He was running late, so as soon as he entered the pub, he looked around, but the first person he saw wasn't Waya or Isumi. Just like, well, the old days, his eyes seemed to be drawn straight to Shigemi.
He had an odd sense of déjà vu as he approached their table. Isumi and Waya were sitting together, with Shigemi opposite, just like on Shigemi's birthday. So, Hikaru would have to sit next to him, just like then. Of course, that night, he had his hand on Shigemi's ass the whole night. And afterward...
"Sorry I'm late," he apologized as he sat down. Shigemi grinned up at him, and flushed a bit, too. Damn, he hated all this awkwardness...
"Hey. I tagged along," Shigemi explained. "I did warn Waya-sensei that he couldn't ditch me for much longer, after all..." He grinned at Waya.
"We're buying this kid all the drinks he can handle," Waya declared, beaming at Shigemi. "Did you hear? He only lost to that damned Touya by two moku! Isn't that amazing?!"
"I heard all about it," Hikaru nodded. He helped himself to the bottle of sake in the middle of the table. "I saw the game, even. Damned close. We'll go over it in detail soon, too. You nearly won."
Shigemi looked like he might burst from pride, and maybe something else. "Yeah, well... a loss is a loss, but I think I can learn a lot from that game."
"You can sometimes learn more from a loss than a win," Hikaru winked. It was a damned platitude again, but for someone as competitive and driven as Shigemi was, it was good for him to hear it, none the less. "So, what were your impressions?"
"Of Touya-meijin?" Shigemi laughed, and took a drink. "Well. I hate to admit it, but he was pretty damned impressive. There was an incredible pressure throughout the whole game. When it was finally over, I felt like collapsing!"
Hikaru could see it, too, but he also knew Shigemi well enough to know that the young man kept himself rock-steady until he was out of Touya's sight.
"Eh, what's so great about that damned Touya?" Waya grumbled, to Isumi's amusement. "You're used to playing this jerk," he motioned to Hikaru, "and he's been a title-holder for longer than that Touya!"
"Yeah, but playing Sensei is different somehow," Shigemi smiled shyly at Hikaru. "I guess I'm just used to it?"
"Well, and we've never played a regulation match, either," Hikaru took a drink. Ah, he remembered... "The first time I played Morishita-sensei in a real match, I was sweating bullets the whole damned time. It's just different." There were go pros, and there go pros, after all. Hikaru knew what Shigemi meant by pressure.
No match he'd ever seen or participated in could match the time he let Sai play Touya Kouyo, after all.
"That's true," Isumi nodded. "And, well, it can be intense, playing someone like Touya, after all. All the more reason you should be proud of having done so well."
"What did Touya-meijin say about it?" Shigemi asked, acting and sounding casual. But his body language was totally different.
Hikaru sort of hated all of this damned mess. "Mm. Let me think. He called you a brat," he laughed and winked, letting Shigemi know that Touya had told him enough about it.
"Someday, this brat is going to knock that stuck-up prince off his pedestal!" Waya declared happily.
"So, you've given up on doing that yourself?" Isumi asked Waya innocently.
"Sh-shut up!" Waya turned red.
The waitress came by, and they ordered more drinks, and some food. Hikaru wanted to drink a lot, suddenly. He also really wanted to touch Shigemi. He had the feeling that Shigemi wanted to touch him, too, so he was holding his body in check, making sure they didn't get close enough to accidentally brush against each other.
If they got drunk enough, would they make a mistake?
"I feel old," Isumi laughed a bit as he took another drink. "I keep thinking about the future of Japanese go. Is that what winning a title does to you?" he jokingly asked Hikaru.
"Maybe!" Hikaru shrugged. "It's something like what Kuwabara-sensei used to always say, huh. You know... um, you can't play go alone. Well, he used to say it better, but... Part of perfecting our own game is how we pass it on to the next generation. Though... we've still got a ways to go ourselves. I'm not ready to hand anything over, even if it is to this brat."
"Hey, hey, stop calling me a brat," Shigemi complained.
"I've always called you a brat," Hikaru replied logically. "A brat is a brat."
"Well, I may be a brat, but I'm not some child," Shigemi laughed. "I'm working hard to stand toe to toe with you giants, after all!"
"Don't try too hard. You're just making us all feel old," Isumi sighed.
"I think Waya's the one making you feel old," Hikaru suggested. "Give the old man a night off," he said to Waya. "He's tired."
