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I was going to put these here too, but somehow forgot. Too many places to posts fics? maybe.

Five Hikaru no go/Blade of the Immortal ficlets, written for [personal profile] flonnebonne for guessing me at Blind Go.



1.


"It all started some fifty years ago," Hikaru said quietly. "There was a man called Fujiwara Sai. He was a student here, at this very dojo, one of the best – no, the best student there was then. But one day he was, unjustly, accused of having cheated in a fight, and he was expelled from the school. All the other schools turned their back to him, too; and so, in the end, he saw no other way but to choose the honorable death, and he committed seppuku. I follow the same style as he, I am a student of his… eh, a student of his student, that is… and I have come here to restore his honor. So here is my challenge: unless there is someone here who can defeat me, you will restore his name in your records and make it publicly known that he was done a great injustice."

Hikaru fell silent. His eyes moved calmly from one face to another, taking in the expressions – angry, annoyed, thoughtful – while his hand rested on the sword on his side, his teacher's sword he had one day found half-buried in the ground, deep in the forest. He glanced shortly at the figure standing by his side, visible only to his eyes, and nodded.

Don't worry, Sai. I am ready.



2.

It was one of those days when Waya couldn't help wondering how he kept on ending up in these situations.

"Don't drag me into this," he exclaimed to the two boys who, at the moment, had fixed their rather blazing gazes into him. "I'm not taking sides!"

"What!" Shindou sounded genuinely offended. "I thought we were friends!"

Waya ran his hand through his hair, exasperated, and seriously considered just walking away. "Well, yeah, but… even so, the thing is, you're just…just so…"

"So what?" Shindou challenged him.

Waya was still trying to decide just how frankly he wanted to answer that, when Shindou's adversary did it for him. "So brash, hotheaded, and simply reckless," Touya practically spat out. "See, even your friends agree on that! Your 'anything goes' fighting style simply is so non-orthodox that no self-respecting samurai…"

"Self-respecting…! I'd like to see how much you respect yourself when you get your ass handed to you in a fight, just cause you're too stiff and old-fashioned to try something new!"

"Even if I lose, at least I lose with my honor, knowing I've done no dirty tricks to…!"

"The point of a fight is to win it!" Shindou shouted, so loud Waya winced. He really hoped these two would have chosen some other place for this conversation than in the middle of a street. "When you're in a real fight, fighting for what's important to you, for your country, or your loved ones, can you really be so selfish you place your honor higher than their lives?"

Touya paused, for a moment seeming actually to consider this. Then he rolled his eyes and the moment passed. "I guess it's no wonder you don't understand bushido properly, given your teacher's…" he said, and Shindou's eyes flared again. Waya wondered if he should or should not try to intervene if he actually did draw.

"Don't you bad-mouth Sai! He's a genius, and you people are nothing short of idiots for kicking someone like him out! Just for fighting well with what weapons he had at hand! That's ridiculous! In a real fight…"

"I'd be more inclined to hear you lecturing about 'real fights' if you managed to land at least a single blow on me!"

"Oh, I will! Just you wait, one day I'll…"

"One day? Wait? What makes you think I would!? Besides, the rate you're going, you'll get yourself killed long before just out of sheer recklessness!"

It was Shindou's turn to pause. "Are you worried or something?" he asked with a little smirk, and Touya exploded again, spluttering a moment before he found his tongue again.

"Over an incompetent idiot like you? As if!"

"Hey, Shindou," Waya tried to say, but no one was listening. "I got to be going. Morishita-sensei's expecting me…" He waited a moment, but apparently he was talking to the air. He grasped Shindou's hair and tugged it, and managed to get his – rather annoyed – attention. "I'm going," he repeated. "Don't do anything stupid."

Shindou just frowned at him, most likely wondering what he was blabbering about, and turned back to Touya to continue their yelling match. Waya left, shaking his head and quite happy he did not belong to either of their schools.



3.

One day at the internet café where Mitani's sister worked, Hikaru and Sai were once again defeating one opponent after another in online go, when a man walked in and sat down by the next computer. They were much too immersed in their game to pay any attention to him, and at first he either didn't give Hikaru a second look. At some point, though, something in the boy's body language seemed to catch his eye. He glanced at the game proceeding on the screen, frowned, obviously not finding it of particular interest, and turned to look again at the boy. He kept on observing Hikaru throughout the game, and after it, when Hikaru shot a grin at Sai.

