THERE AND BACK AGAIN

by Tari Gwaemir
Shindou takes a road trip to Hokkaido.

Shindou paced back and forth, cell phone at his ear, pausing every now and then to roll his eyes. "Yes, I have my umbrella. And the extra pair of shoes. No, I didn't forget my toothbrush."

Yashiro snorted. "Didn't know your mother was such a nag, Shindou."

"Oh, it's not his mother," one of the older pros told him cheerfully. "You'll see."

"Cell phone charger? Oh, um, let me check." Shindou hastily searched through his backpack pockets. "Yeah, it's here. Geez, have a little faith in me, Touya. I'm not a child."

Yashiro raised an eyebrow. "Eh? Shindou's on the phone with--?"

"Akira-kun can be quite the mother hen, don't you think?"

"Yes, I'm sure--okay, look, we're about to leave, so I gotta hang up now. I'll call you when we get to the hotel." Shindou snapped his phone shut with a click and clutched at his hair. "Argh, he can be so irritating!"

"Does he do that every time you travel?" Yashiro asked curiously.

"Well...you see, when we went to Korea for those goodwill games back in January, I kind of forgot to bring socks and had to borrow off of him. He hasn't let up on me ever since."

"You forgot to bring socks?"

"Hey, it happens to the best of us! Besides, I was a little distracted while packing for that trip. I'm much more careful now."

"Distracted? Do I even wanna know?"

Shindou gave him a puzzled glance. "I was up all night reviewing kifu. 'Goodwill' games, my foot. I wasn't going to let the likes of Ko Yeongha beat me again."

"You still lost though."

"Don't remind me." Shindou made a sour face. "Anyway, Touya's never going to let me live that down. Forgetting my socks, I mean, not just losing to Ko."

Yashiro shook his head. "You two are just like an old--"

"Oi, you two!" Kurata called out from the waiting taxi. "We're going to miss our flight. Stop chatting and get in!"

"I knew going on this trip was a bad idea," Shindou muttered under his breath as he loaded his suitcase into the trunk.

***

The itinerary: 1.5-hour flight from Tokyo to Sapporo, a thirty-minute shuttle ride from the airport to the hotel, two days spent giving exhibition games at the local go convention, then five days spent touring Hokkaido by car before returning to Tokyo by train from Hakodate. When the invitation first arrived in the mail, Shindou was already less than enthusiastic about the enterprise.

"A week spent in the middle of nowhere, while all the exciting title league matches are taking place? No thank you."

"I heard that Yashiro is going," Waya said absently, frowning at the board.

"Really?"

"Yeah, the Kansai Go Institute is supposed to be sending pros too."

"Who else is going?"

"Let's see...Kurata 7-dan, Nageyama 5-dan, Ashiwara 4-dan--"

"Ashiwara? One of Touya's students?" Morishita-sensei suddenly appeared out of nowhere to loom over their board. "Shindou! If someone from Touya's study group is going to be there, you must go too!"

"What? But why?"

"To represent me, of course! We can't let Touya's group take advantage of these public appearances to show us up. Your game schedule is clear for that week, isn't it?"

"That's why I got the invitation." Shindou groaned. "If only I hadn't lost that third round match for the Kisei preliminaries last week. How the hell is Kurata-san managing to leave for a week?"

Waya looked up from the board. "I heard he was specifically requested as the guest of honor for the convention in Sapporo."

"Yeah right. He just wants to go there to eat the famous miso ramen."

"That, coming from you, is just rich."

Morishita-sensei said, "In any case, if you don't have any scheduling conflicts, you will be going, Shindou."

"Think of it as a vacation. I hear Hokkaido is nice and cool at this time of year," Waya advised as he finally placed his next stone.

"Ugh," was all Shindou had to say as he turned his attention back to the game.

***

"That miso ramen better be worth it," Shindou grumbled as he settled into his seat on the plane.

Yashiro finished putting away their backpacks in the overhead compartment and sat down next to Shindou. "Y'know, it's my first time on a plane."

"Really? Well, it's not too different from a train. Just a lot of sitting and waiting."

"Yeah?" Yashiro leaned forward to look out the window. "Is it always this cramped?"

"We're not important enough for the Institute to buy us first-class seats."

A pleasant female voice announced over the intercom, "This is Japan Airlines flight 876, from Tokyo to Sapporo. We are scheduled to arrive at our destination, New Chitose Airport, in approximately one and a half hours, at 1:30 PM. Please fasten your seatbelts as we prepare for takeoff."

