tuulikannel: (Fanfiction)
[personal profile] tuulikannel
…titles. Should be banned.


That said… hmm. Where to start? Maybe with the characters. There's a pretty wide range of them in this fic, but to mention the central ones: Hikaru, Akira, Sai, Sugawara no Akitada, and a 9-year-old Abe no Seimei.
...yeah. Abe no Seimei. This plot bunny was born when I was watching a movie called Onmyouji (also known as The Yin Yang Master.) I wouldn't (for once!) quite call this a crossover, though. Onmyouji was simply... a source of inspiration.

A note about the timeline: Sai speaks of Murasaki Shikibu and Sei Shonagon at one point, when he's telling Hikaru that women play go too, and it sounds like he knew them. If Sai was their contemporary, that would mean Abe no Seimei was an old man in his days, as he was born ~50 years before Murasaki and Sei. I plead artistic license. He's nine here, not 90. This story takes place in 930.

And something of an apology: I've done some reading on the Heian age, but I'm hardly an expert. I'm sure there are things here that are totally off. I'm sorry about that. I've done my best, but I can't believe I'd have been able to avoid all the pitfalls.

(For anyone interested in the Heian period, I could recommend Ivan Morris' book The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan. An old book, from 1964, and in some ways you can see the age, but it's still an excellent source of information, not to mention a good read.)

Oh, and, I guess I need a disclaimer, too, no matter how ridiculous that is. So: I don't own Hikaru no go. This is nothing but a work of fanfiction, written for my amusement and others', and I certainly don't make any profit with this. There.

And I almost forgot! Many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] cellophane_ria for all her comments~!

Okay, maybe I've now babbled enough... on with the story.

Prologue

The sun was creeping low on the autumn sky when a man and a boy entered the yard of a grand mansion in Heian-kyo. A bowing servant received them and led them in. The man paid no attention to the servant – in truth, barely even noticed him. Waving animatedly he went on telling the boy of the time he had exorcised a demon in this very same house, occasionally bursting into booming laughter. He only fell silent when they entered a room in which a middle-aged man was waiting for them.

“Ah, Akitada-sama!” He spread his arms wide, and wide was also the grin on his face. “It has been a long time, old friend!”

The old friend didn't quite seem to share his cordiality. “Yes... yes,” he muttered. His gaze kept on wandering round the room. “Good of you to come, Toshirou-sama.” His eyes stopped on the boy, and he frowned.

Toshirou clapped the boy's shoulder. “I hope you don't mind, but I took my nephew with me. I thought this would be a great learning opportunity for him. He is young, just nine years of age, but he is the best student I have ever had, far surpassing those twice as old as him.” He smiled proudly. “His name is Seimei,” he said, and the boy bowed. “And this is my old friend, Sugawara no Akitada.”

“Welcome, welcome,” Akitada muttered. “Come, sit down. Would you like a cup of sake?”

“Certainly! These past days truly have been quite awful, not autumnal at all. What is it with this horrid, lingering heat?” Toshirou sat down and took the cup offered to him, and drank half of it with the first gulp. “Ah!” he breathed. “That's better. You know, I was just telling my boy here about the time I exorcised that snake spirit, remember?” He laughed. “What is it in you that attracts demons? Say, what's the matter this time?”

Akitada took a sip from his own cup and savored it a moment. Then he licked his lips. “Over there,” he said, voice quivering a little, and pointed.

“Hmm?” Toshirou turned to look, but saw nothing but a perfectly ordinary go board. “What? I'm sorry, I don't understand.”

Akitada cleared his throat, and now his voice was more even. “The go board. It's cursed.”

“Truly?” Toshirou's eyebrows rose. “Well, well. This is something new. Tell me more about it.” He took another gulp of his cup.

“It started a few weeks ago. Every time I play a game on it, something strange happens. The air turns chilly, I feel sick to the core, and often I can barely stomach touching the stones, for it makes me feel such an overwhelming sorrow I must leave the room.”

“Isn't this peculiar?” Toshirou muttered, eying the go board curiously. “What say you, boy? Ever heard of anything like this?”

“No, master,” the boy said. “But...”

“But don't worry!” Toshirou exclaimed with a laugh, and raised his cup in a salute to his friend. “I am now here, and I will deal with this.” He emptied the cup, and it was promptly filled again.