"I think that's enough for today, right?" Hikaru said aloud, stretching. "I'm leaving now!" he shouted at Mitani's sister, who waved at him in response. He stood up and turned to go, but noticed then how Sai had stopped to stare at a man sitting by the next desk. There was nothing peculiar about that, Sai often stopped to stare at things and people – Hikaru couldn't help grinning as he remembered the ghost's reaction to couple of Gothic Lolita's they'd passed the other day. So, his eyes passed over the man, uninterested; and snapped then back, and he froze.

Scars crossed the man's face, one going straight over his right eye. The eye was half-closed, lifeless. The other eye looked straight back at Hikaru.

As the boy gawked, the man grinned. "Hey, kid. Played a good game?"

Hikaru looked quickly away. "Ah… I, yeah… I. Bye." He started walking away, staring straight at the door, but he heard the man's voice from behind him.

"Was it you or your company who was playing?"

Hikaru stopped dead. He glanced back, eyes wide. "I… what? I don't… I don't understand what you're talking about."

The man kept on grinning. "Of course not. But the thing is, when you live long enough, you learn to see things more closely." His eyes seemed to linger around where Sai stood, but didn't quite focus on anything. "And, just so you know, you're kinda obvious, if someone's paying attention. Don't glance so much behind you."

"I still don't know what you're talking about," Hikaru said, fingering nervously his backpack's strap. "Besides, you don't look that old to me, mister," he added, just to change the subject.

The man's grin faded away. "Looks," he said, odd tone in his voice, "can be deceiving, kiddo."

Hikaru looked at his one good eye, swallowed, and turned and ran out.



4.

Two girls were walking through the streets of Edo, deep in a conversation.

"Akari-chaaan!" one of them said, placing her hand on her companion's shoulder and shaking it gently. "You need to be more determined! With a guy like Shindou, that's the only way for you to ever win him over. You must not give him a chance to run!"

"I don't know… Kaneko-san, I just can't be like you. I can't be so straightforward! I'm giving him hints, all the time, but… but I'm not sure…"

"Not sure if he notices them?" Kaneko snorted. "Of course he doesn't! This is Shindou we're talking about! You should hit him with a club on his head for him to notice anything!"

"But I…"

"Not buts!" Kaneko exclaimed, waving her hand as if throwing the "but" away. "You should… oh, I'm sorry!" She had happened to smack her hand against the back of a passer-by.

"You're sorry? And well should you be!" The man turned to glare at them. "Goddamn commoners, don't you pay any attention to your betters?"

Kaneko bowed, and just in case Akari mimicked her. "I'm very sorry, o-samurai-sama," Kaneko said. "We were deep in a conversation and I got too excited. My pardons." She bowed again, and turned to go.

"You're not going anywhere before I tell you!" The samurai grasped her shoulder and spun her back. "Fat little peasant girl," he muttered. "Eating well but not learning any manners, are you?"

Kaneko's face drew blank. Akari stiffened for a moment – she knew that expression well. It always preceded an explosion.

"We're very sorry," she put in hastily, and took a step to stand partially in front of her friend. "Please, o-samurai-sama, don't…"

"I'm not talking to you!" The man pushed her away and she flew down to the street on her back. He turned back to Kaneko. "Now, you instead…"

"Is it really worthy of a samurai to cause a scene like this on a public street?" a voice asked quietly.

Akari, who had been collecting herself up from the street, froze to stare at the young woman who had stopped by the man's side. She's beautiful, that was the first thing she thought, but then she started to wonder about the woman's appearance – mainly of her hair that had been cut very, very short. And her eyes… her eyes were somehow blank. Sad.

The man shot him a glare. "Get lost, woman, this isn't…"

The woman placed a hand on his hand that was still holding Kaneko. "Let her go. Please."

"I told you to get lost!" The man did release Kaneko as he shoved at the woman – but somehow she wasn't where he pushed, and he stumbled, off-balance. "The hell it is with the women of this city!" he exclaimed, turning to glare at the woman who now was standing between him and Kaneko. "Don't any of you know your places?"

The woman said nothing, just watched him without an expression, and that seemed to enrage him even more. He attempted to strike at her again, and now she moved, so fast Akari couldn't really see what happened, but the man ended crashing down on the street with a loud thump. He rose up, stumbling and swearing, a hand grasping his sword's hilt. The woman stood still, facing him. He stared at her eyes, at that same blank, strangely resigned look, an inch of the sword drawn, and hesitated, suddenly feeling as if he stood at the edge of a great pit, and with one false move he would fall, deep.

Kaneko snorted. "Look at the great samurai," she said. "About to draw his sword against an unarmed woman."

Her voice broke the spell. The samurai straightened his back, glowered at them, sheathed his sword. "It's your husbands' task to discipline you," he growled. "Husbands and fathers. I'm not doing their job for them." And he walked away with all dignity he could muster.