They hastily buckled their seatbelts. Yashiro swallowed as the plane began to accelerate off the runway. He felt a sudden pull backwards into his seat as everything seemed to suddenly tilt. He chanced a look outside the window and saw the ground rapidly pulling away from them, the airport growing smaller and smaller until it was just a building in a sea of buildings. He swallowed and gripped the armrests more tightly.

Shindou nudged him in the side and held out a magnetic travel goban. "Game of speed go? Ten seconds per hand."

He exhaled in relief. "Please."

They were well into their fifth game (Shindou had won the first three, but Yashiro had won the last), when a flight attendant came by to offer them water. Yashiro snuck another glance out the window and was startled to recognize the coastline of eastern Honshu.

Shindou grinned and leaned back in his seat to give Yashiro a better view. "Looks exactly like the maps, doesn't it? Kind of good to know that the textbooks have it right."

"Yeah."

"Hey, it's your turn."

"Oh." He looked back at the board and put down a magnetic stone. Shindou just grinned and answered immediately with his next move. They had a flurry of quick exchanges, until Yashiro had to pause a little to make sure he was reading ahead correctly.

"Five...four...three...two--"

"Shut up," he growled and placed his next hand. "I hate it when you do that."

"Not as much as Touya does." Shindou snapped the next stone down on the board. "But speed go is my specialty."

"So you've said. You still lost to Touya two times out of three when we were up all night preparing for that Hokuto Cup last year."

"Bah, Touya. I've already beaten him twice in official matches now."

"How'd he take it?"

Shindou paused, tapping a stone against the side of the board. "Hm. It was weird. He just kind of clammed up and stared at the board for a long while. Usually we start discussing the game right away."

"You mean, you start arguing right away. By the way, your time's up."

"Oh." Shindou glanced down at the board and placed his next hand with seeming carelesness. Yashiro suppressed a flash of irritation and concentrated on the game.

"Five...four...three--"

"Shut up. Yeah, I know, I've lost." Yashiro closed his eyes.

"So anyway, the first time, I started talking about the game like we always do, but Touya just sat there, back straight in proper seiza and everything, for a really long time. Then he gives me this funny look and says, 'You've gotten better.' Well, duh. I mean, I'd just beat him in an official match, right?"

"When was this?"

"Oh...must have been last November, I think. The second time was in January, just before we went to Korea for the goodwill games. He resigned and then. Silence." Shindou gave a helpless shrug. "I don't get it. It's not like it's the first time he's lost to me. To me as me, I mean."

"Huh?"

"Never mind. The important point is, I'm catching up to him." Shindou thumped the armrest in his excitement and accidentally upset the magnetic goban. The small pieces scattered all over their laps and onto the floor.

"Oh no," Shindou groaned. It took them the rest of the flight to finish picking up all the pieces.

***

Shindou told Touya about the Hokkaido trip after the Wakajishisen in May, after losing to him in the final round. It had been a tense, aggressive match, with no territory left unchallenged, and they fought bitterly for every last moku in yose. The tally at the end left Shindou short by a half-moku, counting the komi. They stood up and shook hands, while the watching insei and fellow pros applauded. Touya's palm was as sweaty as his own. It all felt strangely formal.

Afterwards, they went to a sushi restaurant (Touya had emphatically refused to eat ramen) and stared at each other blankly.

Shindou broke the silence first. "I'm thinking of going on that Hokkaido trip in July."

Touya blinked. "You mean, the convention in Sapporo?"

"Yeah. Morishita-sensei practically ordered me to go."

"Ashiwara-san plans on going as well, I believe."

"So I heard. Along with Kurata-san and a couple of other pros."

"Doesn't Kurata-san have a Meijin league match that week?"

"No, his schedule is clear. Apparently, he's going to be the guest of honor."

"I see. How long will you be gone?"

"A little over a week. I think Yashiro's being sent by the Kansai Go Institute, so I'll run into him again."

"I see," Touya repeated. He picked absently at his sushi.

"You couldn't...by any chance...?"

"No, I'm scheduled for a Honinbou league match on the sixteenth."

Shindou sighed exaggeratedly. "If only I hadn't lost that--"

"Yes, you've been a bit erratic in your official matches lately. The final rounds of the title preliminaries aren't exactly the place for experimenting, Shindou."

"I wasn't experimenting."

"You've been making more and more risky moves lately."

"I don't want to get paralyzed under pressure, that's all."