"Nah, he only pretends to be tired. It's a game he plays. He's probably just trying to lull us into a false sense of confidence. He's been anxious to play the brat himself since we saw the game he played with that damned Touya," Waya grinned.
"Hey! I thought I already said, stop calling me a brat!" Shigemi pouted.
"A brat is a brat," Hikaru repeated. "It really is quite a milestone, though. When you win your first title, those damned old fogies will all say, Oh, yeah, remember his first match with Touya-sama? He nearly won that. Oh, we knew back then he'd be an amazing player," Hikaru said in his best old fogey voice.
Waya snorted. "Touya-sama my ass. Hey, you think Shigemi can go far in the Meijin league this year? At least a few rounds, right? Wouldn't it be awesome if he got to the quarterfinals?"
"Ah, you think so?" Shigemi bounced a little in his seat, he was so excited at the thought.
It was cute.
"Sure, it wouldn't be unheard of," Isumi agreed. "The more matches you have against better players, the better off you'll be."
"Sensei? What do you think?" Shigemi turned to him.
Damn it all. Hikaru wanted to make his brain stop thinking things. "I'd be disappointed if you didn't, you know. But. I don't plan on losing to you yet, either."
Shigemi's smile was just too damned bright and beautiful. And Waya was looking at him oddly. He suspected Waya wanted him to hook up with Shigemi again. He wasn't nearly drunk enough yet.
"So, um, was that all Touya-meijin said about the match? That I was a brat?" Shigemi blushed a bit, hiding behind his glass.
Hikaru smirked. "No, that wasn't all he said. He was impressed. But then, you had to know that, right? Did you see it? That you two have similar ways of playing?"
"Ah," Shigemi drew back a bit. "Mm. Well. Yeah, I suppose. Actually, I kept thinking back to Kaoi's Go Club. Yun-sensei would always talk about how Touya-meijin was when he was our age, and all that. I always resented it at the time, since, well, he was barely in the club for any time at all, and it's not like he won the school any impressive tournaments and stuff. But I thought back to a lot of the stuff Yun-sensei said then. I guess I had the sense... like, well, not exactly, but sort of like... This is like playing against myself from 15 years in the future. Which, really, was a bad way to think, all things considered, because... who would want to play against their future self?" Shigemi laughed self-depreciatingly.
"But you nearly won!" Waya declared happily. "Oh, man. Fujii-meijin. When you win, you have to make that damned Touya call you that!"
"I don't think I could do that, Waya-sensei," Shigemi laughed. "What do you have against him, anyway? Haven't you all been colleagues for a long time?"
"We have, but do you think he thinks of us like that!" Waya huffed excitedly. "He can't even be bothered to remember my name!"
"He knows your name," Hikaru and Isumi said in chorus. They looked at each other and grinned.
"He didn't know your name back when you were an insei," Isumi went on wearily. "It's time to let it go."
"Well, it's not like that's the only thing," Waya said sharply, looking at Hikaru.
It was like an ice spear down his spine. Hikaru felt very alert and nervous all at once. It wasn't like he wasn't aware that Waya's current disgust with Touya was based on the way he perceived Touya had treated Hikaru, but it wasn't something they'd ever directly talked about, either. It was just... embarrassing.
Even as uncomfortable as Hikaru felt at the suggestion of Waya's defensiveness of him, he still felt something warm inside his belly. Waya was a better friend than he deserved.
"Mm. Despite myself, I ended up liking him," Shigemi declared glumly.
Shocked, Hikaru, Waya, and Isumi just stared at Shigemi for a moment, and then Hikaru burst out laughing.
"What?" Shigemi flushed.
"No, no, it's just... Touya said pretty much the same exact thing. Actually, he said... I ended up liking the damned brat. Something like that." Hikaru smiled brightly at Shigemi. He and Touya were nothing alike, and yet, under different circumstances...
Though, Hikaru thought it was better that someone who played go like Touya would learn from someone like Hikaru. It was better to have that different perspective, wasn't it?
"Oh, great, you three can get together and braid each other's hair," Waya suggested darkly.
"We can't," Hikaru sighed. "Shigemi cut his hair," he mourned.
That, at least, got everyone laughing, though Shigemi was looking at him shyly at the same time.
He was starting to think of this place as home. He realized that as he toed off his shoes and slipped inside. He realized, because he could tell that Touya-san was asleep, and Touya was awake and in the kitchen, just by the shadows in the hall. It made sense, really, after a few months going on like this. Most of his clothes were here now, and he probably only spent one night a week at his apartment. In fact, Touya's nagging about why he kept his apartment was pretty much the only reason he did anymore, because it didn't even make sense to him. He was paying for an apartment and a study space, and he spent more time in his study space than in his apartment.
