Epic BG Fic #3: started for BG Round 5, May 2008. In my head this fic is called 'Ashiwara and the Adult Lifestyle,' and there's this whole series of farcical interactions and also sex, and I really wanted to finish it for the smut round, but, lol, I don't think I can tear myself away from Akira and Hikaru for that long. :(
So Ogata blows smoke into his face one day and says, "You should really stop staring at that boy and do something about it," and that's how the whole mess starts.
Except that, okay, in a way it really started when they were Insei and both of them were struggling to keep up with Kurata-kun, who was leaving a bloody trail of opponents in his wake as he burned through the pro exams. The thing about Kurata-kun is that he'd gone the private tutor route - he hadn't been insei, so no one knew his play style. No one took him seriously at all until they'd played him once, and then he was all they could talk about.
Ashiwara had been just the same as everyone else with regard to Kurata, which is why he lost to the bastard by three moku with komi. He'd wanted to kick himself for being so stupid and letting Kurata's giant roly-poly grin catch him unawares.
So his record in the pro exams dropped to one loss, and it was a really demoralizing loss, too, going into the third and final round of eliminations. And he'd stepped outside to maybe bang his head on the concrete steps of the Institute, but instead he'd bumped into Saeki.
Or rather, he'd been blinded by platinum hair from at least a hundred paces.
Saeki (it really should have been Saeki-kun, but with boys and girls that pretty, Ashiwara never seemed to get around to informality) was perched on one corner of the steps, long legs stretched out for a full four steps below where he was sitting, at the far corner of the building.
Smoking a joint.
It was Ashiwara's civic duty to approach him at that point.
Saeki glanced up. "You lost too, right?" he said. "That Kurata is a real bastard." He exhaled on a long, slow breath. Ashiwara winced when the smoke reached his eyes.
"He's a powerful opponent," he said, taking a step back. "I should have been prepared, but I underestimated him."
"Yeah, I saw - he ran you over the way he has everyone else."
Saeki took a drag, then held the joint out to him affably. Ashiwara said, as kindly as he could considering his faint horror that he was being solicited illegal narcotics, "No! I mean - no, thank you. You could get in trouble if someone finds you."
Saeki laughed. "What, for playing while high? Amazing no one's kicked Morishita-sensei out years ago, then."
He said it so seriously that it took a moment for Ashiwara to formulate a response worthy of this horrible allegation against a teacher, which was also the moment he figured out Saeki was joking.
He let out a choked laugh. Saeki looked up at him again, like he'd only just realized who he was talking to. They had played each other a few times, but Ashiwara had no memory of the matches, other than his own nervousness and fear of collapse. Saeki was a strong player. They were even, one win each. They were playing each other at the end of the week, but Ashiwara wasn't actually sure Saeki even knew his name.
"You sure you don't...?" Saeki said, waggling the joint between his fingertips. "You seem like you could use the stress relief."
Something about his lazy attitude didn't sit right with Ashiwara. "It's the pro exams," he said primly. "I want to be at my sharpest."
Saeki sat up then - unstretched and drew his long legs beneath him.
"You don't have any games left today," he said.
"No," Ashiwara admitted. "But - "
"Oh, for, god's sake," Saeki said, and when he stood up he was a head taller than Ashiwara, and Ashiwara has to take the communal offering, all right, because it was one thing to do highly illegal things that could get you banned from playing Go forever, but it was entirely another to cross purposes with a guy who was six-foot-tall and had muscles and crazy hair.
He took a drag. "Okay," he said. "Dude, hey, yeah."
And so, Ashiwara came to spend the final five days of his Go pro exams hanging out and getting high.
Saeki liked to haul him on the train and down to the docks; it was crazy, people walking around, and no one cared that they were seriously underage and seriously smoking hash. Saeki liked to sit right on the waterfront with his feet dangling over the ledge, throwing pieces of weed to the seagulls.
Ashiwara completely impressed Saeki with his eloquence during such moments, on subjects including but not limited to: the way Saeki was doing harm to the environment ("Dude, that bird is so wasted"); the detriments of pot-smoking for serious Go players ("I totally have more brain cells than you right now. My extra brain cells are going to kick your ass on Thursday"); and, naturally, his resolve to never engage in hallucinogenic recreation again. ("Hey, we should get like one of those giant hookahs. We could keep it in the Go lounge. No, seriously, we could tell them it was decorative, like they'd ever know!")