Touya frowned and said, his voice tight, "Your style is changing. Again."

"No, it's not!" Shindou sat up straight in his seat. "It's just...I'm just getting better. You said so yourself, back in November."

"You used to almost exclusively use classical shapes before. Oh, with a modern twist, of course, but it was almost as if you were deliberately constraining yourself at times to imitate the old kifu. Shuusaku, right?"

"That's not true."

"Yes, it is. I know your go better than anyone else. But lately...it's like you've stopped holding yourself to the past. You're trying things that have never been done before, you keep throwing out all these unexpected hands, and sometimes it doesn't work, but sometimes--"

"Touya," Shindou began but couldn't finish the sentence.

"I just...you never make any sense, Shindou! We've known each other for five years now, and I still can't...I can't figure you out."

They sat in silence for a while.

Finally, Shindou sighed. "Let's discuss the game, Touya."

***

"When you're in Sapporo, you must drink beer," Kurata informed them as soon as they arrived in the city, and in due fashion, they'd spent two consecutive nights visiting all the bars within walking distance of the hotel.

"We're only seventeen," Shindou said nervously when they first tagged along, but Yashiro elbowed him in the ribs to keep quiet.

Shindou, when drunk, was more talkative and tactless then ever. He pointed his fan rudely at Kurata and said very loudly, "I never wanted your autograph, you know. I just said that the first time because I wanted to know how much better you were than Touya."

"Why, you little brat!" Kurata downed his fifth (or was it sixth?) beer and glared at Shindou across the table.

Ashiwara laughed and poked Shindou in the shoulder. "So you were just using Kurata-san as a yardstick for Akira-kun?"

"Me! A yardstick! The punk has some nerve--"

"Hey fatty, all I'm saying is that I didn't want your stupid autograph."

"What did you call me?" Kurata puffed out his cheeks and stood up in his seat. Yashiro and Nageyama had to hold him back before he went for Shindou's throat.

"Here, Kurata-san, have some more beer. And Shindou-kun, I think you should stop drinking."

"Why?" Shindou complained but peaceably allowed his mug to be taken from him.

Ashiwara chuckled. "It seems that Shindou-kun only has eyes for Akira-kun, when it comes to go."

"Yeah, well, that's 'cause Touya's my rival. I beat him twice, you know!"

"So you've said. Many times," Yashiro said dryly.

"'s true! I did beat him. I'm so close now...he's only just a little bit ahead. Just a little, tiny bit."

"Sure you are."

"One day...one day, he's going to open his eyes and see me. Me, right there in front of him. Not a ghost, not a shadow, but me. Just me."

"Doesn't he see you now? He's acknowledged you, hasn't he?"

"No. Yes. I don't know." Shindou laid his head down on the table.

"You all right, Shindou?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Finer than fine."

Yashiro shook his head and refilled his own mug. In the corner, Nageyama and Ashiwara were discussing their exhibition game from the afternoon with excited gestures. They sounded surprisingly lucid, although Ashiwara was clearly flushed and Nageyama staggered on his feet when he tried to go the bathroom.

"Y'know, even when we're drunk, we only ever talk about go," Yashiro said out loud.

"Hm? Did you say something about go?" Shindou raised his head and looked at him blearily.

"No, nothing."

***

Shindou visited the Touya residence for the first time that June. He brought a small cake, a bouquet of tulips, and his best manners as impressed upon him by his nervous mother for hours before the visit.

"Oh, you shouldn't have," Touya's mother exclaimed as she took the flowers.

The Meijin (he would always remain the Meijin to Shindou) nodded to him with a hint of a smile. "I believe we are long overdue for a game, Shindou-kun."

They sat down in Touya-Meijin's study. Shindou noticed with some envy the high quality of the goban--made of kaya wood, of course--and goke.

He bowed low. "Please."

"Nigiri."

He looked up in astonishment.

"This time," Touya-Meijin said with great deliberation, "you will play me with your full ability."

He nodded dumbly and took one of the goke. The stones were of polished slate, of course.

He was black. He took a deep breath and placed his first stone.

It was very different from playing Touya the younger. The Meijin was impenetrably solid, his every hand shining with the experience of many brilliant games. Shindou stumbled too far into the center and watched his territory in one corner crumble. He closed his eyes. Playing against someone so much stronger was an all-too-familiar sensation.

"Your go is developing in a new direction," Touya-Meijin commented after Shindou had resigned. "I can see why my son finds you such an interesting challenge."