He went to the kitchen, but pulled up to stand in the doorway. Touya was at the sink, which was always somewhat mysterious to Hikaru. When they were younger and sharing an apartment, Touya had always been meticulous and tidy, but whenever he was at home, it was like Touya shifted back into childhood. He looked as out of place at the sink, doing chores, as he would at a boy band concert. He tried to picture that, Touya at a boy band concert. It was an amusing thought.
"You seem to be in a good mood," Touya commented.
"You don't," Hikaru responded with a grin.
Touya glared at him from over his shoulder. "I figured that you wouldn't be coming home. It's so late, after all." There was a slight taunt to his voice. He was being challenging.
It was late, but not too late to return the challenge. "Well, it's true, it's late. But, amazingly, cabs were still running and all. You know, as long as you're willing to pay." He sauntered over to the sink. The kitchen was kind of pretty, with just the light over the sink on like it was. Oddly, or perhaps perversely, Hikaru found Touya's grumpy face to be rather attractive, too. That was the problem with starting a relationship based on rivalry. Weird things could be a turn-on.
"You've been drinking," Touya sulked.
"I have had a few drinks," Hikaru agreed. There was nothing wrong with that, but he wondered just what Touya thought was wrong with that. Didn't he ever go out for drinks with Ashiwara or something?
"I suppose you've been out with your friend who hates me and your ex-lover," Touya spat out vengefully.
Hikaru would laugh, because he was so cute, but Touya might actually hit him in the face if he did. "I went out with some people from my study group after our session. That would include Waya and Shigemi, but they weren't the only ones there. It was a pretty exciting session."
"Fujii-kun's been eliminated from the Meijin tournament," Touya declared, looking Hikaru in the eye.
He was being childish. Hikaru wanted to tuck his hair behind his ear or something. He had a feeling Touya might try to bite his fingers if he did. "Yes, well, I doubt he expected to challenge you for a title in his very first year in the league. He did well to go as far as he did, though, and losing to Yashiro is hardly anything to be ashamed of. He seems to have come back from Korea with a whole new toolbox. If I beat Ogata next week, I'm not sure I'll be able to beat Yashiro after that. At least this year, no one will be whining about how I lost so early in the Meijin league but held onto my Honinbou title," Hikaru chuckled a bit.
Touya wasn't going to be so easily put off. "If you're going to spend all night with him, you should just go to your home. It's late and you stink."
This time, Hikaru couldn't help but laugh a bit. Nor could he keep his hand from brushing against Touya's ear. "Jealousy doesn't suit you well. Next time, you should just come with me. Isumi met Waya at the pub," he helpfully added.
Touya batted his hand away and turned. "Whatever. I'm going to bed."
It took a minute for Touya to realize that Hikaru was following him. Hikaru had to catch Touya's door to keep him from slamming it in his face, but Touya didn't fight back as Hikaru slipped inside.
"You spend all night getting turned on by your sexy ex, and so you've come to bother me?" Touya sneered.
Hikaru just shrugged. "I just think you're being awfully cute."
"Cute?" Touya stared at him in disbelief. "Do you think that's funny?"
"Not really," Hikaru casually commented. "You don't think you can be cute?"
"Just go away," Touya sighed, sitting down heavily on his bed. "I don't want to play this game with you tonight."
"What game is that?" Hikaru asked, narrowing his eyes. He'd been maintaining his good mood, but he had the feeling that Touya was going to say something that would set him off. Damn it, it didn't used to be this hard...
"I don't know," Touya shook his head, unable to meet Hikaru's gaze. "I don't know what the game is, and I don't know what the rules are. I can accept that everything must be my fault, but I'm getting tired of this. I don't know what you're thinking anymore. Anytime I think I do, it's probably something I don't want to think about."
"Oh?" Hikaru prodded. There was a great distance between them, like a gulf of tatami. Touya was clutching the edge of his bed and Hikaru had his fists in his pockets. He felt all too aware of everything around them, and every gesture of Touya's. Even of his hair, which was getting shaggy and slightly unkempt looking. He both wanted to touch Touya and slap him. Everything felt charged, like it could all go one way or another, but there couldn't be any middle ground.
It was a tiny bit exciting.