The night before Ashiwara was supposed to play Saeki, who was down by only one loss and due to play Kurata the following day, the two of them were sitting on the docks swinging their feet. Or, rather, Ashiwara was swinging his feet, Saeki was lying back looking hazily up at the moon, which was currently giant and white and floating over the water, though Ashiwara wasn't sure how much of the floating was real. Where the moon spread its reflection over the harbor, the water was the approximate color of Saeki's crazy hair.
"Hey," he said, "After this week will we still talk to each other? Or will it be like the end of The Breakfast Club when you go back to not knowing my name?"
Saeki sat up. "Huh?" he said. "I knew your name already."
"Oh," Ashiwara said. "Huh."
"Anyway," Saeki said, waving his hand. "Only 3 of us can go pro so after tomorrow, assuming nothing crazy like a draw -"
"A DRAW," Ashiwara said. "That would be SO COOL, do you think we could - "
Saeki laughed, the small, soft laugh he tended to use when he was laughing at-Ashiwara-not-with-him. "After tomorrow," he said, "one of us will be at two losses. Assuming the worst, that Kurata passes undefeated, We'll only both be able to go Pro if Miyamatsu loses his game against Konomi."
"But he won't pass undefeated," Ashiwara said. "You'll win no matter what."
Saeki's eyes widened. "Huh," he said. "Thanks."
Ashiwara beamed. Which may have been why the next thing Saeki did was give him a weird, considering look and lean over and kiss him. On the mouth and everything.
It was wet and kind of dry all at once, and Saeki had guy lips. Saeki kept his eyes open the whole time. Which wasn't very long, because Ashiwara had only just gotten past the guy lips to think that maybe it would work better if he opened his mouth or something, when Saeki pulled back and it was over.
"Huh," he said. "Okay."
And that was that.
Or, at least, that was that until seven months passed, and Ashiwara found himself sitting across from Saeki at the Wakajishisen.
Aaand finally, Epic BG Fic #4: started for BG Round 6. This is being posted unbeta'd, but, uh, with blessing. I'm only posting the first 3,000 words or so, because, hello, unfinished - but mostly because I want to see how quickly readers pick up the conceit - or if they do at all???
When asked by Dutch television why he liked go so much, Cho Chikun Meijin replied: "I hate go". The reason was that he has such an intense desire to win that it becomes debilitating. - Fairbain, John. Mindzine, The 25th Meijin, accessed Thursday September 18, 2008.
The Physics of Overengineering.
I. Kisei, or, the Rube Goldberg device.
He spends much of the time during each game riffling his hands back through his hair or holding a wrist while he rotates the free hand. But he also resorts to mechanical means to ease tension. - ibid.
Akira wins Kisei and there’s not a sound.
He hears his heart pounding in his chest and he can barely make out the voice of his opponent, defeated and stripped bare. He says, “thank you for the game,” bows, pushes himself to his feet – his legs are wobbly – and he waits for it to hit him, the thrill that is his first title.
He has crushed his opponent in three swift games. He is moving forward already, halfway to forgetting his opponent’s name already - and the auditors are all staring at him, as if they can read all this in his face. As if they think this is all he is. Where is it? Is this is what it will be like from now on? – his first title, business as usual?
The auditors are all staring at him. The silence makes everything seem crisper, heavier, slower. Akira sways on his feet a little where he stands.
Then his pocket starts buzzing, and he has a split second of panic before his cell phone explodes the Room of Really Profound Silence with the theme song to Pythagoras Switch.
His opponent jerks his head up. The auditors open their eyes wide.
The grin splits Akira’s face wide open. Oh, there it is.
Winning Kisei necessitates hours and hours of interviews about how it feels to be the youngest Kisei in history, and how it feels to have the highest jump in ranking of any title-holder since what’s-his-name in 1904.
(Akira thinks he really does know the title-holder’s name, but it was a long time ago, and to his eternal shame, he can’t ever spell it.)
Hikaru, despite the fact that Akira is deliberately not speaking to him, and not not not answering his phone calls, or his text messages, which are averaging one every five seconds, manages to worm his way into the audience outside the Go Institute. He tries to distract Akira the whole time, loudly coughing and rolling his eyes dramatically every time one of the reporters says something about how Akira's the leader of the young go generation, and so on.
Akira is not not not looking at him the entire time, but Hikaru’s blond bangs still fry the corners of his retinas anyway.
