Disclaimer: I do not own Hikaru no Go
Brief recap: A few months after the Hokuto Cup, Akira and Hikaru were in another tournament, the Wakajishisen. They eliminated their first round competitors, Oka and Shouji, and set up for a show-down in the second round. This fan-fic starts off right where the one-shot ended.
Chapter 1: Akira vs Hikaru
"We shall now begin the second round of the 11th Wakajishisen! At table 1 is..." Upon hearing the announcement, the competitors proceeded to take their seats.
Akira sat down opposite Hikaru. Immediately a crowd formed around them. At the fore-front were Shouji and Oka, the 2 insei eliminated by the 2 pros in the first round. Most of the others who were eliminated, as well as the reporter Kosemura, were there.
"Oneigaishimasu". The two rivals exchanged their traditional greetings. "How many times have I said that to Touya?" wondered Hikaru "Here's a rival that I cannot possibly be more familiar with. His intense gaze, his concentration... is the same every time. Yet, every match is different... special..." They nigiri, and Hikaru was black. He placed a stone.
"He beat me last weekend" Akira started to recall the "warm-up" match they played at the Go salon "When we first started playing regularly, I used to win most of the time. Now it has become more like 60-40. Hikaru is slowly but surely catching up with me. This is a game that I must NOT lose..." Akira replied with a white seed in the opposite corner, and they proceeded to play a standard joseki.
"I have a feeling Touya will win this game." Shouji whispered to Oka.
"Why is that? Shindou is better. Look, his stones are in a better position." replied Oka.
"What do you know? It is still only early game. Touya's playing a very slow and steady game."
"Whatever you say... Shindou is the best."
"You id... WHAT?!"
An intense battle had started on the lower right of the board. Black and white seeds were intermingled, with the situation totally unclear. Akira's last move had been especially aggressive, threatening the entire black formation. Everyone expected Hikaru to fight back, but all of a sudden, he went on to place a stone at the other corner of the board.
"Another one of Shindou's moves." Akira paused to think "It always appears to be a bad move, but if I think deeper and further, I usually discover a plan for a complicated and difficult battle that will turn the tide in his favor... Even with my last move, his formation is not immediately in danger. The seed he just placed, it is just right to protect his territory while at the same time invading into mine. Well, if so..."
Akira made his reply. After a few more turns, it was Hikaru's turn to pause.
"This is exactly how I had hoped Touya would respond. However, isn't it too much in my favor? With the stone I placed at 3-6, and my subsequently moves, I would have gained significant ground at Touya's expense. It is not his usual self to play like that. Anyway, I'll just continue to play normally."
"Look, Touya is losing." began Oka
"Shhh!" Shouji seemed unable to reply at the moment.
Even Kosemura seemed puzzled. "Shinoda sensei, don't you think Touya is being a little too conservative in his last few moves?"
"It appears to be so, but let's wait and see how the game progresses."
"OK... but I can't wait!"
"Why don't you go take a look at the other games? Waya and Isumi are also engaged in a fierce battle over there. It should be an exciting game."
"I agree. But I think I'd rather stay here. Look, Touya is making his move!"
"So, this is the outcome you wanted, Shindou. However, do you really think the game is in your favor now?" With eyes gleaming, Akira swiftly replied with a move he had long pre-calculated.
Instantly, gasps were heard all around the table.
"That move... it turned Shindou's previous move at 3-6 into a useless one!" exclaimed Oka
"Yeah! That was brilliant! What did I tell you?" Shouji started to relax again.
"That move... that move reminded me of something..." Hikaru tried to recall a game long ago "It resembles the way Touya Sensei played against Sai. Has Touya turned into Touya Sensei? All the more I cannot lose this game, Sai!"
"How was it, Hikaru?" it almost seemed as if Akira can read his mind, and made a mental reply "I know you've been improving. Your play is getting more and more like Sai's, and I shall find out the reason for that one day. Meanwhile, I have been studying the games of Sai, Shuusaku, as well as my father, for inspiration. I will not let you catch up so easily. I want to win this game as much as you!"
Chapter 2: Shadow of Sai
Waya stared at the board for the longest time. Finally, he said the inevitable.
"Thanks for the game. You played well, Waya." Isumi replied graciously.
"Thanks... wow look over there! What a big crowd!" Waya noticed the big group of spectators watching Akira and Hikaru's game.
Waya and Isumi made their way over there, and saw Hikaru deep in thought. Akira was, as usual, looking at the board with an emotionless intensity.
"What a close game!" Waya mumbled to himself "Every piece of territory is hotly contested. But Hikaru seems to be at a slight disadvantage. This move is probably going to make the difference between victory and defeat. What will Hikaru do?"
Finally, Hikaru picks up a stone, and places it in between 2 white territories. The initial confusion among the spectators was quickly replaced by looks of approval.
"An amazing move!" Oka started to speak again. "Look, he consolidates his territory, while attacking both white territories at once!"