Touya glanced at him, and then furrowed his brow, glaring at his feet. "If you didn't want to leave that brat, then you shouldn't have. If you don't want to be with me, then you shouldn't be. I don't really know why you have to make it all so damned complicated."
"I'm making it complicated!?" Hikaru burst out, laughing. He felt like he should walk away, like he might say or do something cruel. And really, hadn't they already done this round before? Wasn't it time for something new? "You just want to feel persecuted. Poor Touya, no one understands him or loves him. How sad. I'd like to say that it's time that you started to make some choices for yourself, but then again, maybe you have. Maybe all along, you have been doing just exactly what you want."
"You really think that," Touya replied flatly. "Everything is exactly the way I want it to be? I have a child who will never know her mother, and the only thing I'll be able to tell her is that her mother hated me too much to keep living, and I have a psuedolover who isn't much fonder of me than my dead wife."
Touya was damned good at using his guilt as a weapon. "I really don't want to have to think about your crazy wife, Touya," Hikaru replied coldly.
"Well, I don't want to think about your younger and sexier lover, either!" Touya burst out. Suddenly, he looked like he might start crying. "But you don't give me a choice! It's always there, between us, and you'd rather hang onto your blame than onto me! You always say you've made your choice, but you haven't even tried to touch me! So what am I supposed to think? You should just go back to him. Go back to Fujii-kun. He'll take you back, I'm sure. It hasn't been that long. Go back to him and be happy," Touya spat out, turning his face to hide his expression.
Hikaru felt like he'd been slapped with a bucket of cold water.
After a moment, he stepped closer, bridging the gap between them. "You're... right."
Touya started, looking up at Hikaru. His watery eyes were wide with shock. "Wh... What?"
Hikaru knelt down and pushed Touya's knees apart, slipping in between his legs.
"Wait... what are you...?" Touya brushed his hands over his cheeks.
He really was cute. "You're right. I've been punishing you. I've been punishing you, and blaming you... I never wanted to hurt Shigemi, and I never wanted to break up with you in the first place. I thought I deserved some satisfaction or something, but you know what? You've been punished enough." He reached up and touched Touya's cheek gently. "If I want to change how things are, I should just change it myself." He pulled open the button on Touya's pants, and unzipped him.
"Wa... Wait, wait, Hikaru, stop," Touya stammered, pushing at Hikaru's shoulders weakly.
Of course Touya was confused, but Hikaru wasn't going to stop. Naturally, Touya was still wearing briefs. Hikaru slipped his hand inside and found Touya's penis. Damn, it had been... way too long. He freed Touya's penis, and just ran his fingers over it, rubbing his thumb along the underside. He needed a moment to get reacquainted. "I don't think either one of us needs any more punishment. Akira."
Touya's eyes widened, and then Hikaru dipped down to swipe his tongue over the head of Touya's cock. Touya's whole body shook. Hikaru suddenly became consumed with need, but he had to take this slow. He kissed and licked his way down to the base of Touya's cock. He wanted to swallow this whole. He wanted to make Touya whimper and cry.
"Hi... Hikaru... s... stop, wait... I..." Touya's voice was ragged, and tears were streaming down his face. He looked beautiful.
"Why do you want me to stop? Id~iot," Hikaru teased.
Touya grabbed chunks of Hikaru's hair, fisting his hands tightly. "Wa... Wait... It's... it's been so long... I can't... I can't hold out..."
Hikaru felt his heart speed up. He leaned up and kissed Touya, hard enough to push him back down on the bed. He pushed his hands up Touya's shirt. "Akira. Don't hold back. I'm pretty sure you've got it in you to come more than once," he promised, and then he moved back down to take Touya's cock in his mouth. He pulled Touya's pants down a bit, enough, just so he get his hands into Touya's underwear, so he could work Touya from the front and back.
When Touya came, it hit the back of his throat hard enough to make him choke for a minute. It didn't even matter. He licked Touya clean, and then set to work to get Touya undressed.
"Wait. Hikaru. Wait..." Touya had his arm over his face, and his voice was breathless and needy. There was no way in hell Hikaru was waiting. He pushed Touya's arm away and kissed him, demanding and hard. When he broke off the kiss, Touya looked him right in the eye. "You just can't resist the unpredictable move, can you?"
That was damned funny. "Well, keeping you guessing is fun." He started to undo Touya's buttons.