“I am certain of that, old friend,” Akitada answered with a smile. “You, you who would be skilled enough to become the head court onmyouji, you will surely face no problems with a thing like this.”

The onmyouji laughed again. “Come now, you flatter me! But it is true that my skills are widely admired. Perhaps, some day, the emperor himself will be impressed enough...”

“That is certainly just a matter of time. And possibly not a long time at all. You know I myself have quite a secure position at the court...”

“Indeed, indeed!” The men shared a smile of mutual understanding. “So, why don't we play a game on this board? I'd like to see this curse at work.”

The smile disappeared from Akitada's face and he swallowed. “Is that... necessary? Can't you just... do... something, and...”

“I need to know what I'm dealing with, first. Come now, nothing bad will happen to you. The greatest onmyouji in the city is here, after all!” He burst into laughter again, and Akitada rose up to fetch the go board. He obviously would have preferred not to touch it.

“Master,” Seimei whispered. “There is...”

His uncle waved with his hand dismissively. “Hush now boy! Watch and learn. A cursed go board, you won't see something like this every day.”

“Yes, but...”

“Shh! Don't bother me now, I need to concentrate.” Toshirou traced a finger on the decorated side of the go board. “A beautiful board,” he muttered. “I must see no harm comes to it.”

The men started a game, and the boy watched them quietly, wondering when his teacher, the greatest onmyouji in the city, would notice the ghost that was sitting right next to him, watching the game with unfathomable sorrow on its face.


Notes:

While I was attempting to figure out how people would address each other in the Heian times (still not sure) I suddenly realized that at the age of nine, Seimei would still be called by his childhood name, Douji. I... decided to ignore this. Or perhaps he was so was so precocious that he had his coming-to-age ceremony early... normally it took place around the age of 12.



Chapter 1

Elsewhere in the city a young man was enjoying the beautiful autumn evening. The day had been hot, once again, but now that the night was arriving, the air was turning pleasantly cool. He wandered around in the Divine Spring Garden, admiring the blazing colors of the dying leaves, in no hurry to head home after his long day at the university, when he noticed another youngster, approximately his age, hurrying through the garden into the direction of the university. He paid no attention to this other boy, in fact would have barely noticed him if the garden hadn't been at the moment so empty. Soon, though, he saw the other coming back, now even more urgency in his steps.

As he watched the youth suddenly came to a stop, glanced around, and took a step once back toward the university, before stopping again and remaining where he was, looking uncertainly back and forth.

Deciding to inquire if something was wrong, he approached the stranger.

“Can I help you somehow?” he asked, and the other gave a start.

“Oh, I...” He glanced around, hesitantly. “I'm not sure... that is, I think I might be a bit lost....”

“Please tell me where you're going, I'd be happy to help.” He gave a bow. “Kamo no Akira, at you service.”

“Umm...” The other bowed as well. “Fujiwara no Hikaru. Eh... this is the Divine Spring Garden, right? And that's the university, but... how was it again, was the university on the garden's western side or on the eastern...?”

Akira stared at him a moment. “Western,” he said then. “You can see that from the sun. It sets into the west, as you know.”

“Oh.” The boy, Hikaru, stared at the setting sun as if he had never come to think of something like this. “Then I'm going that way.” He pointed toward the university. “Can I go through the university area?”

Akira nodded after hesitating a little. “The gates will close soon, but they should still be open, and though the area basically is only for students and professors, there isn't anyone guarding the gates. If you just walk straight through, you'll come to the Suzaku Avenue.”

“Suzaku...” the other muttered. “Hey, I know that street.”

As you should, Akira wanted to say, but swallowed the words. The central avenue leading to the Imperial Palace, over eighty yards wide, was hardly something anyone who had entered the city of Heian-kyo could somehow miss.

“I could walk with you,” he said instead. “I'm going into that direction myself, and as I'm a student at the university, nobody is going to stop me.”

“Would you?” Hikaru grinned. “That's kind of you. Let's go, then!”