"Shhh! Watch what Touya is going to do!" replied Shouji.
"Hikaru's moves are becoming more and more like Sai's. That last move... it would have been something that Sai can be proud of" Waya was reminded of his game against Sai.
"Very well done, Hikaru. The style is definitely Shuusaku's." Akira tried to recall the various kifus that he was studying "In fact, that last move resembled one of the moves in his kifu. What did his opponent do? If I'm Shuusaku, what will I do?"
If I'm Shuusaku, what will I do...
Akira places a stone, far away from the battleground. Hikaru's initial shock turned into sudden realization.
"Thanks for the game" replied Akira.
"That move..." Waya could be heard talking to himself long after the game ended "It looks just like another move of Sai. Watching the 2 of them play, it is almost like the same person playing with himself!"
* * *
"Thanks for coming to watch my game, Akari." said Hikaru, on the way home.
"You're welcomed. I haven't seen you in a while. Kind of missed you" Akari blushed.
"But I disappointed you... I still couldn't produce a victory over Akira in a major tournament."
"Don't say that. You played very well. So did Touya. Although I can't understand some of his moves, especially the last one."
"His moves are starting to look like... mine. I asked him later how he came out with that move. He said he has been studying Shuusaku's kifus, because he found my style similar!"
"Wow, it appears that Touya is putting in a lot of effort in order to defeat you!"
"Ha ha. Well, I will beat him one day. I feel that our gap is very close now."
"I'm sure you will, Hikaru. By the way, I have a favor to ask of you..."
"Well I knew it! You must have some other reason for coming to see me!"
"Hikaru, do you remember during our graduation, you said you are willing to come to my school Go club to play Shidougo with us? Well, all my club members kept pestering me to invite you over after they knew that I know you. Can you..."
"Of course! That's not a problem at all. How about next Tuesday!"
"That'll be great! I'll meet you at my school gate!" Akari's face turned even redder than before.
Chapter 3: Fujiwarano
Shoyo High School.
"I wonder what it feels like to be still in school." a sense of nostalgia swept over Hikaru as he stepped through the school gate "If I hadn't become a pro, I'll be a freshman in high school, just like Akari and many of the students here."
His thoughts were interrupted by an excited female voice "Hikaru! We've been waiting for you!". Hikaru turned around to face Akari, "I'm not late, I hope."
"No, you're not. Come on."
Hikaru followed Akari past the school grounds to a classroom on the third floor. The instant he stepped into the room, he was immediately mobbed by a group of freshman girls.
"Come on everybody. Settle down. Let Shindou-kun come in." Hikaru turned around to see a familiar face.
"Yun-sensei! What a surprise to see you here!"
"I teach at the Go club here as well. As you can see, I have been pretty busy... But the star of today is you. They are all eager to play with you."
Hikaru glanced at the crowd. There are at least 40 people present. "Wow, this is a big club. It'll take a few days to play with everyone."
"Don't worry. I'll select 10 of them to play with you. The rest, just be good spectators, OK?" Yun-sensei proceeded to pick out 10 from the crowd. Hikaru was pleased to see that Akari was one of them.
"Alright, how much handicap do you guys want? How about each of you place 9 stones, and I'll play all 10 boards simultaneously..."
* * *
"This move is too weak. Once I counter-attack from the left, black has no more chance. The game is lost from this point." concluded Hikaru as he finished his discussion of the third game.
"Alright, everyone, it is getting late. Shall we call it a day? The rest of you can record down your games... we'll discuss another day. Shindou-kun, you'll be back again, right?"
"It'll be my pleasure, Yun-sensei"
* * *
"Goodbye, Hikaru. It has been awesome having you around today." said Akari, as they stood in front of the Shindou residence.
"You're welcomed" Hikaru stole a glance at his watch "Hey, it's still early. How about we go up to my room to review your game? I didn't manage to get to it just now."
"Sure! How can I miss the opportunity of a one-to-one session with Shindou-sensei."
"Ha ha. Stop making fun of me."
Akari followed Hikaru up the flight of stairs. "I know these stairs so well now... how many times have I ran up them as a kid? But somehow, they feel different now..."
"Wow Hikaru, you have a new computer!" that was the first thing Akari noticed as she entered his room.
"That was a gift from Grandpa. He said it was to celebrate my promotion to 3-dan. Well, shall we begin?" Hikaru started laying stones on his goban.
"I see, that was why I lost the game" said Akari, 20 minutes later.
"Alright, that's all for today. It's time to... Oh my god! I almost forgot! I have a match against Murong in 5 minutes!" exclaimed Hikaru.
"Who's Murong? Oh dear, are you going to be late?"
"He's a Taiwan Go player that I met online. I think he's younger than me, but very strong. He's one of the strongest players I've played online so far."
"I never knew you play online Go! Well you better log in now, or you'll be late."
Hikaru turned on his computer. Soon, he came to the familiar log in screen.
"Fujiwarano... that's an interesting nickname. Is there any particular significance?" asked Akari, curious.