Touya flushed. "It's how I would treat any worthy opponent, Father."

"It's rare to find someone who can so consistently push you forwards." He gave a pensive smile. "I'm glad you have such a good friend, Akira."

Shindou and Touya glanced surreptitiously at each other, their eyes meeting for a brief moment before sliding away again. Shindou cleared his throat awkwardly, although he couldn't think of anything to say.

"Time for dinner," Touya's mother called, and they gratefully got to their feet and left the room.

***

The rental van they were given was at least five years old and sputtered in protest as it pulled into the driveway in front of the hotel. Muramaki 2-dan, another pro from the Kansai Institute, poked his head out from the window and grinned at them. "Well, what're y'all waiting for? Hop in!"

"Oh no," Yashiro muttered to Shindou as they clambered into the back seats. "Don't tell me Muramaki-san's driving."

"Huh? What's wrong with that?"

"You'll see."

Muramaki's driving was rather like his go: full of sudden jerks and turns, at times overly aggressive and overly cautious at others, prone to halting at awkward moments while he pored over the map and pondered which direction to take next.

The initial plan was to drive up north to one of the national parks before turning back south to drive down to Hakodate, but about two hours out from Sapporo, the van coughed its way to a standstill and refused to budge further.

"Perhaps it would be better if one of us looked at the map instead, Muramaki-san," Nageyama said tiredly.

"No, it's not that...the engine's stopped."

"What?!"

They all exited the van to crowd around the front of the car. Muramaki opened the hood reluctantly.

"Nothing...looks broken. No steam coming out of the wrong places or anything like that."

Shindou peered under the hood and pulled something out of the tank. "Huh. Maybe we're just out of gas."

"But the fuel gauge says the tank is full--"

"The gauge could be broken."

"Great," Yashiro muttered. "Where are we gonna get gas out here in the middle of nowhere?"

They were on a deserted stretch of highway and had not seen another car for miles.

"Someone call the rental company. Or better yet, anyone have the number for the local police?"

Yashiro squatted at the side of the road as the older pros began arguing about who to call. "You seem to be taking this well," he told Shindou, who just gave a philosophical shrug.

"Go in expecting the worst, and nothing will ever faze you. Huh. I wonder if that's why Touya's always so calm."

"Is he?" Yashiro said with some surprise. "He seems like such an intense person."

"Well, he is, when it comes to go. But outside of a match, he always seems perfectly at ease. It's a little irritating at first, but you get used to it."

"Doesn't seem to be at ease around you though."

"Oh, that's because--" Shindou hesitated.

"Because?"

"Well, I'm his rival! He shouldn't be at ease around me." Shindou gave a half-hearted laugh then frowned. "Although now that I think about it, it's still a little weird."

"Don't worry about it. It's not like you're supposed to be best friends or anything."

"Yeah," Shindou said but continued frowning.

***

"Hello? Touya?"

The whisper woke Yashiro, who lifted his head sleepily to look over at the other bed. Shindou was sitting cross-legged on his pillows, his cell phone held to his ear. The night lamp was still on. In the yellow glow, Shindou's face looked softer, younger.

"I didn't wake you? Good."

Some instinct made Yashiro close his eyes and keep his breathing steady, as if he were still asleep. He listened to Shindou's voice speak softly into the phone.

"I couldn't fall asleep, so I thought I'd call you instead. Felt like talking to someone.

"Yeah, Yashiro's sleeping. I'm trying not to wake him up.

"We spent most of the day driving around, doing the tourist thing. Kurata-san insisted on making a detour to this place called Otaru. Kind of like a large fishing town, really. We ate a lot of crab.

"Huh?

"Oh, we had a couple of informal games after dinner. Nothing exciting. But it's...I don't know, relaxing out here. I guess it's the cold air or something, but it clears your head, helps you think.

"Hey! I resent that."

Yashiro couldn't help snorting a little. Shindou immediately fell silent and gave Yashiro a suspicious glance. After a pause, he continued, "Anyway, listen, Touya--

"Are we...we're friends, right?

"I just...well, of course you're my one and only rival, but are we...are we friends? I mean, we only ever see each other at the Institute or at your father's go salon, and we always talk about go. I don't really know...heck, I don't even know your favorite color!

"Blue? Really? I'd have thought it was purple. Kidding! Just kidding.

"I guess I've just taken it for granted, you know, that go was your whole life. As long as I knew your go, I would know you.

"Oh geez, thanks, that makes me feel so much better.