This is Akira’s calendar for 2002:
In the end, he goes ahead and gets a blackberry. ______
Hikaru, his face smeared with blue-black ink, frowns down at Akira's calendar. "You're out of the country like every month," he says. He's sprawled over one end of the sofa at Touya's house, legs completely akimbo over the sides, and Akira wants to mock him for it, but he can't quite bring himself to do it, because Hikaru looks so comfortable, spread out like that in jeans and that ridiculous hoodie, that Akira mostly just envies him.
Instead he deliberately straightens up in his chair and answers tartly, "You would be too if you'd hurry up and win a title."
Something dark clouds Hikaru's face for an instant before he shoots Akira an upside-down glare. "Oh, am I not moving fast enough for you?"
Akira has had long practice in exuding as much disdain as possible around Hikaru. He can't help it, really; Hikaru makes it so easy.
Hikaru narrows his eyes at Akira's articulate snort. "Okay," he says. "Wanna see how fast I can be?"
Akira blurts before he can stop himself, "Speed's not always a good thing, Shindou," and even though he's told himself time and again not to let Hikaru get to him like this, it's already done, he's already feeling the rush of eagerness and adrenaline. Hikaru is abruptly tumbling over onto the couch, right side up, and he's got that look in his eye, the look that always comes right before -
"Tsuke," Akira snaps back, because he knows Hikaru's Go, and he's pretty sure it's the look on his own face that makes Hikaru respond, "Ketsugi," without missing a beat.
They don't even make it to the board.
Half an hour later, they're standing in the middle of the room and Akira is screaming something about Shindou and foolhardiness and incompetence, pretty much the usual, and it hits him all of a sudden that Hikaru is trying really hard not to laugh at him. He switches track mid-sentence, and huffs, "I'm glad you think this is funny, Shindou, because with your track record at high-pressure games, I'd feel terrible if you were the only one who wasn't laughing."
Hikaru starts chewing his lower lip between his teeth, and he's so obviously about to start snickering obnoxiously, any second now. Akira is not taking the bait. "In fact," he says with relish, "If you weren't laughing, I'd really be alarmed, because it means you might actually be getting serious for once, and - "
And that's it, the sound sneaks out of Hikaru like a splitting fissure of mirth, and once it's started, it doesn't stop. His cheeks quiver with the effort of supressing his laughter, his whole body rumbles with it, and he eventually gives up and flops over onto Akira, forehead landing on Akira's collarbone. Akira breaks off and eyerolls and then just stands there dully, letting Hikaru snigger into his shoulder.
Other people, he thinks, have normal friendships. Other people, surely, don't eternally hover between the urge to crush their opponent into the ground and obliterate him once and for all, and also hang out at their opponent's house and maybe grab some ramen on the way to their match.
Other people, and a giggle finally escapes Akira at the thought, aren't constantly fighting the impulse to throttle their best friend to death while also kind of wanting to show him off to everyone within hearing distance.
Because when it comes right down to it, Akira's still pretty dazed by Hikaru - by the whole creepy mutual thing, every amazing second of it.
"Shindou," he says finally. "I have no idea what's funny." He sounds petulant and it only makes Hikaru giggle harder.
"You have no idea whose move it is, do you," Hikaru says, his nose snuffling Akira's neck.
"I - oh," says Akira, suddenly thrust back into the game in his head, stark in black and white and....
"Oh," he says again.
"Oh, good," says Hikaru, leaning into him even more, his body thick and heavy with the weight of suppressed laughter. "Me neither."
"So this was a giant distraction method?" Akira says in horror.
"Who cares?" says Hikaru, and he lifts his head, grinning like a nine-year-old who's just put salt in the sugar bowl. "You can't remember," he sing-songs. "So that means I win."
Akira makes a grab for him. Hikaru ducks.
Really, Akira thinks, diving for an arsenal of pillows. One title isn't nearly enough reward for dealing with this.
March turns into April turns into May turns into July, and Akira gets back from Paris-Tokyo-Romania-Russia and realizes that Hikaru is suddenly half a head taller than he is. He's longer all over, stretched out and lankier from top to bottom. Even his hair is longer, and it's such a betrayal that Akira doesn't speak to him for half a week before realizing that Hikaru probably hasn't even noticed, because Hikaru is nose-deep into the Meijin semi-finals, and he's so close on the heels of Kurata that everyone's talking about it as if Akira's near-miss at the Honinbou title is nothing compared to Hikaru making it to round three, and isn't that just like the obnoxious twerp.