"Well... it reminds me of an old friend..." Hikaru became sentimental all of a sudden "There he is! Murong! Let me invite him to a game!"
Chapter 4: That game long ago
Taiwan Go Institute
"I resign. Thanks for the game." said Song Chen, 7-dan, bowing respectfully.
"Thanks for the game." Touya Kouyo returned the compliment.
"It really is an honour for the Taiwan Go Institute to be hosting such a distinguished guest as you, Touya-sensei. You provide great inspiration to all of us, and for the Taiwan Go league that has only recently turned professional." continued Song.
"You flatter me. I relish the chance to travel and meet new Go players, and I'm very happy that your institute can provide me with this opportunity. Taiwan has some really promising players, for example Murong Feng, who is already a 2-dan despite only being 13 year old. I had a really interesting game with him 2 days ago." Touya Kouyo replied graciously.
"I agree. He is one of our bright sparks. Touya-sensei, I heard a rumor that your retirement and subsequent travels were motivated by that game you played online against Sai, long ago. Is it true? I'm really curious."
"Ha ha, you've heard of that game too. Honestly, I'm eagerly looking forward to my next game with Sai. However, I need to continue to hone my skills and raise my Go to a new level, before I'm ready to play with him again."
"That game has already become the legend in the Go world. Really, Touya-sensei, you're too modest. How can your Go be not good enough?"
"The fact is, I lost that game..." a wave of emotions seemed to have swept over the former Meijin.
"Well, it was razor thin - half a moku! Oh by the way, Murong also plays online Go. In fact, it looks like he is playing a game now."
"He is also interested in internet Go?"
"That's right. He told me that last week, he met an unusually strong opponent on the internet. They played 3 games since, and he lost all of them. Not satisfied with his performance, he has been issuing new challenges against this opponent."
"Is that so? This person must be really strong, to be able to beat Murong decisively. I must take a look."
"Could it be Sai?" the thought came to Touya Kouyo, almost instinctively "He has not been seen for a long time. Maybe he decided to make a comeback?"
Murong was so engrossed in the game that he did not notice when Touya Kouyo walked over to the computer and stood next to him.
"Murong (black) vs Fujiwarano (white). Well, it is not Sai." the former Meijin seemed slightly disappointed "But his style... it has the shadow of Sai. Could he be Sai's disciple?"
"Damn it, I RESIGN!!!" Murong suddenly shouted, at the top of his voice. Then he suddenly saw Touya Kouyo next to him "Oh I'm sorry, Touya-sensei. I got carried away. This Fujiwarano, he's simply too strong for me."
"That was a really interesting game." Touya Kouyo offered one of his rare words of praise "Say... can you help me to request a game with him?"
"Wow, even Touya-sensei is interested in him. He would be honored. OK, I will send him a message."
Murong: Hey, a VIP wants to play with you. You have time now?
Fujiwarano: Sure. What's his nickname?
Murong: Toya Koyo.
"Touya-sensei wants to play with me!" exclaimed Hikaru "Cool, I shall show him my true strength right now!"
Fujiwarano: It'll be my pleasure. I'll host the game.
Toya Koyo (black) vs Fujiwarano (white). Time: 3 hours. Komi: 5.5 moku.
"Just like that game..." Touya Kouyo and Hikaru commented, to themselves.
* * *
"The light is still on in Father's room" Akira noticed on his way to the restroom "He only just returned from Taiwan today. Is he waiting for his imaginary opponent to play with him again?"
Akira recalled the occasions when his father just sat next to the goban by himself, with black and white stones on opposite sides and just a single black stone on the board. This time, however, his father was laying out the stones instead.
"Akira, don't keep standing there. Come in."
"Yes, father." Akira needed only a moment's glance at the board to recognize the game "This game... isn't it that match you played with Sai?"
"That's right. I have been thinking about the game for a long time now. Look at this move." Touya Kouyo laid out the game to the crucial decisive moment "It seemed to me at that time that it was absolutely necessary for black to connect here. It resulted in a 0.5 moku loss for me. However, if I had placed it here instead, threatening white's corner, the result would have been a 2.5 moku win for me instead."
"I have seen it before. Hikaru showed it to me at the Go salon."
"I see. So Hikaru also discovered this move." Touya Kouyo seemed unusually pleased "When I found this move, I was very happy, for a while. At first, I thought defeat was inevitable, but it seemed that there was a way to win after all. It was a pity I didn't think of it during the game."
"I was happy for you too, father."
"But after some time, I became dissatisfied again. In a strange way, I wanted Sai to win that game. He clearly played above me, and do not deserve to lose like that. So I continued to search for a way for white to win, after that move."
"So did you find it, father?"
"It was not easy. I thought about it for at least 3 months. After all, it was close to end-game, and there were not many more possibilities. But I found it, eventually."