"I was thinking about it though, and you never...you never really relax around me. It's like you refuse to let yourself get comfortable. You're always on guard or something.

"Oh.

"I see--

"Yeah? Yeah, me too."

Shindou's voice grew soft, so soft that Yashiro had to strain to hear it. "Hey Touya. Upper left hoshi."

There was a slight pause. "16-3."

"5-4."

"13-3."

At a certain point, the lamp clicked off, and Yashiro drifted back to sleep, listening to Shindou's murmured go game in the dark.

***

Yashiro groaned. "Don't tell me we're lost again."

"Quiet, I'm studying the map," Muramaki snapped.

"We should have let Nageyama drive," Kurata muttered to Ashiwara. The driver turned to glare at them, and they hastily settled into silence.

Outside, Yashiro could see great drifts of fog rolling slowly across the endless forests. Otherwise, the landscape seemed eerily still, as if even the pine needles were carved out of stone. If he craned his head at the right angle, he could see the snow caps frosting the tops of the tallest mountains.

"Nice place to get lost," he said to Shindou.

"Yeah."

They were sitting in the back seats again. Shindou had forgotten to take his magnetic goban out of his suitcase, so they had spent the past few hours reviewing kifu and discussing the latest tournament matches instead.

"Let's go outside," Shindou said suddenly. "I want some fresh air."

"Good idea," Ashiwara exclaimed. "I'll go with you."

They all left the van, except for Muramaki, who was still poring over the map, and walked about aimlessly at the edge of the road. Shindou put his arms behind his head and inhaled deeply. "That van was getting stuffy."

Yashiro nodded and swung his arms about. It felt good to stretch. "Feels like we're a million miles away from everywhere."

"With no reception," Kurata said with disgust, shaking his cell phone in frustration.

"Y'know, I think I'd like to live somewhere like this. Somewhere with space to breathe."

Shindou gave him a sharp look. "Out from under your parents' thumb, you mean?"

"Yeah. Seems like nothing I do will ever be good enough." He kicked at a pebble on the ground.

"Give them time."

"Haven't I?" He sighed. "I really envy Touya sometimes."

"He has to deal with pressures and expectations too though."

"Yeah, I know. But I keep thinking it would be nice if someone around me understood. Y'know. What it's all about."

Shindou leaned against the back of the van and stared up at the sky. "Someone does understand. Every game you play, Yashiro, it's always with another person."

"Guess you're right."

"Hey Yashiro?"

"Hm?"

"Do you think that it's enough? To know someone through their go? Can you even really understand someone just through go alone?"

Yashiro thought in silence for a long moment. "Maybe. Then again, maybe not. But it's a start, isn't it?"

***

The day before Shindou left for Hokkaido, he ran into Touya outside the Go Institute building. He was holding something in his hands and studying it intently.

"Touya! What're you looking at?"

"Oh! You startled me, Shindou."

"Sorry. So what's that?"

"I think it's a toy. Perhaps one of the younger insei dropped it here."

"Is it supposed to be a dragon? Looks kind of cute."

Touya turned it over in his hands. "Yes, I think so. I should probably turn it in to the lost-and-found."

"There's a lost-and-found in the Go Institute?"

"Third floor, down the hall that leads to the bathrooms. You mean you've never seen it?"

Shindou scratched his head sheepishly. "No. Here, I'll take it, I'm going in to record a match this afternoon anyway."

"Thanks." Touya let go of the toy a little reluctantly.

"I'm going to Hokkaido tomorrow."

"I know. Have you started packing yet?"

"No--"

"Shindou."

"Don't worry! I'm not planning on forgetting my socks this time."

"Have a good time." Touya's voice sounded a little flat.

"Who knows, maybe I will." Shindou stuck out his tongue.

Touya rolled his eyes. "Oh, how mature of you. Shouldn't you be heading in soon? It's almost two."

"Shoot, I'm going to be late. Okay, I'll see you when I get back then? Good luck with your match next week." Shindou turned to leave but Touya caught him by the sleeve.

"Wait...one more thing. You'll remember to call?" Touya's face was closed, but there was a oddly vulnerable tone to his voice.

Shindou smiled. "Of course."

***

They arrived in Hakodate around noon, just in time to sample the morning's catch from the fish market. Shindou ended up ordering four bowls of squid ramen, much to Yashiro's bemusement.

"Shindou there is a ramen connoisseur," Kurata told him, while working away at his own fifth bowl.