As they walked through the garden, Akira eyed his companion curiously. His initial guess was probably correct: the boy seemed to be around the same age as he, surely no older than about seventeen, possibly a little younger. His clothing was fine and fitting for one of an aristocratic family, though his appearance was somewhat careless: a few loose hairs were falling from underneath his hat, and there obviously hadn't been much thought put into the colors. A member of the Fujiwara clan – but hardly, he thought, of its most prominent branches. Some country cousin, most likely, on a visit from the provinces.

“Is this your first time in the capital?” he asked, to make conversation.

“What?” The boy seemed to have been deep in his thoughts. “No... in fact, I’ve lived here most of my life. I've just been away a while.”

“I see.” He would have wanted to ask more, but as the other seemed reluctant to speak of his business, he remained silent. They left behind the beautiful gardens and entered the university area in silence.

“Did you attend the university back when you lived in the capital?” he finally asked, deciding to give in to his curiosity. Stupid question, of course – the other didn't seem to be at all familiar with the area. But maybe he'd find out something.

“Me?” For some reason, the boy seemed to find this idea amusing. “Definitely not! Though I did enter the area once, when I played...” Suddenly his expression darkened and he fell silent.

“Yes? Played what?”

“Oh, nothing much,” he muttered. “One game of go with someone.”

“You play go?” Akira looked at his companion with new eyes.

“Doesn't everyone?” Hikaru muttered, still looking somewhat gloomy.

“Are you good?”

“...relatively.”

“I play, too. Relatively well, that is. Would you like a game?”

The sudden suggestion seemed to take Hikaru by surprise. He looked up with wide eyes. “Now?”

“Yes. If you're not too busy, that is. They have a board at the Faculty of Fine Arts. I'm sure there is no one around this time, so we should be able to play one quick game.”

They stopped, having almost reached the gate to the Suzaku Avenue. Right before it stood the Faculty of Fine Arts. Hikaru eyed the buildings with a strange expression. Then he shrugged.

“I've never been one to say no to a game.”

They walked into the faculty's courtyard and entered one of the buildings. Akira led the way, and Hikaru walked a little behind him, so that he couldn't see the other boy's face.

“Here,” Akira said when they entered a little room. He was feeling strangely nervous and he was quite happy they had not met anyone on the way. “If you'd please...”

He sat down by the go board and reached his hands to take another of the stone bowls, but then he noticed how Hikaru had stopped in the doorway. The unreadable expression on the boy's face had turned almost pained.

“What is it?” he asked, but Hikaru just shook his head.

“This is where we played, too,” Hikaru muttered and finally entered the room. “Just the same place...”

Bad memories? Akira lowered his hands to his lap. “If you don't wish to...” he started, but Hikaru shook quickly his head.

“No, it's fine.” He sat down at the other side of the go board and took another of the bowls. “Is it alright if I take black?” he asked as he looked into the bowl.

“Fine.” Akira took the other bowl and placed it next to him. He gave a thoughtful look at the other boy, who still appeared somehow shaken. “I guess it is just fair to warn you that I might be a little more than just relatively good.”

A wry smile tugged Hikaru's lips. “The truth? So might I.”

The game started quietly. Black and white stones formed familiar patterns on the board, and Akira subdued a little thrill of joy. It had been a busy day, and he hadn't had a chance for a single game so far. Quickly forgetting his opponent's apparent uneasiness he was soon completely absorbed in the game.

And then, nonchalantly, so stealthily he barely noticed anything unusual about the move, Hikaru placed a stone on the board. He almost played his own stone to a place which seemed like a logical response, but at the last moment he managed to stop his hand, and he paused, staring at the board with a frown. Such an innocent move – not what he would have done in this situation although still not a bad move, but... when he read deeper, it suddenly seemed threatening.

Slowly, he placed his stone right next to that seemingly harmless black stone, and looked up at Hikaru. The boy met his eyes with a tiny, knowing smile, and he pressed his lips into a tight line. This wasn't an opponent he could take lightly. He'd better be careful.

~


The constant clicking of the stones had finally ceased. The room was quiet, save the birdsong from the courtyard and the quiet hum of blood in Akira's ears. No matter how hard he stared at the board, the order of the stones didn't change. He swallowed, and bent his head.

“I have lost,” he admitted.

“Thanks for the game!” Hikaru grinned. “It was great.”