Touya Kouyo placed a white stone at a seemingly irrelevant part of the board. Akira, baffled at first, watched as his father continued to play out the moves. Twenty moves later, the outcome was clear. White sacrificed the chance to cut off black in the middle, as well as its territory in the corner, in exchange for the destruction of the black stones on the left side. It ended in a 1.5 moku victory for white.
"Wow, father, that's amazing! It requires an exceptionally deep reading of the game! I would never of thought of that!"
"Ha ha, it took me 3 months to come up with that."
"Father, have you been spending all your time on this game recently?"
"Well, yes and no. I have been thinking about this game. But I have also been considering some of my other games. You see, I am currently writing a book on some of the more interesting games in my career, including games against Kuwabara sensei, Ogata, Kurata, you, and of course, that game with Sai. Besides providing an in depth analysis of each game, I also supplied some alternatives as to how the game could have been played. Perhaps I will also include the online games I have played recently."
"You started playing online again?"
"That's right. It's against a player by the name Fujiwarano. I would show you the games, but you really should go to bed. Perhaps I'll just show you the opening of my last game. He plays an interesting style, somewhat like Sai."
The game started with the usual Joseki. Then at move 13, black played in an unusual position. It was a move Akira instantly recognized.
"This style... there is no doubt about it! Father has been playing Hikaru!"
End of Chapter 4
* * *
Author's notes: From the website of the Taiwan Go Institute, http://taiwango.org.tw, I gathered that they have recently turned professional. However, I am not familiar with their league, and I apologize if I made any mistakes. The komi for recent Go tournaments have been changed to 6.5 or 7.5, but I have kept it at 5.5 since that was the case in the story.
Chapter 5: The Meijin's request
"Have you been playing against my father?" Akira asked Hikaru the next day at the Go salon.
"Yes. How did you know? Did your father tell you?"
"No, he just showed me the opening of one game. I recognized it was your style right away. I know your game like the back of my hand."
"Ha ha..." Hikaru seemed pleased by that comment "Did Touya-sensei know that his opponent was me?"
"Maybe... I'm not too sure. Anyway, I only got to see a bit of the game. Can you show me the rest?"
"Alright." Hikaru started laying out the stones of the 3 games he played, beginning with the first. "As you can see, I resigned in the middle of the first 2 games. Touya-sensei was too strong for me. However, my third game was better."
The third game, Akira observed, was the one that his father showed him halfway. "This game, I was able to respond to his moves better," continued Hikaru "At times, I felt that the game was close. However, Touya-sensei had a few unexpected tricks up his sleeve. I ended with a 9.5 moku loss."
"You played well, Hikaru. You did not make any particularly bad moves." replied Akira "It's just that father's moves seemed to come from a higher plane... each one is a work of art. He has improved since his game with Sai."
"That means we have to work harder! When can we ever catch up with Touya-sensei?"
"You sure are ambitious! Think about beating me first!"
"Well, I beat you in the Otaei match last week!"
"Don't get too cocky! I made a mistake in that match, allowing you to win. I certainly won't lose to you in our Kisei match next week!"
"Ha ha, we shall see..."
* * *
Kisei fourth round qualifying match, Touya Akira 4-dan vs Shindou Hikaru 3-dan.
"Oneigaishimasu" The game began.
"Shuusaku's Koisumi!" Akira seemed amazed by Hikaru's last move "To play such an old Joseki in a fourth round qualifying match... what is he thinking? Well, I shall punish him for this..."
"Touya Akira! An urgent phone call for you!" Akira's thoughts were disturbed by a voice from the lobby. He left to answer it. When Akira didn't come back after a while, Hikaru followed him, concerned. He saw Akira was shaking, and his face was as white as a sheet.
"What happened?" Hikaru asked.
"It... was mum... she said father had another heart attack... the doctors are operating on him..."
Hikaru was stunned. Then he quickly recovered. "Come on, we have to go to the hospital right away. There's no time to lose!"
* * *
"I'm sure Touya-sensei will be alright, just like the last time." Hikaru tried to break the uncomfortable silence outside the operating theatre.
"The doctors asked him to take good care of himself... they said another heart attack can prove fatal..." Akira was unconsolable.
"We'll have to hope for the best... Hey, the doctor's out!"
"How's my father?" Akira was the first to rush forward.
"He's awake now. You can go talk to him." the doctor replied.
"Is he going to be OK?" Akira persisted, fearing the worst.
"We've done our best... try your best to... keep him happy."
"Oh my god... how did this happened?" Akira was suddenly rooted to the spot, unable to move.
"Come on Akira, let's go and see your father." Hikaru grabbed Akira by the arm and led him slowly into the room. Touya Kouyo was awake, looking at them.
"Akira! Hikaru! Why are you here? Didn't you have a game going on?" Touya Kouyo seemed unusually high-spirited.
"Don't worry about the game, Touya-sensei" Hikaru managed to say. Akira was silent.
"What's wrong, Akira? Don't believe what the doctor said. Look, I'm still alive and kicking."
"Father... I'm glad to hear that." said Akira.