Hikaru's too focused on the tournament even to gloat over how much taller he is than Akira. Akira lies awake for three nights trying to parse how this could have happened, and then it's off to, seriously, St. Petersburg, and that's that.
In St. Petersburg he loses in the first round to a man who scowls at the board through his game, a tall scrawny man with a thick Slavic accent, and an even thicker beard. After the game, everyone says Touya looks tired, which is a) patently untrue and b) the most ridiculous excuse for awful play Akira’s ever heard. It’s almost a relief when a day later, his phone starts vibrating mercilessly. The flurry of text messages Hikaru sends are all completely incoherent, consisting of one-word insults that Akira is unfortunate enough to actually understand.
He’s doing an ample job of not replying (and who even taught Hikaru how to use a cell phone, anyway), until Hikaru sends him a series of board moves that say more in three hands about how he should have played than any game analyst he’s met in Russia.
Akira stays in his hotel room that night, going over and over the game with his phone open beside him.
Sometime around four in the morning, he texts Hikaru back, the first time he’s ever texted Hikaru back. Two moves- just two – but it’s enough.
Hikaru doesn’t text him anything for the next three weeks, and it’s as close to an acknowledgment from Hikaru, while the two of them chase each other through the Meijin semis, as Akira’s ever likely to get.
II. Tengen, or, Anti-Patterns.
There must be at least two key elements present to formally distinguish an actual anti-pattern from a simple bad habit, bad practice, or bad idea: * Some repeated pattern of action, process or structure that initially appears to be beneficial, but ultimately produces more bad consequences than beneficial results, and * A refactored solution that is clearly documented, proven in actual practice and repeatable. - Wikipedia.com, ’Anti-pattern’, accessed Thursday, September 18, 2008.
For Hikaru’s 17th birthday, Akira graciously allows him to take two games at his father’s Go salon. He’s trying to work out how to say, “So, I got you a present,” without it sounding too stupid, and without Ichikawa-san overhearing and giggling about it. She thinks the present is a little strange, and it is, but that’s the thing about Hikaru, the thing Akira knows better than anyone. Strange is meaningful to Hikaru, in the weirdest ways.
He doesn’t get a chance. Before Akira is even halfway finished berating him for having the audacity to expand into Akira’s territory when he clearly should have attached, nevermind that it just happened to conveniently win him the game, because it’s not like insanity is a viable strategy, Hikaru checks his watch, blinks, and abruptly jumps up. “Oh, hey, look, I gotta go,” he says, and he’s shrugged halfway into his coat before Akira’s caught up.
“I didn’t know you had somewhere better to be,” Akira says, more icily than he means to. Hikaru looks up at him and looks guilty.
“I just have a- a thing,” he says. “My, uh – my mom?”
Akira raises his eyebrows.
“Yeah,” Hikaru continues rapidly, “my mom’s doing this thing for my birthday, so I, uh. Gotta go.”
“Oh,” Akira says mildly. “Is it your birthday? Sorry, I guess I didn’t remember.“
Hikaru’s cheeks go a little pink. “Yeah,” he says. “It’s okay, hey, it’s not like I’d want to tell you, right? That’d just be weird.”
“Right,” says Akira. He can’t remember standing up, so he sits back down and recreates his losing move on the board. Hikaru glances down at the goban.
“Good luck next week,” he says. “In Johannesburg.”
“Oh,” says Akira. His words feel small inside of him suddenly, and he hears himself say, “I’ve never been there, to South Africa,” stupidly, as if he’s making small talk with first-years.
He glances up just in time to see Hikaru flash him one of his blinding, radiant grins. “Yeah,” he says. “Next year I’ll totally be going with you. Just wait.”
Of course I’ll wait, you moron, Touya thinks. Haven’t I always?
But what he says is: “You, Shindou? We’ll see.”
Hikaru’s chin lifts. He shoots Touya a glare that might have been quelling if it weren’t being directed from beneath radioactive hair. He walks out of the salon without a word.
Akira hangs the dreamcatcher over his own window that night.
He wonders, right before he falls asleep, if it will catch all the strange things that were meant for Hikaru’s dreams; if it will deposit them safely inside Akira’s own, to dissipate, safe and untouched, where Hikaru will never find them, and his eyes will never cloud over with loss.
Johannesburg is hot, hot, dusty, and hot. Akira wears musty, clingy white linen for six days and has no cell phone reception. He loses to, of all people, Ko Yeong Ha.