"Uhn. I was going to ask you if you sure about all this, but who the hell cares," Touya muttered. He lifted his leg and pushed against Hikaru's shoulder until he could flip them, and then he shoved his hand in Hikaru's pants.
"Ca-careful, now, that's delicate," Hikaru teased. "Have you even been playing with your own?" He put his hands on Touya's face, trying to pull him closer.
"Shut up," Touya muttered, letting Hikaru kiss him. "We should turn off the light."
"Why bother?" Hikaru wanted to see. He got Touya's shirt pulled back, at least.
Touya was working hard on his pants, too. See, they remembered how to do this. "Have you been working out or something?" Touya asked, sounding annoyed. "I don't remember you being so... well defined."
"Huh?" Hikaru got Touya's pants down. That was good. "I dunno. You've got some cute pudge here." He squeezed Touya's stomach. And then flipped them over again. "You do have some lube, right?"
Touya groaned a bit, and turned his face. His cheeks were so pink. Pretty. "Yeah. Yeah, it's, uh, in the drawer." Touya squirmed a bit, but Hikaru had better leverage now. And a better view. He had been right, after all. Touya was already getting hard again. "What the hell, pudge? Just..." Touya was torn between being annoyed and being aroused.
It was pretty much how Hikaru liked him best.
Hikaru nipped a little at Touya's cute pudge, leaving small, white marks on Touya's tummy. Touya cried out and really grabbed Hikaru's hair.
"You're... just... You go months and won't touch me and now... you just want to... make fun of my pudge..." Touya complained, though his voice sounded damned sexy while he was doing it.
Hikaru had to laugh a bit. "I guess this is as good a time to point out as any that you could have tried to touch me, too. Princess." Hikaru nipped at Touya's hip, which was also cute. Damn, Hikaru was getting worked up.
"Ass," Touya whimpered. "Just be a little gentle, ok? I'm not... it's... you know..."
"I remember how long it's been since the last time we did this," Hikaru grinned. "Don't worry. I'll go nice and slow." He got the lube. This was excellent.
"Somehow, that makes me more worried," Touya sighed.
"A~ki~ra," Hikaru smirked. "You've forgotten all about how to set the mood, haven't you?"
"You're mean," Touya sighed. "I might not like you anymore." He pinched Hikaru's ass.
They wrestled a bit, but then Hikaru had Touya under him again, and everything was ready. That was good enough. He put the lube on his fingers and put them to Touya's entrance, just massaging a bit at first. He kissed Touya, hard, deep. "See? I can be gentle."
Touya whimpered, looking Hikaru in the eye. He looked like he wanted to say something, but Hikaru didn't give him a chance.
He thought about how they used to fuck, and occasionally, he had flashes where he thought about Shigemi. It felt like a first time. Their bodies had changed, time had passed, so it was a first time, really. Except it was like being at home, too. Every time he looked into Touya's eyes, he fell a bit more in love.
That was a familiar feeling.
When they were finished, and they could breathe again, Hikaru was still inside of Touya. He held him tightly, rubbing the back of Touya's neck. He... he didn't want to move, but it was probably going to get uncomfortable for Touya soon. Touya's arm and leg were still gripping onto him.
"I... I wish I had been strong enough to tell my father. About us," Touya began softly, his eyes closed. "My father... kept saying, I just want to be sure there will be someone to look after you when you're old. I wanted to tell him that I already had someone. I... I had assumed he knew. I thought everyone knew. We were two young men, of good means, living together in a nice apartment with only one bedroom. Shouldn't everyone have known?"
Hikaru had to smile at that. It was true, essentially. Even if they didn't tell everyone about it, people just knew. He rubbed his hand along Touya's spine. He was about to say something, but Touya continued.
"Even thinking about my daughter... I still wish I had told him. Mostly because... my father died, and he never knew something so important about me. I should have told him, and I should have introduced you to him as my lover. As my love. Well, an introduction... that's a bit late, but you know what I mean. I feel like... I'd been lying to him, for years, before he died. I feel even worse when I think about Ami. When you came to the house... that night. The only thing I could think was... Thank God. Thank God, it's finally over. I can be with him again. I'm so selfish. It's horrible."
Hikaru kissed him, and rubbed his nose against Touya's. "Well. It's not like you killed her. You didn't... even drive her to it. She agreed to a loveless marriage, after all. And, she was crazy. I mean, it's sad, I agree, but...