"Hikaru... I have a request to make." the former Meijin seemed suddenly serious.
"What is it, Touya-sensei?"
"I know I promised you to keep it a secret. However, it is important to me, and crucial that I ask you now..."
Hikaru frozed. He suddenly realized what the former Meijin was going to say.
"Can I play another game against Sai?"
Chapter 6: The rivals unite!
"Tou... Touya sen...sei, are you su...sure you are well enough to pl...play, after all, you... just had an operation" Hikaru managed to say after a period of stunned silence.
"Oh, you're worried about that? It's not a problem. Look, I'm in great spirits! I never felt more energetic than now!" Touya Kouyo replied confidently.
"Well, I... it's just..."
"Perhaps... Sai doesn't want to play with me?"
"No of course not!" Hikaru became agitated all of a sudden "Sai has always wanted to play against you! Sai has always treated you as his greatest rival, the person that he wants to beat!"
"That's great! So I gather there will be no problems to my request?"
"Actually, Sai... Sai has... Sai..." Hikaru was suddenly interrupted by a sharp tug on his arm. Akira quickly led him out of the room.
"Hikaru! So my suspicions were right all along! You were the one who arranged the game with Father!" Akira began as soon as he closed the door.
"Please, Akira... now is not the time for questions." Hikaru seemed at a loss for words.
"Alright, I'll get my answers another day. So you know Sai! As you said, Sai is also very eager to play with my father! Why can't you just agree to my father's request."
"It is not as easy as it sounds..."
"Hikaru... please. I have never ask anyone for any favor before, but now I ask you to do me this favor. Arrange this match. And as soon as possible..." Akira's voice trailed off as he said those words
When Hikaru did not reply for a while, Akira continued, "Nobody knows what father is thinking, or what he wants. Everybody see him as a holder of 5 titles. They respect him. Admire him. Even envy him. They all want to be him. But do they really understand him? I can sense that father was getting jaded... he did not seem to be looking forward to his matches as much as before, not even the title matches. I sense an intense loneliness inside him... a strong desire to find an opponent that can match him and challenge him to greater heights."
"Really... I never realized Touya-sensei could have felt like that." Hikaru was genuinely surprised.
"As a kid, my father prevented me from playing Go with other kids. He said I would demoralize them." Akira was starting to get emotional "So I played with older pros. Ogata-sensei. Kurata-sensei. People in my father's study group. Even though I learnt a lot from them, and the games were a lot of fun, I still yearned for an opponent of my age. Then I found you."
"That's right. We shall be eternal rivals."
"But what about father? Just 2 years ago, he crushed Zama-Ouza without really trying very hard... What has he got to look forward to? And then he met Sai... Hikaru, that game, it changed father's life forever..."
"I know that. I know that more than anyone else."
"You know very well how important this match is to father. So, Hikaru, no matter how difficult it is, can you try to arrange this match?"
"Alright, Akira... I will try my best... I shall go to the lobby to make a call to Sai. Please wait for me here."
"Very well. I'll await your good news."
Instead of the lobby, however, Hikaru made his way to the garden.
"Akira didn't understand what I meant by 'trying my best'. I'm going to have to try my best to play like Sai! In fact, this is my greatest dream. I continue to play Go so that, one day, I can play an even game against Touya-sensei as Sai. I sense that I'm getting closer, but why does it have to be so soon? I'm not ready yet! But if I don't try now, I'll never get the chance. And Touya-sensei will be so disappointed. Sai, tell me what I should do? If only you can come back right now! Sai! Sai..."
* * *
"What took you so long..." Akira asked when Hikaru finally returned. He noticed that Hikaru's eyes were red.
"Sai has agreed to the match."
"Well that's great! Let's go tell father the good news!"
They reentered the room. "So how was it, Hikaru?" asked Touya Kouyo.
"Sai can play tomorrow. 10 am. 3 hours per person, Komi of 5.5 moku. Is that fine with you, Touya-sensei?" replied Hikaru.
"That's excellent! I have no problems at all. Akira, can you bring my laptop later today? I shall hook it up and play some warm up matches."
"No problem, father."
"Oh, and help me tell the nurse to put up the 'No visitors' sign. I don't want to be disturbed."
* * *
"Why the sudden urge to play with me, Hikaru?" asked Akari. They were seated in Hikaru's room, next to the goban.
"I've got an important match tomorrow, and I'm feeling quite nervous. Playing with you helps me to relax." Hikaru managed a smile.
Playing with Akari helps me to relax...
I'll make sure the game goes fine at 9 stones, Hikaru...
"Ha ha. Alright, let's begin then."
Half an hour later, Akari resigned. "I lost again! But this time I've got closer! Soon I will only need a 8-stone handicap!"
"That's right, you're improving." said Hikaru, encouragingly.
"Hikaru, you still look troubled. Are you thinking about tomorrow's game? Who's your opponent?"
"Well, that's an important game indeed. But haven't you been playing him for the past week? You don't seem as nervous then."