"I can tell."

"Best thing about Hokkaido," Shindou said around his mouthful of noodles. "Worth coming here after all."

They had some time to wander about the market before the shidougo games scheduled with the local amateur go association in the afternoon. Yashiro stared in fascination at the heaps of sea urchins, abalones and other delicacies being hauled about cavalierly on huge tanks of ice. A few of the older pros bought boxes of frozen squid and crabs to bring back to their families.

The air was thick with the smell of brine; the sun unusually bright and hot in the cloudless sky.

Shindou stared meditatively at a particularly large specimen of tuna being carried by two fishermen. "Maybe I should buy something to bring back too."

"You have the money?"

"Well, maybe for a couple of small souvenirs. Think there's a gift shop around here?"

They found a small booth selling postcards and keychains at the edge of the market. Shindou browsed through the wares carefully, with a small frown of concentration.

"Let's see, this'll do for Akari, since she likes cutesy stuff. Huh, maybe I should get one of these postcards for Waya. Hey, you getting anything for your parents, Yashiro?"

He stiffened. "Don't think so."

"No? Hm, maybe you're right. The only thing Mom would really like from here is probably a box of crabs. No way am I bringing something like that with me on the train." He flipped through the postcards again.

Yashiro rolled his eyes and made a show of looking through the knickknacks built out of seashells. Shindou came up next to him and suddenly made an odd noise of satisfaction. He reached past Yashiro and picked up a finely carved wooden statuette of a dragon with seashells for horns and claws.

"Who's that for?" Yashiro asked, although he already knew the answer.

"Touya."

At the register, Shindou realized with some dismay that he didn't have enough cash, so he put back the postcards and only bought a keychain for Akari and the dragon figurine for Touya.

Yashiro looked at the discarded postcards. They all said, "Hello from Hakodate," in bright yellow letters splashed across picturesque photos of the ocean. He picked one up and bought it at the register for sixty yen.

"Who's that for?" Shindou asked as they left the booth.

"No one. Just me."

***

The train pulled into the Tokyo station around midnight. They stumbled sleepily onto the platform and sorted out their luggage beneath the harsh fluorescent lights. The night was humid and warm, and Shindou thought wistfully of the crisp Hokkaido weather as he rolled up the sleeves of his T-shirt.

He waved goodbye to Yashiro, who was staying on the train to go back to Osaka. The other boy nodded and waved back half-heartedly, looking too exhausted to move. It had been a long trip.

He shouldered his backpack and pulled out the handle of his suitcase. It was still another hour's ride on the subway to get back home. He was staring at the ground as he walked, so he didn't see Touya waiting for him at the end of the platform until he nearly collided with him.

"Touya! What are you doing here?"

"They told me your train was getting in around midnight, so I thought I'd come out to meet you. Here, let me take your bag."

"Thanks," he said with a relieved sigh. "Boy, traveling can be pretty tough. I think I'm going to go back home and sleep for twelve hours. At least."

Touya just laughed. They walked companionably side by side, the rattle of suitcase wheels following behind them.

"Oh yeah. I got you this." Shindou fished the dragon figurine out of his pocket and handed it to Touya, who took it with an expression of surprise.

"You needn't have...oh. It's a dragon." He ran a finger down the long, sinuous tail.

"Like it?"

Touya contemplated the gift for a while. "You know, I used to have this...it was this picture hanging in my room when I was a child. It was a painting of this enormous green dragon, and I thought--"

"Yeah?"

"That it was the most wonderful thing in the world," Touya said with a rueful smile.

"Even more than go?"

"Of course not. Well...maybe a little."

Shindou laughed. "So I was right. There's a part of Touya that doesn't eat, sleep, and breathe go."

"And what exactly is that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing! Just...I realized that it's really hard to get to know a person. Even when they're your one and only rival." He grinned.

Touya snorted. "Of course. I've been trying to understand you for years, and still you defy any explanation."

"That's--"

"And not just because of your go, Shindou. You're...what was it that Father said? An interesting challenge. In every sense of the word."

"I'll take that as a compliment."

Outside the station, the sky was illuminated by the glittering city lights. Shindou gazed up at the flashing neon signs and brightly colored ads as if he had never seen them before.

"Touya?"

"Hm?"

"Next time I go on a trip like this--"

Touya waited patiently for him to finish the thought.

"--you come too."

END

Hikaru no Go belongs to Obata Takeshi and Hotta Yumi.

Written for blind_go (round 3).

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