to serve tea."

Sai found that to be very confusing, but he didn't say anything in reply. He walked with his mother, to the chamber where proper tea service was held. He'd never actually been in the room before. He'd looked inside of it, but he'd been afraid of making a mess. Right now, he was afraid of making a mess, too.

Servants slid open the door for them, and they went inside. There were servants here, too, and a low table with a rather beautiful flower arrangement on it, and a tea service.

"Sit just there," his mother instructed him, so he sat, just there, and he folded his hands in his lap, and made sure his feet were tucked properly behind him, and he straightened his back as straight as it would go. His mother smiled at him kindly, and sat down, too, next to him.

He wanted to ask his mother why they were in the very special room for tea, but before he could start, the door on the opposite side opened, and a woman and a girl came in, their eyes down. The woman looked like she was his mother's age, or older, and she wasn't nearly as pretty. The girl was wearing a very fancy kimono, just like he was wearing fancy clothes, and her hair was done up like she was older, just like his was, and she wasn't looking at anything except the floor.

That was kind of boring.

His mother greeted the other woman, and she greeted her mother, and they said lots of stuff that Sai knew adults said only because it was polite, and the woman mentioned flower near some lake or something, and she might have been reciting a poem, and then they started to have tea, which involved lots more being polite and saying stuff that was only polite, and doing things that really didn't have anything to do with tea. Sai was terrified he'd make a mistake or be rude or spill something, so he stayed perfectly, perfectly still, and didn't say anything at all. Just like the girl did, really, except he didn't stare at his hands. Not all the time, anyway.

Finally, it was over, and he knew it was over because the woman bowed down very low, and she said something weird. She said, "May this be the beginning of a long and happy life." That wasn't the normal kind of polite stuff adults said, but Sai bowed back, because he knew that was what he was supposed to do.

They left first, and his mother turned to look at him, beaming. "You did very well, my son."

"Thank you Honored Mother," he replied, feeling stiff from being so still all that time. "Honored Mother... may I ask..." But he was afraid to ask in case he wasn't allowed.

His mother, however, was always very clever, and she knew what he wanted to ask. "This was part of an arrangement, my son. That girl, Chiyo, she is going to be your bride."

Sai's eyes widened a bit, and he nodded. Bride? He understood what that meant, but...

"Do not fret, my son, you need not worry on that for a while to come. Now. How shall we entertain ourselves today?" she asked, her eyes dancing mirthfully.

Excited, Sai leaned closer to his mother. Completely forgetting everything about the tea, Sai reached out to touch the hem of his mother's robe. "Will you show me more of that game we played the other day, Honored Mother?"

"You truly liked that, did you not?" she laughed. "Well, if that is what my son wishes, then so be it!"

It had been worth the sitting and being still, then!

The kifu was old, and hard to read, especially since Sai was only just learning how to read them. He wanted to, though, so it didn't matter how long it took. He heard the door sliding open, and the slight cough, but he didn't look up until his valet elbowed him. And then, he quickly scrambled to bow down. He hoped his hair wasn't too messy...

"Honored Mother," he greeted her. "I apologize for my appearance..."

She cut him off, though, kneeling before him. "Sai-san. Do you remember, about four years ago, when you were but five, and we had tea together?"

Sai furrowed his brow, trying to think as hard as he could. Tea? When he was five? He was sure he had tea many times with his mother then, but... wait, something seemed familiar about that. Somehow, he could see his mother's elegant fingers showing him how to lift a stone and place it on the board...

"I introduced you to a young girl named Chiyo, and shared tea with her mother?" she prompted him.

"Ah!" Sai beamed, relieved that he finally remembered. He disliked being inadequate before his mother. "Yes. The... the bride," he said, smiling.

His mother, though, just nodded sadly. "Chiyo has succumbed to the illness that is plaguing the outlying villages. Her mother has sent word of apology. She is not expected to live to the next full moon."

Sai nodded slowly. He was aware, because his brothers had mentioned it, that there was an illness. It hadn't occurred to him that children were dying. That bride girl, she was his age, wasn't she, or a bit younger, even? He wasn't sure. He hadn't really thought of her in all that time. "That's sad. Should I... do something for her?" he looked up at his mother curiously.

Her eyes widened just a bit, and she smiled, just a bit, at him. She put her hands on his cheeks, and leaned forward to kiss the top of his head. Sai flushed. That was rather embarrassing! But... he didn't dislike it... "My sweet child. No, I'm afraid there's nothing to be done. I'm sorry that the bride we found for you was... inadequate."

Sai frowned a bit. Chiyo would have wanted to live, he was sure. It wasn't her fault. But, he wouldn't contradict his mother. "That's all right, Honored Mother. We didn't even know if she could play go, anyway," he reminded her cheerfully. It wasn't as much a loss to him as it was to Chiyo's mother, then.

Sai's mother laughed, and that made him feel bright and sunny inside.

He leaned back a bit, having completed the demonstration of counting area for the court ladies. "Does everyone understand?" he asked kindly. These things, after all, were very important. No one could hope to play successfully without knowing how to count.

The ladies around him immediately assured him of their complete comprehension. He had some small niggling doubts, since they often assured him of their complete comprehension, and yet he found himself explaining the same concept the next lesson. Still, it would be rude to question them.

"Sensei, will you be able to tarry with us? The... the cherry blossoms are now in full bloom, and there is no better view than right here," one lady boldly asked.

He glanced over at the trees in the courtyard. Coming over, he hadn't even noticed they were in bloom. "I have no other lessons today," he conceded.

He realized, of course, this was considered a great victory for them. The goban had been cleaned up and set aside, so Sai found himself in the center of a small gaggle of happy ladies.

"Sensei, forgive me for being quite so bold, but... I was surprised to learn that you were not betrothed." That was clearly considered to be a very bold statement, but Sai didn't really understand how he was expected to respond. Was he to respond to her surprise or to the stimulus of her astonishment?

"Such things are not without precedent, are they not?" he asked, keeping his tone light and amused. He wished he had started them on another lesson, if they were going to enjoy the blossoms together.

"There is a certain lady," Lady Kaeda said primly, her fan gently wafting in front of her in a bemused fashion, "who claimed that her cousin was to be your bride. This unfortunate cousin, however, met with a sad fate. Could there be any truth to that?" she asked, pointedly.

Sai looked away, feeling troubled. He felt like he wandered blithely into a quagmire. This was the realm of gossip and court politics, which always left him feeling uneasy. This wasn't his intention in delaying with them...

Also, something like a feather of a memory was tickling at him, too insubstantial for him to get a hold of, but too annoying for him to go of, all the same.

"Mm. Well." He narrowed his eyes, watching as a small plume of blushed alabaster petals shimmered as they were rent from the branches of their former homes. Thinking on the subject of brides...

He remembered his mother's long and elegant fingers, dipping into the goke to select one single white stone.

He smiled, ever so slightly. "It is probably most accurate to say that my mother arranged my life in love when she first taught me to hold a stone." He gave them a slight wink, and that earned him the expected smattering of giggles.

The truth was, it seemed, humorous.