"This game is different. I can't lose this game..."
"Wow... that's tough. Hey, why don't you ask Touya for help? He knows his father so well, perhaps he can give you some advice."
"Ask Akira for help? Hey, I've got an idea... Will it work? Well, I just have to try... Akari, thanks for the game! I feel better already!"
* * *
"Hello, this is the Touya residence." Akira picked up the phone.
"Akira, this is Hikaru. There is something I need to tell you."
"What is it? I just got home, after sending the laptop to father."
"Akira... Sai is gone. Sai can't play the game tomorrow."
"What? Wait you're kidding, right?"
"No, I'm serious, Akira."
"Oh... oh my god... why didn't you say so earlier? Father... father is going to be so disappointed..."
"Akira get a hold on yourself! Hear me out!"
"OK I'm listening..."
"Sai may be gone, but we shall replace him! We will play together against your father tomorrow!"
Two minutes of silence. Then... "Are... are you sure that will work?"
"As you said, my game resembles Sai. You've also been studying Sai's and Shuusaku's games. We have to give it a try, Akira!"
"Well, I guess there is no other choice..."
"Cool. Come over to my place tomorrow. You know the time."
"See you tomorrow. Goodbye"
Chapter 7: Sai vs Toya Koyo
In the room
"Akira, you're early" Hikaru led Akira upstairs to his room "Are you really for the game?"
"Yes, I'm ready."
"Confident of winning?"
"Of course... Hikaru, why the serious expression. You look like a kamikaze pilot making your toast to the emperor, before embarking on your last flight."
"Akira, you may be joking, but I can sense that you're dead serious as well." Hikaru replied grimly.
"Alright, let's get started."
Hikaru proceeded to the login screen, and entered a name that the world has not seen for a while: 'Sai'.
"Sai lives again..." the 2 rivals whispered to each other, almost simultaneously.
Hikaru held out his hand. Akira squeezed it firmly. Go is not normally a team game, but this is as close as it gets to one.
* * *
In the hospital
"Sai... I have waited so long for this..." a mixture of emotions ran through the former Meijin "Have you been looking forward to this match, as I have been? All my travels, all my preparations, have been made for this moment. It may have come sooner than I plan, but I can say that I am ready."
An invitation to a match appeared. Touya Kouyo accepted it gladly.
Sai (white) vs Toya Koyo (black). Time: 3 hours. Komi: 5.5 moku.
"It has begun..."
* * *
In the room
By silent consent, Hikaru controlled the mouse. The first few moves were standard Joseki. Hikaru would move the mouse pointer over a spot on the board. Akira would nod his head, and Hikaru would place the move.
"Planning an attack?" Akira broke the silence as Hikaru moved the pointer into black territory.
"It is time." Hikaru's reply was short. Akira simply nodded and observed Hikaru's next few moves.
"Hikaru's Go has come of age. Previously he would surprise me with a few brilliant, Sai-like moves, but they tend to be isolated and disconnected with each other. These few moves, however, all had Sai's signature in them. He is finally able to string together an effective sequence of moves, each one more aggressive than the last...how would father respond now?" Akira wondered.
* * *
In the hospital
"Sai, you have grown more aggressive. These last 6 moves are a serious threat to my territory. If I continued to defend like this it would put me at a serious disadvantage."
Touya Kouyo paused, and pondered his next move for 15 minutes.
"It is time to show you my Go. Touya Kouyo's Go..."
* * *
In the room
"Touya sensei is disregarding my last move!" exclaimed Hikaru "Well, let me press on then! The entire black formation at the top can be destroyed!"
"Hang on... father must have a good reason for making this move." Akira disagreed "Look, black is now in a good position to threaten white's territory on both sides of the board. The situation on top is also not so clear. Depending on subsequent developments... this move may be just right for black to become alive on top. At this point, we should proceed carefully."
"You're right. We should strengthen our position on the left." Hikaru responded with an appropriate move.
* * *
Rest of world
Toya Koyo's return to online Go had not gone unnoticed. Since his first game with Fujiwarano, internet Go players have been tracking his games. It did not take long for people to see this new game with Sai. Soon, calls were being made, and people from halfway across the world were being waken up from their sleep.
Among the pros, Waya was the first to notice the game. He called Isumi, Honda, Nase, and several others, fulfilling an earlier promise he made to them. At Weekly Go, Amano, Kosemura, and others gathered in front of the office computer, abandoning their work all of a sudden. The Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Taiwanese Go Institutes all got to know about it, and pros rushed to find the nearest available screen. Kuwabara Honinbou, Ogata Jyudan, Kurata Kisei and others watched the match from their own computers.
Nobody wanted to miss another match of a lifetime.
* * *
In the room
"Oh my god, look at the number of spectators. There must be at least 500 of them." Hikaru gasped "The weight of the entire Go world is on our shoulders, Akira."
"Come on, let's not get distracted. Concentrate on the game." Akira tried his best to stay calm. The young pro, normally unwavering under even the most difficult situations, was starting to feel the pressure tightening around them.