Only now Akari dared really to breath, still sitting on the street. The woman turned to her and offered a hand to pull her up.

"Thanks," Kaneko said quietly, and Akari echoed it.

"It's nothing," the woman said, a ghost of smile on her lips. "Take care." With that, she too left.

The two girls stared long after her. "I wish I could be more like her," Akari finally breathed.

Kaneko laughed out loud. "Akari, dear, I think it's most likely a good thing you're not. I doubt she leads a happy life."

"But I don't think she has any trouble to catch the attention of a man she wants," Akari insisted as they started to continue their way.

Kaneko was shaking her head. "Trust me. You don't have to be like her to win over someone like Shindou."

"Someone like Shindou," Akari muttered, giving her friend an annoyed look. "What do you mean, 'someone like Shindou'?"

Kaneko just laughed.



5.

All things considered, Rin told herself as she stamped onward through the rain, heedless of the puddles forming on the road, it wasn't completely implausible to think she had gone mad. Actually, after all she'd been through, one could almost expect something like that to happen. And maybe, maybe the way she had spent the past half a year after the murder of her parents living alone in her father's empty dojo, training every day… maybe that truly hadn't been good for her sanity, like some friends of her parents had tried to tell her.

Even so…

Even so, why couldn't she go mad in a way that'd be a little more… productive? More useful for her to realize her goal?

"Go!" she suddenly snapped. "What use do I possibly have for go, of all things?! I might be more interested in a ghost of a great samurai, but a go-player! That's ridiculous!"

Bu… but go is… she heard in the back of her mind, and she placed her hands on her ears, in a vain attempt to block away the voice.

"Shut up! I am not interested!"

A surge of sadness rushed through her, so great it made her stomach heave, and she stumbled, retching. Good thing she had eaten nothing for a while.

Maybe she was getting sick? She wiped her mouth and spat on the ground, trying to get rid of the sour taste. That would explain it – hallucinations and all. It might be wisest just to go home as quickly as possible, before she'd get even sicker in the rain.

Damn the rain.

And damn the moment she'd stepped in to that pawnbroker's to wait for the rain to end. And triple damn the moment she'd seen that damn go board and the damn stains on it, and…

Just damn.

She came home and, deciding to skip supper – she was still feeling a bit sick – she just started to undress to go to bed. As she was untying her sash, she paused and shot a glare at the ghost.

"Whether you're a product of my imagination or not, no peeking!"

O-of course not! the ghost exclaimed, eyes widening, and hastily turned its back to her.

She curled up on her bed, feeling cold, sick, and overall quite miserable. She could still feel the ghost behind her back, but she closed her eyes tightly, ignored it, and waited for sleep to come.

She had to wait long. And once sleep came, it wasn't peaceful. Broken images, of her parents, of everyday life… but always there was something wrong, some nameless, shapeless horror waiting just behind the corner, and she knew, just knew, that it was hopeless, all was over, and they would die again and again and again, and there was nothing she could do about it… and there was her mother, her body broken, eyes empty and black and lost, and her father, walking around with such deep cuts in his shoulders she thought his arms should fall off…

…and in the end she woke up, screaming, like on so many other nights before. But unlike those nights, now someone was there, a presence beside her, and a concerned voice, calling her name.

Rin? Rin, what is it?

She didn't listen. "Mother," she cried, choking, the word so mangled on her lips it was almost incomprehensible, the memories of that day flashing through her mind. "Father…"

Oh… A hand touched her forehead, so gentle she was barely sure if she truly felt it. Oh, you poor, poor girl… that's horrible. Just horrible… There was agony in the whisper, almost as great as what burned in her chest. She sat up and cried on, head resting against an ethereal shoulder. After a long while she finally calmed down, but still stayed there a moment, unmoving, before she straightened her back and turned to look at her companion.

There were tears in the ghost's eyes. He smiled to her a little sadly. I guess you truly don't have much need for something like go, he whispered. She let out a strange sound, somewhere between a laugh and a snort, and opened her mouth to say something – but closed it then again, not knowing what to say.

But it's alright, I guess, the ghost went on. I… I've been waiting so long, so I'm afraid I might be a little impatient. But, after all, after seven hundred years. what's a few more? But say… His voice softened. Why, why do you live on your own, like this? It's not good, for you to face this all alone.

Rin shook her head, heaving out a great sigh. Of all impossible things… a go-player? But even so…

"I'm not alone now, am I?" She lay down again, closing her eyes. After a moment's silence she added in her mind, I'm sure we could play some go too, some day. I hear it's good for developing strategic thinking.

The ghost of Fujiwara no Sai smiled.

May 2016

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