"The reason I literally dropped everything and rushed to be with you was because... you needed me. I was pretty much thinking the same thing. He needs me. He finally needs me again," Hikaru admitted, blushing. "We've both done and thought horrible things. But even if we hadn't, your wife would still have been... I mean, what she did, it wasn't because of what you thought. So. Why don't we make a pledge? From now on... let's live our lives without regrets." He held out his pinky finger for Touya.
After a second, Touya sighed, and grabbed Hikaru's pinky with his own. "I hope we can manage it. It sounds like something that's easier to say than to do. But. That's what I want, too. I want a life without regret. With you."
They further sealed their pledge with a kiss.
Shigemi felt a tiny bit like he was stepping backward in time. Did Sensei ever feel that way? It was beautiful, and the winding path through the traditional garden was lovely, but this old house felt frozen in time. He stopped to consider where he was for just a moment. This wasn't the first time he'd been to Sensei's house since he moved in here, but he could count on one hand the number of times it had been, and this was the first time he was coming here by himself. Lots of things were less scary with Waya-sensei around.
A small, grey cat jumped out into the path, and right behind her, a small girl jumped out, trying to grab the cat. The cat was quick, though, and was up in the tree before the girl's hands could close around her. The girl cried out, and called to the cat, "Nigiri!"
That was adorable. Sensei's cat was named Nigiri.
The little girl realized, with a gasp, that she and the cat were not alone. She jumped back half a step, and cocked her head to the side. "Who're you?"
Sensei would have to talk to his adopted daughter about stranger danger, Shigemi thought. "My name is Fujii. I'm here to see Sensei."
"My father's not here," she said slowly, half turning away from him. It was like he could see the wheels turning in her mind. Did she know all of her father's students?
"My sensei. Hikaru. Well, Shindou-sensei." He thought he just made an error, but she immediately brightened and stepped closer to him.
"You're here to see Hika-chan!" She giggled, and came closer to take his hand. "C'mon, c'mon!" He let her lead him along. She was terribly cute, very small, with messy hair falling to her shoulders. She, too, look like she was part of some not too distant past. She had on a brightly colored yukata and tiny little geta. How old was she now? About four? Was she small for her age, or were four year old girls normally this size?
Shigemi had a hard time thinking about Sensei as a parent. Then again, she called him Hika-chan, so it was probable that she had a hard time thinking of him as a parent, too.
She went up to the veranda and called into the house, "Hika-chan! Hika-chan!!"
"Kyou~ko," Hikaru called back, sighing. "Don't you remember your grandmother telling you that ladies don't shout?"
"I'm not a lady! I'm a little girl!" she shouted back, giggling.
Hikaru came out, sighing. "Oh, what are we going to do with you... Ah, looks like you caught something." Hikaru grinned at Shigemi, looking pointedly at their joined hands.
Sensei still made Shigemi's heart pound a bit. Like right now, in faded, beat up jeans and an Oxford shirt he only mostly buttoned, so much like when they first met. His hair was getting shaggy, but Shigemi was proud that Sensei had kept up the color that Shigemi had first chosen for him. Smiling, Shigemi winked at Sensei. "I make for a good substitute for the cat."
"Ah, is Nigiri in the tree again?" Hikaru frowned, trying to find the cat.
"He came to see you!" Kyouko beamed up at Shigemi. "See, I brought you to him."
"You did. You're such a good girl, Kyouko-chan," Shigemi told her.
"I know!" She dropped his hand and went scrambling off to the tree to chase the cat some more.
"We'll be in the salon!" Hikaru called after her. "Don't leave the yard!"
"I know!" she repeated.
Hikaru shook his head and then he winked at Shigemi. "Want to come in?"
"Thank you, Sensei," Shigemi slipped his shoes off and stepped up onto the veranda. Hikaru walked him down a few doors, and then opened the salon.
"I think I can guess why you're here," Hikaru said over his shoulder.
"I should hope so," Shigemi cheerfully replied. "I'd be really sad if my teacher didn't know I was going to be challenging for the Gosei title."
"And you're... still 24, right? Brat," Hikaru teased him. "Would you like some tea? I was about to brew some..."
"You're always about to brew some," Shigemi teased him right back. "Sure, I'd like tea."
"Ok, make yourself at home," Hikaru gestured to the goban in the middle of the room, and then he slipped out to get the tea.
