SOUNDS FROM AFTERNOON GO GAMES

by Tari Gwaemir
A "soundtrack" of Hikaru and Akira playing at Touya Kouyo's go salon.

"You're late. As usual."

"So? I'm here now. Let's play." Two chairs scraping across the floor. The clink of wooden bowls against the table.

"Please."

"Please." The scattering of stones on a wooden board.

"I'm black." Pachi.

More stones placed deliberately, rhythmically, tap, tap, tap, tap...

The shuffle of feet across the floor. Tense, heavy breaths, a muffled sigh, a finger sliding across the glass table.

"Over so soon?"

"We played speed go this time. He won."

"Yeah, I felt a little impatient and rushed him."

"You're the one who was late."

"So? I needed to play. It was a good game."

"Shall we play again?"

"Of course. Please."

***

"You're late. As usual."

"Shut up. Unlike some people, I still have school."

"It's a miracle you even passed the exams."

"Even so, it's probably the worst school in the district. Plus, I think they only accepted me for my go."

"But you can't participate in any school tournaments."

"I guess they felt it was publicity to have a pro go player attending their school."

"Though with the current game schedule, you might as well not be attending at all."

"Tell that to Okaasan." Some laughter.

"Let's go in." Door hinges squeaking, the clear tinkling of a bell.

"I brought the kifu from Kurata-san's game against Kuwabara-sensei."

"Honinbo again? Boy, that grandfather's stubborn."

"Kurata's style is not very subtle. He's good at reading his enemy's moves, but his own offensive strategy isn't always so carefully thought through. And Kuwabara-sensei is rather manipulative."

"You were just a step away from challenging for the title this year, weren't you? If Kurata-san hadn't beat you by two and a half moku..."

"At least I'm in the Honinbo league. Unlike some 3-dan players I could mention." Chairs skid across the floor. Sheets of paper rustle against one another, as stones rattle and scatter against the wooden board.

"Just you watch! I'll be in the league next year, and you might even have to play me." Pachi. Pachi.

"Oh, I am terrified." Pachi. Pachi. Pachi.

"You better be. I can beat you, you know."

A soft snort. "I still win four times out of five." Pachi.

"I'll catch up with you one day soon. I'm coming closer every game."

The soft murmur of go games in the background.

"I'll wait for you."

***

"Sorry."

"Shindo?"

"What?"

"Is...is something wrong?"

"No, I'm fine." Footsteps along the sidewalk. A quiet sigh.

"Shindo--"

"I said I was fine."

"Aa." Cars roaring past like waves tumbling over a distant beach. "Shall we go in?"

"Did you ever have a friend, Touya?"

Silence.

"Someone you take for granted, someone who annoys you all the time, someone you yell at, someone you always forget about. But when he's gone, everything changes."

"I...I don't think I really had friends."

"Eh?"

"I had Otousan. I had Ogata-san and Ashiwara-san and Ichikawa-san."

"Oh." A long heavy sigh.

"I think...I think you're my first friend."

"Eh? Really?"

"Even now, I don't really have any friends besides you."

"Oh." Shoes scraping back and forth on concrete. "Um...Today's the fifth of May."

"Yes?"

"Well...I, um, had a friend who, um, died two years ago."

"Oh! I...I'm sorry."

"His...his name was Sai."

A sharp sudden gasp. "Sai?"

"Yeah." Footsteps stamping quickly across the sidewalk.

"Wait...wait! Hikaru! Sai?!"

Footsteps slowing to a halt. "I said I'll tell you someday, didn't I? A long time from now."

"Why not now?"

"I'll tell you someday. When I'm no longer afraid."

"Afraid of what?"

The screech of tires skidding against the pavement, braking to a stop.

"Of losing you too."

***

"You're late. As usual."

"Shut up. I went to a go club meeting after school."

"Go club? You're wasting your time."

"They asked me to come and play some shidougo. What's wrong with that?"

"Valuable time you could have spent practicing by playing me." Some laughter.

"Then what are you waiting for? Let's go in."

"Un." Door hinges squeaking, the clear tinkling of a bell.

Chairs slide across the floor. The clink of wooden bowls against the glass table, the clatter of stones against the board. "I'm white."

"Father's returned from his overseas tour." Pachi.

"Really? That's great! I'd like to play against him again." Pachi.

"I thought you hated losing." Pachi.

"I only hate losing against you." Pachi.

"So why do you come everyday?" Pachi.

"In the hopes of winning just one more time." Pachi.

"Huh?" The tap-tap of a finger against the table. "You're playing Shuusaku's opening."

"Eh? Oh, yeah. I've been studying his old kifu."

"You forget the weaknesses of the old strategies. See, I can go here." Pachi.

"Aa, but I've already considered that hand." Pachi.

"Adapting Shuusaku's style...You're playing like--"

"No. This is my go. You're playing me, not...not him."

The dull drone of conversation in the background. "Oh. I see. I'm sorry." Pachi. Pachi.

"Do you ever...ever see me when we play?"

"Always. Like you said, it's your go. That's all that matters."

***

"You're late. As usual."

"Well, I'm here now." Two chairs scoot across the floor. The rattle of stones in wooden bowls.

"Please."

"Please." The muted staccato of stones on a wooden board, tap, tap, tap...

Footsteps. "How's the game going?"

Pachi. Pachi.

"Can you hear me, you two?"

"Oh, hello, Ashiwara-san. Sorry, but we're in the middle of a game."

"I can see that. Doesn't it get dull, playing the same opponent again and again?"

"We're rivals, Ashiwara-san. We keep changing as we play. Each game is completely different from before."

"Aa. Well, I did say you needed someone your age around to keep the game exciting."

"Go is always exciting. But each time we play...well, this isn't arrogance, Ashiwara-san, but each time we play--"

"--we're reaching for the Hand of God."

"Yes."

"Is that your goal? The perfect game?" Amused laughter as footsteps fade away.

Pachi. Pachi. "Oh. I have lost."

"Thank you."

"Thank you."

END

Hikaru no Go belongs to Obata Takeshi and Hotta Yumi.

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