“Yes. Thank you for the game.” Akira was still watching the board. He had played an excellent game, he knew that, and still lost. A two moku loss, it wasn't that much, but still he found it quite incredible. He had seldom come across someone who would be able to play on a par with him like this, and they had all been old, experienced players.

He looked up at his opponent. “Who's your teacher?”

Hikaru gave a start. “Oh, I, that is...” He started hurriedly to pick the stones from the board. “I really must be going now. It's getting late.”

“True.” Akira realized suddenly that the game had taken longer than he had planned. “I hope the gates are still open...”

They hurried out of the building only to find the gate to the Suzaku Avenue locked.

Akira stared at it, exasperated, but Hikaru didn't seem to be too dazed.

“This is a really low wall, you know,” he stated. He followed it a moment and then, stepping on a rock jumped up and pulled himself up to sit on the wall. “Come! Or do you want to stay there?” he shouted down to Akira, who was gaping after him.

Of course, he could have went to find someone with a key, but he rather wouldn't bother anyone – not to mention that while he’d be looking for a key, his strange new acquaintance would probably go his way and leave him behind with all the unanswered questions. So Akira stepped on the rock as well, and with Hikaru's help got over the wall, thankful that there hadn't been anyone close enough to see them.

“A wall that low won't keep anyone out – or in either,” Hikaru stated as they were straightening their clothes after the little climbing exertion.

“You never answered my question,” Akira pointed out quietly, and Hikaru froze.

“What question?”

“The one about your teacher.”

“Oh. That.”

“Yes. That.” Having got his clothes back into order, Akira shot him a stern look. “You can hardly be self-taught.”

“Yeah, true... but you know, I really must be going now...”

Akira gave a sigh. Avoiding the question like that was quite annoying, but pressing on would be rude. He decided to give up. For now. “Which way are you going?” he asked instead. “Will you be able to find your way from here?”

“Oh, it's not a problem. I'll just follow the Avenue to the Third Street and then turn, wait a minute... that way.”

Akira blinked. “Are you sure? That's the western part of the city...”

“Sure.” Hikaru gave a little bow. “Thanks for your help, and for the game too. It was fun.”

“But...” Akira looked after him confusedly. “Why are you going there? This time of the day, too! And... where do you live? I'd like to...” he swallowed, “play with you again some day.”

Hikaru looked back, grinning. “That would be fun. I don't remember the exact address, but I'll be staying somewhere close to the western border, near the Third Street. See you!”

He walked away with a wave of his hand, leaving the other boy stare after him in great confusion.

~


Perhaps, Hikaru reflected as he hurried down the desolate streets, that Kamo guy was right to be surprised about him heading to this direction. The area hadn't been the best part of the city when he had lived there, and the past couple of years he had been away had really been harsh to it.

There were even more abandoned houses there now, and it was quite clear that most of those living there weren’t the original owners of the houses, but homeless ones who had taken them over after they had been abandoned. (Then again, he reminded himself, the same was quite true for his family, so perhaps he shouldn’t judge these people too harshly.) Here and there fires had destroyed some of the old wooden buildings, and nobody had bothered to clear the ruins. Gardens and parks grew wildly, and in the darkening night for a moment he was worried he might get lost even in this once so familiar neighborhood.

Then, to his great relieve, he saw the house he had called home for the most of his life. And there were indeed people living in this house. There were lights burning, and someone had taken good care of the yard. But then he stopped, and fear grasped his stomach as he realized the neighboring buildings had burned down.

He stood still for a moment, and then ran straight into the yard. “Hey!” he yelled. “Anyone home? I'm...” He was about to enter the house when, with a startled beat of his heart, he found himself face to face with a stranger.

“Yes?” the man asked gruffly, blocking firmly his way. “What do you want?”

“Ah, I...” he stammered, “I used to live here, and... I... I mean, is...”

“Hikaru?” came a female voice from somewhere behind the man. “Is that Hikaru's voice?”

“What...?” the man said, turning to look behind and so opening the view into the house. “Do you mean...”

“Hikaru!” Someone dashed by the man and was in an instant hanging on Hikaru's neck. “You came back!”

“I... ah, Akari?! Hey, calm down!” Hikaru tried to push her away, but he was smiling. “Hey, look at you! You've grown... smaller.”