Shigemi was pretty sure it was impossible for him to be completely at home in this place. Despite himself, he resented the fact that Sensei lived here. He sat down gingerly on the cushion and looked around. The room was very plain, but he had a feeling there were touches of Sensei in the room. Like, the cat toys in the corner. He doubted Touya-sensei would have allowed that, if it were all up to him. There was also a painting on the wall. Shigemi didn't recognize it, but he knew that it was the sort of thing that Sensei liked. A few years ago when they were in China, Sensei spent hours at an open-air market looking through various decor items like that. It was a calm, modern piece.
"Here we go," Hikaru returned with a tray. He set it down carefully, and then sat himself down. He poured out two cups, and then looked Shigemi over properly. "You'll be playing Kurata-sensei. That's a tricky one. I like your odds, though."
Shigemi flushed, but he mostly hid it as he took a sip of the tea, though it was still too hot. "Mm. I'm a bit nervous. Of course, there's the obvious, like I've never played a match over two days..." He sighed. Sensei could say he liked Shigemi's odds, but Shigemi was sure that no one else expected him to win.
"You'll find that once you get into the groove of the pace of the match, you'll like it. Especially given the way you play normally. You're well-suited to this type of match. The first game will be the hardest, so pace yourself and remember to take your time. Every now and again, remind yourself to enjoy it, too," Hikaru winked at him.
Shigemi took a deep breath. "I've played Kurata-sensei twice before. Once, in a Honinbou league match, and once in regulation play. I don't really feel like I have a good handle on him, though," he admitted.
"Well," Hikaru leaned back on his hands, "that's the great thing about Kurata-sensei. He's incredibly creative and spontaneous. So, it's always going to be hard to get a handle on him. You can't hold back at all, because he can make adjustments and see new paths even all the way into the endgame. Conversely, though, you can't make mistakes, because he'll pounce on even the slightest error you make. But, if you can just maintain your concentration and energy, you just need to remain patient and don't let him rattle you."
"I'm a little rattled," Shigemi joked. "But I'm already loading up on ginseng. And B vitamins."
Hikaru shook his head. "Ah, I remember your ginseng treatments. Well, I still do that myself before the Honinbou title match, so."
It was good to hear that Sensei still had some habits he learned from Shigemi.
"With Kurata, you've got to keep your mind flexible. So, we'll play one-color go to get you in the right frame of mind. Actually, the first time I played one-color go was against Kurata. To him, it was like there was no difference at all," Hikaru laughed at the reminiscence.
That wasn't helpful to Shigemi, but he enjoyed things like one-color go, or go on unusual gobans, so he welcomed the advice. They played four games, with Sensei suddenly moving stones around just to test him, or to set up problems for Shigemi. They finished the pot of tea, and Kyouko came in with the cat under her arm to watch her shows, but they still played on, which was a good trial for Shigemi's concentration. As they were clearing the board the fifth time, Kyouko came in to ask when her grandmother was coming to make dinner, but Hikaru told her that her father was bringing home sushi. She then demanded a treat, so Shigemi got a much needed break.
He flopped down on his back and stared at the ceiling. He tried to just blank out his mind, but it felt like something was buzzing behind his eyes. Since he'd qualified to challenge for the title, he'd been feeling this buzz. He knew it was a kind of happiness, but he kept trying to keep it bottled up. It was too soon to feel proud. He still had the toughest hurdle to go.
His boyfriend hadn't been totally thrilled when he told him that he was spending the day with Sensei, and hopefully he could spend as much time before the title match as Sensei would allow. Shigemi felt a bit guilty about that, because Takashi was sensitive and kind, but he wasn't a go player, so there was that small barrier of understanding. He squirmed around a bit and pulled his phone out of his pocket, and sent Takashi a message. He would probably be with a client now. Shigemi smiled to himself, watching to see if possibly Takashi would reply right away. Sometimes, he could. He'd been working at Shigemi's parents' salon for nearly three years now. He spent more time with Shigemi's family than Shigemi did, so it was...
Well. Somewhat perfect.
"Ah, so you're chatting with your boyfriend, mm?" Sensei had slipped back in, and was kneeling near Shigemi's shoulder, looking at his phone.
Shigemi made a face at him. "I was just sending him a note, since we were taking a break. Do you want to see him?" He quickly flicked through the phone's icons to get to his pictures. "Mm. Here's one at the salon. That's my sister in the background. She's the brat in the family. And here's one of the two of us at the beach."
"Oh, he's really good-looking, isn't he?" Hikaru grinned.
"Well, of course. He's my boyfriend," Shigemi boasted, still flicking through pictures. He really liked the one from last summer when they went to the festival together...