"Well, let's just pretend they don't exist..." Hikaru forced himself back into the game.
"Hmmm, you're not planning to defend anymore? Wouldn't this move greatly expose the weakness in our formation?"
"That's the idea... I welcome Touya-sensei to attack us here."
* * *
"I just don't get it. White is exposing himself blatantly? And most baffling of all, black does not try to take advantage?" Waya confessed that he was hopelessly lost.
"I'm sure Touya-sensei must have a plan." replied Isumi, who came over to watch the match with Waya. "Let's wait and see."
* * *
In the hospital
To win by more than 15 moku...
I'll have to start a fight where one of us gets wiped out...
"I've observed something similar before..." Touya Kouyo recalled a game he played in the room of Yuugen, against a young pro by the name of Shindou Hikaru "White is inviting me, begging me to invade here. However, I sense immense danger lurking in the background. The result will be an intense battle whose outcome is unclear at the moment. I can already see at least 5 different ways the game can go, none of which seems very favorable to me. Well, Sai, I was able to withstand the temptation to attack those weak stones then. Do you think I cannot do the same now?"
Once again, Touya Kouyo paused before making his next move.
* * *
In the room
"He didn't fall for it..." Hikaru seemed disappointed.
"Did you expect him to?" Akira was not surprised.
"Look, he just revealed a weak point in his formation."
"This is obviously a trap. Hikaru, do you think you are the only person capable of laying one? Now is not the time to attack, but for consolidation. Here, I believe this is the most effective move we can make. We may be slightly behind, but we still have a chance."
"This is excellent, Akira. Sai would have been proud of this move too."
* * *
Taiwan Go Institute
"Sensei! I'm totally lost. What is the 2 of them doing?" Murong Feng was totally exasperated.
"To be honest, I'm not too certain either." replied Song Chen "This game will take a long time to be analyzed completely... Generations of future Go players will be talking about it, long after it is over..."
* * *
In the hospital
"A very calm and calculated move... Sai, you have responded well so far, and I am very happy to have been able to meet all your challenges up to now. However, we have come to the decisive part of the game, and it is time for me to put in everything I know about Go. It is not good enough to play like the last game. I have to surpass it. Sai, are you ready to bring our Go to a new level?"
With that, Touya Kouyo placed his move.
* * *
In the room
"So, this is the result of father's research into the game. Now we finally begin to see the fruits of father's preparations for this game." began Akira, in awe of what just happened.
"Indeed. This is the best move of the game so far. It is simply a great work of art..." time seemed to have stopped for Hikaru as he admired the last move.
"Well, get back to reality and start thinking how to counter that!" Akira was the first to snap out of their trance.
"Yeah, we should. But this move is too perfect... is there really a good way to respond to it?"
* * *
Kuwabara Honinbou's residence
A wizened old man puffs on his cigarette, his eyes on the screen. He smiled at the last move.
"Sai's game suddenly seemed to have weaken." observed Kuwabara "Perhaps he did not expect this onslaught? Touya Kouyo certainly still have something in him! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha..."
* * *
In the hospital
"This last move... I feel quite certain it is one of Akira's. Before that, the previous move felt like one of Hikaru's. They are very well-thought-out moves, but still insufficient in the present context. What is going on?"
Suddenly, realization struck Touya Kouyo like a thunder-bolt.
"Those silly kids! Do they have to go to such lengths to satisfy an old man like me... Hikaru, he could have just told me the truth... In any case, they have played an excellent game up to now. It's a pity that they could not carry it through. Certainly, they lack the experience of Sai to respond to my last few moves. What will Akira or Hikaru do now?"
* * *
In the room
"It is useless... there's nothing we can do. The best outcome we can hope for now is a 5.5 moku loss. And that is only if we do not make any mistakes from now on." Hikaru appeared to be giving up.
"Don't lose hope, Hikaru. Keep thinking..." Akira replied bravely.
* * *
"Sai has been thinking for half an hour for the last move! Look, he has only 5 minutes left on his main time... he is going into Byo-Yomi soon." Waya appeared greatly concerned. He was a great fan of Sai after all.
"The situation looks bleak for Sai" Isumi concurred "Can he still make a comeback?"
Chapter 8: Shuusaku memorial
In the room
2 minutes to go.
"I have to agree with you, Hikaru. The best outcome is a 5.5 moku loss." Akira conceded.
"Is there really no other way..." Hikaru still refused to give up.
"I can't see any... maybe it's time to resign."
"Resign? No, we can't do that! Sai cannot lose!"
1 minute to go.
"Well, then, you'll need to come up with something brilliant..."
"Sai! If only Sai is here... he will be able to think of something. Sai, please tell me what to do..."
30 seconds to go.
"Look Akira, the problem lie with these stones." Hikaru drew Akira's attention to a group of stones. Those stones were alive, since they had 2 eyes. However, the shape was awkward. "As a result of Touya-Sensei's intense attack, we were forced to respond in such awkward places. The stones may be alive, but they serve no purpose. If only they are not there..."
