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Chapter 6 - Rise

AU. Hikaru never entered the professional Go world, opting instead to placate Sai with NetGo and Go Salons. Years pass by and now Hikaru is a normal office employee going about his daily life until…

Chapter 6 - Rise

Chapter 6 - Rise

Rumors spread quickly, especially in the Go world, and more so in the case of strong players on NetGo; this is mainly fueled by the sudden appearance and disappearance of the suitably dubbed 'Saint of NetGo', the one called 'Sai'. Every time a strong player who played like Sai shows up on the net, many Go players would pay attention to them, and many rumors would surface, reaching to the ears of many pros who aspire to play against Sai.

This time, it was Hikaru's online ego at the center of those rumors. Of course, being the busy worker that he is, Hikaru rarely had time to even encounter such rumors. He was content to just use what little free time he had towards polishing up his rusted Go skills online or whenever he could stop by the salons. This was one of the days he had time to stop by the salon and play against opponents face-to-face, and having the feel of very real and very solid Go stones in between his fingers. Placing moves with a mouse by clicking just did not have the same feeling as the real thing. It was a feeling Hikaru rejoiced and felt comfort in. It brought to mind the memories of his very short time with Sai. He smiled fondly at the memories; it had seemed so long ago, so lost in his thoughts that he did not hear the call of his opponent sitting across from him.

"Shindo-san, Shindo-san!" called the middle-aged man sitting across him, a hand waving before his face. Hikaru blinked, jerked back to reality. He gave a sheepish apology to his opponent, but the man merely waved it off saying that it was no problem at all. Hikaru smiled at the man in thanks as his gaze returned to the board spread out before him, hand reaching into the goke, rolling a single stone in between his fingers. As gracefully as he could, Hikaru placed the stone down near the bottom right hand corner of the board, successfully building a bridge between his two black groups and to hopefully be able to defend from the oncoming white group from above. He looked up once again, "Your turn."

The man laughed boisterously at Hikaru's move, before placing another one of his white stones down, advancing the group towards the recently bridged black groups. "You're quite good at this kid!"

Hikaru pouted at being called a kid, he was already in his mid-twenties! That should definitely count towards him being recognized as an adult and not a kid anymore. Forcing his face into a more polite manner, he answered with his own rather childish barb, "And you're not too crappy at this either, old man!"

The middle-aged man just gave Hikaru another loud laugh, hand slapping his knee at Hikaru's retort. He was easy going guy, and very easily amused, but also quick to anger when offended. Hikaru just smirked back at the man; placing another stone down, reinforcing the bridge he'd created. The game continued in a similar manner and Hikaru returned to being semi-lost in his memories as he played each hand.

A bell sounded announcing the presence of new customers entering the salon. A loud shout was heard not long after in the direction of the front counter, and many heads in the salon turned to see what the ruckus was about, including Hikaru's opponent. Hikaru, however, was still lost in memories and not particularly paying attention nor interested in the commotion. Soon, the loud shouts quieted and everyone returned to their games. Hikaru's opponent chuckled, turning his head back to the board, eyeing it before placing a stone on a different section of the board. "Quite the lively little brat that one, his friend looked fairly embarrassed by that outburst. Ah, kids these days."

Hikaru only nodded in agreement to be polite. Another stone was placed, still reinforcing the frail bridge between the two black groups. Hikaru continued to stare at the board, images of different paths flashed through his mind as he tried reading ahead of the game by a number of hands. So focused on the game now, he did not notice or hear the sound of footsteps approach the table he sat at. Another half hour later, the middle-aged man resigned, chuckling happily as he left his seat to order a cup of tea. "Good game kid. It's nice to know that not only are young people these days are still interested in this old game, but to have quite a strong hand at it as well." As he passed by, the man reached out and ruffled Hikaru's hair up a bit in a friendly gesture. "You've got some fans too."

Confused, Hikaru turned his head to see what the man was talking about, and was surprised to see two young teens standing beside the table; one was staring at the Go board while the other was looking at him in a sheepish manner. The one staring at the board finally looked up at him and pointed an accusing finger at him, shouting, "You! It's you!" Hikaru blinked, he was confused, what did the brat want? He was sure he'd never met – ah, stopping in his thoughts, Hikaru took another look at the two and their appearances finally clicked in his mind. Grinning at the two Hikaru answered in an amused voice, "Yes, it's me. What can I do for you boys?" The red-head, Taguchi he remembered, let his finger fall slightly as he stuttered for a while before shutting his mouth up as if not trusting it to correctly form a sentence. There was a short silence as Hikaru looked towards Ohka, the blue-haired and calmer one of the two, and prodded, "Well?"

Ohka only shook his head from side to side, indicating that he did not know what Taguchi had on his mind. Raising an eyebrow, Hikaru turned his attention back to Taguchi. "Well, Taguchi-kun? What is it? I won't know unless you voice it."

Taguchi's mouth opened suddenly as he blurted out in a loud manner, finger pointing at him accusingly once again, "You're FujiWara!" Hikaru blinked for the second time that day, this time in surprise. He did not know how Taguchi could have guessed that his name was Fujiwara, obviously mistaking what Taguchi was yelling about. Sighing, he tried to correct the teen, "No, Taguchi-kun, my name is Shindo Hikaru, not Fujiwara. How did you ever come to that conclusion?"

Taguchi blinked as well, not expecting Hikaru to have misunderstood his outburst. He shook his head quickly, arms waving around in wide gestures, "No, no! I meant… you're FujiWara! On NetGo! That famous FujiWara in the rumors flying around! That strong NetGo player!"

"Oh, okay," was Hikaru's immediate response before he stopped and stared at Taguchi in silence, taking in all that was told to him and processing the information in a more coherent manner. As soon as everything became clear to him, his eyes widened as he sat up straight in his seat, eyes turning to stare straight at Taguchi. "What?" He turned to Ohka, looking for confirmation at what Taguchi said, "Is it…?"

"Yes sir," Ohka nodded, in agreement with Taguchi's choppy statements. Taguchi cut in, "Wait, wait, you mean you're really FujiWara and you didn't know?"

Hikaru laughed a bit weakly, a sheepish expression on his shocked pale face, a hand reaching to scratch behind his head in embarrassment. "Haha. I'm not that interested in doing anything else on NetGo other than playing against other people. I'd thought it was a bit weird that more and more people were requesting for games and even more spectators watching the games I play, but didn't pay attention to it. But yes, Taguchi-kun, my username is FujiWara."

The two boys just stood there and stared at Hikaru's denseness. It was quite a wonder for him to not have heard of rumors pertaining to him in all the time that they'd started. Ohka took Hikaru's silence as a chance for him to speak his part about the rumors, "Um… sir, do you know that the rumors are speculating that you're probably the second coming of 'The Saint of NetGo Sai'?" Taguchi snorted at the comparison to Sai, "More like the disciple of Sai. They say that Sai was much, much stronger, like a God."

Hikaru smiled at the boys, he was much calmer now, after thinking things over and partially accepted the rumors and his skills. He did play like Sai after all. "Taguchi-kun is right Ohka-kun; Sai was much stronger than I am. That much I am sure. He was a great player and many people strove to be like him. I was just lucky." The two boys looked at him, standing in silence while Hikaru immersed himself in his memories of Sai.

Yes, he was truly lucky to have really known Sai.

'Thank you, Sai.'


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