"Riiiight, because you're super superficial," Hikaru teased, tapping Shigemi on the nose. He shuffled over to his side of the goban. "C'mon, c'mon, you don't get breaks to lay down in title matches."
"Yes, yes," Shigemi yawned. He sat up. stretching out a bit as he did. "Well, I'm not superficial enough to sleep with someone just because they looked like my old teacher..." Shigemi teased.
He hoped Sensei would just see it as teasing...
"Oy, oy!" Hikaru laughed. He picked up some stones and threw them at Shigemi. Laughing, he leaned back on his hands. "How many times do I have to say it... It wasn't like that!"
Shigemi laughed, relieved that Sensei was laughing as he was correcting Shigemi. Though, Shigemi was totally right, after all. Sensei had some seriously unresolved feelings for his dead teacher that allowed Shigemi to worm his way into Sensei's heart. "Right, right, of course I know. Hey... you know, I once heard Waya-sensei and some others talking about some huge, mysterious legend of go... Sai. But. That was your teacher, right?"
Hikaru gave him a sort of strange look, and then, slowly, he nodded. "Mm. Yeah, it was."
"But. They didn't seem to know anything about him. And then Waya-sensei said people suspected that you were Sai for a while... That doesn't make any sense." He shouldn't have brought it up, but it had been bothering him for a while. Sensei seemed tense, but then he finally grinned.
"No, no it doesn't. Ah... that was all so long ago. I can't believe Waya is still talking about it." Hikaru had a faraway look in his eyes.
"Does that mean... you've never talked to Waya-sensei about your teacher?" Shigemi asked meekly. Hikaru shook his head and halfway shrugged. Shigemi decided to push his luck. "What about... Touya-sensei?"
Hikaru laughed a bit. "Oh... now that you mention it, I promised him a long, long, long time ago that I would tell him everything. But it's too late now. If I even tried to tell him, he wouldn't believe me."
"Why... wouldn't he believe you... about... your teacher?" Shigemi asked, confused. There was some big mystery surrounding Sensei's teacher, but. How strange could it be?
"Well, it's a bit complicated. I haven't even told you everything. But I guess I've told you more about him than anyone else," Hikaru smiled.
Shigemi felt something stirring in his belly, but he ignored it. He was really good at that now - ignoring his feelings for Sensei. "Well. If you ever want to talk about him... I suppose I could listen."
"Right now, you should be focused on this," Hikaru laughed, tapping the goban. "Or are you giving up already?"
Shigemi sat up straight and clapped his hands together. "Right! Let's do this!"
They played for another hour or so, and then Touya-sensei came home, calling out. Kyouko came running out from where she was watching tv to attack her father. Shigemi shook his head in amazement. Clearly, Sensei had a lot of influence on that girl, for her to be so rambunctious.
Touya-sensei looked into the salon. "Ah. Fujii-kun. Will you be staying for dinner? There should be enough..."
Whether he really wanted Shigemi to stay or not seemed to not matter. "No, I can't. I'm taking my boyfriend out for dinner tonight. It's a promise. I should get going. Sorry for intruding... Can I impose on you tomorrow, Sensei?"
"Shigemi's getting ready to take on Kurata for the Gosei title," Hikaru explained to Touya-sensei. "Sure. But I have a match the day after tomorrow, so."
"Give 'im hell," Touya-sensei told Shigemi, though his voice sounded dark. "It'd be nice if Kurata was well and exhausted before the Meijin league really gears up. Actually, it'd be good if you were both exhausted."
"Aw, he's so worked up about winning back that title," Hikaru teased. "It must be tough, losing a title you were so attached to..."
"Don't be so damned cocky," Touya-sensei warned Hikaru. "I think I might take both the Meijin and the Honinbou, just to prove myself."
"Go ahead and try," Hikaru shrugged. "'Cause I was thinking the same thing myself," he winked at Touya-sensei.
"Ohboy," Shigemi laughed, standing up. "See, this is exactly why I'm glad Takashi isn't a go player. Thank you, Sensei! And have a good night, both of you! Oh, and good night to Kyouko-chan, too!"
"Night!" Kyouko called out, confirming Shigemi's suspicions that she was just outside, listening.
As he walked to the train station, he read Takashi's reply. He was pretty glad that Sensei didn't see it, because Takashi always referred to him as that old man. Still, it made him feel good, albeit a bit selfish, that Takashi was a bit jealous of Sensei.
It was good to know that the person he was obsessed with felt the same way about him.