He doesn’t just lose to Ko Yeong Ha, he loses horribly. Yeong Ha’s Go isn’t delicate or far-reaching: it’s daredevil, brutal, focused on heavy core shapes and systems of attacks, and in the middle of trying to bludgeon his way through it, Akira loses his focus, his rhythm, and nearly his composure. It’s not the kind of game that leaves him with a good feeling. It’s not the kind of game that leaves him feeling anything at all, which is the worst feeling of all.
He’s still shaking and unsettled hours later, when Yeong Ha approaches him and says loudly, “So Japan still hasn’t got what it takes,” right in the middle of their hotel lobby.
Akira’s used to being taunted, but the look in Yeong Ha’s eyes is more than that. “Then why are you so eager to play us?” Akira snaps back.
Ko Yeong Ha looks at him sharply, all jutted chin and harsh lips and merciless eyes. “Oh, this was just a reminder,” he says, stepping closer. “For you and your friend.”
“This isn’t the North Star Cup,” Akira shoots back, shame propelling him to whole new levels of measured disdain that even Hikaru has never dredged up. “If you’re still trying to prove something from back then, you’re wasting your time and you’re wasting it on the wrong person.”
Yeong Ha laughs, cutting and brittle. “That’s where you’re wrong,” Yeong Ha answers him, leaning back against the wall. “Who else should I waste time on, if I want Shindou to get the message?”
“I’m not your fucking courier,” Akira says, and leaves the hotel for the first time since he arrived. In Rivonia Square he tries for half an hour to call home, and only when he finally does get through does he realize that he’s dialed the wrong number.
“Touya?” comes Hikaru’s voice, groggy and sleepy.
“I…” says Akira. He has no idea what time it is in Japan. He has no idea what to say. “Nothing,” he says. “Go back to sleep.”
“Nkay,” says Hikaru, and sinks back into his pillow while Akira is still listening to his breathing, eight thousand miles away.
Hikaru is dating someone.
Hikaru’s dating someone, and it’s been months and it’s serious.
And this has been so obvious, for so many weeks, that when Akira finally figures it out, his first impulse isn’t to be mad at Hikaru for not telling him, for not telling him anything - it’s to be mad at himself for not being around long enough to be told.
In December, the worst part about being a title-holder is knowing you have to wage the same fight twice.
In January, the worst part about being a title-holder is the way Hikaru stomps around muttering for weeks like sliding out in round 2 of the preliminaries is a personal betrayal, like he’s let Akira down or something, when all Akira can think is, yeah, tell me how that goes again?
In February, the worst part about being a title-holder is holding your breath and waiting, waiting, waiting.
In March, the worst part about being a title-holder is the way Ogata doesn’t even say anything cutting. He just gives Akira one long, sober look, and the worst part is the way Akira hears everything he doesn’t say, ringing in his head for days and days.
"What? How is you losing my fault?"
"Obviously it is!" Hikaru says, his face scrunched up like Akira’s the one who’s just said something confusing. Akira groans and buries his head on the table. The other denizens of the salon are wincing openly in his direction, and Hikaru is rambling on and on about how Touya made him lose Kisei.
“I don’t believe you actually exist,” Touya mutters into his sleeve. “No, I really don’t. This is the worst month I’ve ever had.”
“Whatever, I had to watch that game, you know, the one when you – “
"Excuse me, I was there--"
"You couldn’t even hold the left!” Hikaru shrieks. “It was like watching some kind of meltdown--"
"Oh, really,” Akira snaps, ignoring the way his stomach sinks. “What would you have done differently, then?”
Hikaru rolls his eyes and waves his arms around. “Let’s start with EVERYTHING?”
Akira closes his eyes and thinks of being in a closed room a year ago, waiting for the moment to hit him. He wonders if he’s still waiting.
“You realize this is why I block your phone,” he mutters, but it lacks a certain amount of venom.
“Hey,” Hikaru says. “Touya.” He’s paused the hand-waving, and now his palms are flat on the table. His voice is soft in a way that sinks Akira’s stomach an extra dozen leagues or so.
Akira lifts his head and rolls his eyes as deliberately as ever. “No, go on, enlighten me, Shindou,” he says.
Hikaru sits back in his chair. “Oh, believe me, I will,” he says. “You moron.”
He doesn’t do it easily, but the next time Hikaru texts him, Akira turns off his phone.
Since Hikaru texts him all the time, eventually, he just leaves his phone off altogether.