Byo-yomi time started. From this point, it was sudden death, and each move had to be made within 30 seconds.
If only they are not there...
If only the stones were not there!
Almost by impulse, Hikaru filled up one of the eyes in the formation.
"Hikaru! What are you doing? This is suicide!" Akira was flabbergasted.
True enough, Touya Kouyo proceeded to kill the group of stones.
Without hesitation, Hikaru placed a stone right in the middle of the group that just got removed.
"This... this is unprecedented..." Akira suddenly realized what Hikaru was doing "I've not come across it in any match before. After all, who would deliberately kill his own stones? But hey, it may just work..."
Once again, another pause from Touya Kouyo. When he placed his next move, however, there was no pause from Hikaru. To every one of his subsequent move, Hikaru had a reply almost instantaneouly.
"Hikaru is playing totally by instinct now. I don't think I have ever seen him like that... he has almost totally recovered our lost ground now."
Black resigned. It was another 0.5 moku victory for Sai.
"We did it, Akira... we did it." The two rivals hugged each other. Tears of joy poured uncontrollably down Hikaru's face...
* * *
"That totally blew my mind away..." Waya was still in a state of shock and awe.
"A new precedence has been set. Sai has ventured where no one had gone before. This game will be immortalized in the history of Go" Isumi summed it up neatly.
* * *
In the hospital. 1 hour later.
"Touya-sensei! That was an amazing game!" Hikaru could barely contain himself as he burst into the hospital room.
"The two of you played way above yourself. I see great future for you and the Japanese Go world." Touya Kouyo seemed not at all upset at his loss.
"You... knew that it was us?"
"Of course I did. Though I must admit you guys had me fooled at first."
"I'm sorry Touya-sensei... Sai couldn't play... you must be very disappointed."
"Don't be silly, Hikaru. How can I be disappointed with a game like that... there must have been a very good reason why Sai couldn't play... I won't probe any further. That game was amazing whichever way I looked at it. All I needed to win was to ignore your "suicidal" move and strengthen myself first. But isn't it human nature to try to kill his opponent when the opportunity arises?" said Touya Kouyo with a chuckle. "By the way, Akira, can you do me a favor?"
"The manuscript for my book is ready. However, I had no time to include our latest game inside. Can you help me add it in, and then send it to the publisher? It is my hope that my book will be an inspiration to the two of you, and future aspiring Go pros."
"Of course, father. Hikaru and I will study the book diligently."
"Thank you, Akira. And thank you, Hikaru."
Touya Kouyo passed away peacefully that night, with a smile on his face. Perhaps he had finally found what he had been looking for.
* * *
Three years later.
Two young men and a young lady stepped onto the grounds of the Shuusaku memorial. They made their way to a row of gravestones.
"Father, Hikaru has come to visit you. And this is Akari, Hikaru's fiancee." Akira knelt down respectfully in front of his father's grave.
"Touya-sensei, Akira has done you proud." Hikaru followed Akira's example and knelt down "He has recently defended his Meijin title against a strong challenge from Ogata-sensei!"
"Hikaru has done very well too." said Akira, almost in reply "Last month, he defeated Kuwabara-sensei to clinch the Honinbou title. Kuwabara-sensei retired after that, saying that it is time to hand over to the next generation."
"Touya, was it your father's wish to be buried next to Honinbou Shuusaku?" asked Akari.
"That's right" replied Akira "He once told me that it would be a great honor for him to be buried next to the man he admired most. I spoke to the people in charge of this place, and they were supportive of the idea. For that I am really grateful."
"Alright, it is time for me to pay my respects to Shuusaku." Hikaru walked over and knelt in front of Shuusaku's grave, bowing respectfully.
"Hikaru, you still haven't told me your secret connection with Sai and Shuusaku." Akira tried again to pry open the mystery that had been bugging him for so long.
"Ha ha, I will tell you someday, when the time is ripe. Shall we play a game?" Hikaru took out a magnetic Go set from his backpack.
"Yes, why not? Your father and Shuusaku can watch the game."
"Alright." They nigirii. Hikaru was black. "Oneigaiishimasu".
Meanwhile, Akari took out pen and paper, and began to record down the game. "Shindou Hikaru 7-dan, Honinbou, Kisei, vs Touya Akira 7-dan, Meijin, Ouza. No matter who wins, this shall be another classic match of the Go world."
* * *
Author's note: That's all, folks! Honestly, I am not sure if it is possible to commit suicide and then play again in the area left vacant by the dead stones. And I have no idea if it had been done before. But let's just accept that it is possible. The inspiration for such a move comes from the chinese swordfighting novel 'Tian Long Ba Bu' (天龙八部), by Louis Cha (金庸). In summary, I want to say that I wrote this fic because I was disappointed with how HnG ended. This story would be close to how I would want it to end.