“You're the one who's grown taller!” Akari exclaimed with a laugh. “Come in! Oh.” She suddenly remembered the man again. “Oh. This is my brother-in-law, Taro. And this...”

“Must be the famous go prodigy,” the man said with a grin. “Welcome home.”

“Um, thanks.” Hikaru was about to step in. “Is mother...”

And at that instant, the previous scene was replayed, as suddenly Hikaru's mother appeared and flung herself on her son's neck. Between the double attack of his mother and Akari, it took a while until Hikaru managed to put in a sensible word, or even to get his shoes off to enter the house. A little later, once everyone had gotten over the excitement, he got a late dinner, and news he truly hadn't been expecting.

“It's been almost five months since the fire,” Mitsuko, Hikaru's mother, was saying. “We tried to send you a message, but apparently it never reached you. And Akari tried to go to meet your... your friend,” his mother still seemed to be at a loss how to talk about Sai, “but he was staying at the palace then and she couldn't reach her.”

Hikaru shook his head sadly, staring down at his food. He had suddenly lost his appetite. “I would have come sooner if I had known.”

His mother sighed. “It was such a horrible fire. I was afraid it would destroy the entire neighborhood, but luckily the wind was on our side. But our neighbors' houses were completely burned down, as you saw. And Masao...” Her voice broke, and she fell silent.

“We are forever in your family's debt,” Akari's sister Akane said, bowing down. “Without your father, I would never have gotten out in time, and it was when he and our father went to help our mother that the... the ceiling collapsed, and...” She found herself unable to go on either, and her husband placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.

Hikaru swallowed, uncomfortable. This homecoming was nothing like he had used to imagine. He had never been close to his father and couldn't really fathom if he truly felt any real sorrow for the man's passing. Mainly it was just weird – he wouldn't ever have believed that his father would die such a heroic death. The thought made him feel vaguely guilty.

This, he realized a little belatedly, and his uneasiness grew, meant that he was now the head of the family. Not much of a family, of course... just he and his mother. But still. He looked at Akari. “So... are you now living here, too?”

Akari nodded. “Your mother was good enough to take us in, after we lost our home.”

“Oh, I'm the one who should be grateful!” Mitsuko put in. “I could have hardly went on living here alone on my own. The rice you sent me certainly came to good use. At first, the girls were spending more and more time playing at taverns, staying late into the night... I never liked it, and I was right.”

“There were some drunkards, one night, at one place...” Akari muttered at Hikaru's questioning look. “But it's alright!” she went on hurriedly. “Taro was there and... intervened.”

The man gave them an easy grin. “Those louts had no clue how to treat respectable musicians – but I guess I should be grateful for them. Thanks to them I easily got into the good graces of the pretty zither player I'd admired many a night.”

Akane blushed and looked down, and Akari placed her hand on her mouth to cover her giggle. Mitsuko smiled. “It's been a great relieve since Taro and Akane got married. He has work as a carpenter, and the girls have been out playing only occasionally. But I, I've been so sickly and not in the condition to work, just one more mouth for them to feed, and... It is so good to see you again” she changed the subject abruptly and smiled fondly at her son. “How long will you stay?”

“I... I'm not sure.” Hikaru shifted nervously. “I didn't have any exact plans, and... I guess, now...”

“You have to tell me everything!” Akari exclaimed. “We were so excited when we received your letter. Can it really be true? It sounds like a fairytale or something. Are they really adopting you into the clan or did you just make it up?”

Hikaru snorted. “Of course I didn't! Though... it's not completely official yet.”

“It is truly a formidable thing.” His mother smiled again, but this time the smile didn't quite reach her eyes. “I would never have believed my son to go so high in the world. But no matter; I'm just so happy to see you again.”

Hikaru returned her smile a little weakly.

~


Back at Sugawara no Akitada's mansion, Abe no Toshirou stared at the offending go board with an exasperated expression. He had went through all his incantations, used every bit of exorcism he knew, but nothing worked. He would have wanted to say that Akitada was imagining the whole thing, but he had seen the effect this board had on his friend. It could hardly be faked.

He tapped his chin with his fan and frowned. Perhaps they should, after all, simply destroy the board. Of course, destroying cursed things could be tricky, and it was a beautiful board, it'd be a shame. But maybe it couldn't be helped.

He opened his mouth. “I think...” he said, but then Seimei muttered, quite quietly, “Such a stubborn haunted go board it is,” and he snapped his mouth shut and whacked the boy softly with the fan.

“Hold your ton...” He fell silent. Haunted?

“Would you leave us alone for a moment?” he said to Akitada. “My spells might work better if there are only those skilled in the ways of onmyoudo present.”

Akitada rose and left, not at all reluctantly. Toshirou turned his frown toward the boy.

“What do you mean, haunted?”

“There is a ghost attached to this go board,” the boy replied calmly.

“A ghost?” Toshirou swallowed. He hadn't felt anything like that – but then again, the boy had been able to see spirits since he was five. “Why didn't you say anything earlier?”

“You told me to be quiet. Besides, would you have wanted me to tell Akitada-sama I can see something you can't?”

Toshirou bit his lip and shot an angry glare at the boy. At times, he found himself almost loathing this nephew of his. The boy was gifted, definitely, and having such a promising student would certainly help his reputation, but looking at that detached young face he couldn't help feeling that the boy was silently mocking him. They said his mother was a kitsune. As far as he knew, it might be true. The boy surely was foxy enough.

“A ghost, you say? Tell me more about this ghost.” He settled cross-legged by the go board and looked at the boy expectantly.

“A man, quite young,” Seimei said, looking somewhere behind his shoulder, and he resisted the urge to look back. “Dressed like a nobleman. But he has a very long hair. Some women would be jealous of him.”

“Anything else? What does he feel like?”

“Sad,” Seimei answered softly. “I can feel nothing but immense sorrow from him.”

Toshirou twitched nervously. “Is he listening to us?” He didn't like the idea that there was someone, something in the room that he couldn't sense.

The boy shook his head. “No. He isn't paying any attention to us, he is just watching the go board. When your friend was here...” he hesitated.

“Yes?” Toshirou urged him one. “When Akitada was here?”

“He did at times watch Akitada-sama. Sometimes, maybe, with a little bit of anger. But mainly sorrow.”

“Hmm.” Toshirou tapped his chin with the fan and thought. “Go get Akitada back here,” he said then.

When the boy came back with the nervous man, he was sitting by the go board with an unruffled, almost regal air. “I have solved your problem,” he declared casually, and Akitada's face lit up.

“Really? How wonderfu...”

Toshirou raised his fan and the man fell silent. “Or perhaps it is more correct to say that I have found out what is wrong. Tell me, my friend, do you happen to know a young man, perhaps a go player, who has extremely long hair?”

Akitada paled and wavered. He sat down, too – or, rather, slumped down as his legs gave way. “Is he... rather pretty for a man?” he asked hoarsely.

Toshirou looked at the boy who was standing behind Akitada's back. “Yes,” he confirmed as the boy nodded. “He is.”

“What...” Akitada swallowed. “What about him? Is he behind this?”

“He is here,” Toshirou stated blandly. “As a ghost.”

Akitada paled even more, if possible. “Gh...ghost? Did he... did he kill himself?” He let out a sudden, nervous giggle. “That young fool!”

“It would appear so. What can you tell me about him? What's his name?”

“Name? Fujiwara no Sai.” Akitada almost spit it out. “He was this young thruster from the provinces... The emperor appointed him as a co-teacher with me, can you imagine? But I managed to convince his majesty that there is no need for two teachers, and so we played a game to decide who would get the post. He lost, even though he cheated, and so he had to leave the palace. I haven't heard anything of him since then.”

“I see. Well, then it is clear what we must do.”

“It is?” Akitada looked up hopefully.

Toshirou nodded. “Find his body and give him a proper funeral.”

“Find his body?” Akitada gaped. “And how are we supposed to do that?”

Toshirou shrugged. “There are many ways. One of the simplest is, of course, to ask the police if anyone has reported finding someone who fits the description. You can do that tomorrow. In the mean time, I shall attempt to find him in my own way.”

Akitada's expression darkened further. “Quite a lot of trouble because of someone like him. I should go to the palace tomorrow – the emperor has been sick, but he might want to play some go after a long break.”

“Sick?” Toshirou asked with interest. “I haven't heard anything about that.”

Akitada looked a little ill at ease. “We've tried to keep it quiet, though I don't know how long that'll be possible.”

Toshirou's eyebrows rose a little. “Is it that bad?” As Akitada said nothing, just shrugged uncomfortably, he went on, thoughtfully, “We should talk more about this. You know, we might have our chance here to...”

“I know,” Akitada cut him off, a little sharply. “But first I want to get rid of this ghost. Are you sure you can't just banish it somehow?”

“It's not that simple.” Toshirou's voice was stern. “One should always take ghosts seriously. You should know this – have you already forgotten the mess your own relative caused after his death? All the destruction the angry spirit of Sugawara no Michizane caused at the palace?”

Akitada flinched. “Certainly this can't be such a difficult case...” he muttered, and Toshirou laughed out.

“Hopefully not! But let us commence the search. Tomorrow, go to see the police. Actually, ask the people who take away the corpses from Rashomon, too. Oh, and remember that if some lowlife found him first, they might have cut his hair to sell it, so don't base your description just on long hair.”

As Akitada left them, visibly shaken, he sat a long while in silence, deep furrows on his brow. This would not be as simple as he had made it sound. The easiest way would be to follow the ghost to the corpse, but if the ghost was attached to the go board, that would hardly work. Once again he thought, briefly, about destroying the board, but that would be too rash. He muttered an incantation that at least gave him the ability to see the ghost – not very clearly, as second sight had never been his strongest point, but at least he didn't anymore have to try to guess its whereabouts. Next, he moved on to different spells that should break the ghost's fixation on the go board, but they didn't seem to have any effect.

“Bloody stubborn fellow,” he finally muttered, slapping his knee angrily with the fan. “I can't think when my throat is this dry. Oy!” he yelled. “Bring me more sake!”

The servants hurried to carry out the command of their master's friend. Raising the cup to his lips he eyed the ghost darkly. Demons were one thing, in the end quite easy to deal with, but he had never liked ghosts. In his experience, only stubborn, difficult people turned to ghosts when they died, and death hardly improved their character.


Notes:

So... Hikaru won the first game against Akira. One should note, though, that he was playing black and there was no komi rule back then – if there had been, Akira would have in fact won.

Rashomon was the main gate of Heian-kyo, a large, two-storied gate from which the Suzaku Avenue started. It was also the place to abandon unwanted bodies, which were left on the upper floor. I’m... not totally sure what to think about that, really. Creepy.

Sugawara no Michizane (845-903) was a politician in the times of Emperor Uda (i.e. the father of the current emperor, Daigo, in my story). When the emperor died, Michizane's political enemies managed to make him lose his position at court and he was demoted from his rank of junior second to a minor official post in the provinces, where he died two years later. Later, plague and drought spread and Emperor Daigo's crown prince died. Lightning struck the imperial palace, and several Important People were killed in the subsequent fires, including Michizane's chief adversary. Personally I would find this a bit more impressive if these things had happened right after Michizane's death, but e.g. the lightning took place in summer 930, 27 years after he'd died (and, btw, just a few months before this story starts, so I just had to mention it.) Anyway, all this was attributed to the angry spirit of Sugawara no Michizane. They posthumously restored his title and he was promoted to senior second rank, but even this wasn't enough, and 70 years later he was made the prime minster. A Shinto shrine was built for him, and he became the patron god of calligraphy, poetry, and of those who suffer injustice.

Thank you for reading! Next chapter will be up in a few days. Any kind of feedback is welcome, and please, if you spotted any mistakes, let me know! Always trying to improve, both my writing and my English.

Next chapter

Date: 2011-07-18 08:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wren-chan.livejournal.com
I found this via your post on the hikaru no go list--thank you so much for sharing it with us! So far your references seem fairly accurate on the Heian-kyo score, and I'll have to look for that rec of yours--didn't the author also do one of the first translations of Genji? (Or I could be high. One never knows.)

I'll be friending your journal so I can keep track of this story more easily. Looking forward to more!

Date: 2011-07-19 07:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tuulikannel.livejournal.com
Thanks for the comment~! This should be updated pretty frequently, as I've got it mostly written. I'm not sure about Genji, but at least he translated the Pillow Book and the Sarashina diary. Certainly other things, too.

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