Rebirth

Chapter 1

Ishikawa Sayoku was just an ordinary preteen boy who got mediocre marks in everything except History and Mother Tongue, in which he outshone most of his classmates. He was of average height and was not exceptional in his performance in Physical Education class.

He was neither sporty nor nerdy, but was part of the majority crowd that hovered somewhere around the middle. He was considered to be fairly good- looking, what with his fair, flawless complexion, slender build and shaggy dark hair. His eyes were large, dark and brooding, greatly contrasting with his pale, delicate features. It did not help that he maintained a cool demeanour and a composed countenance, for it was a combination of all these factors that cause several girls to feel their hearts flutter in their chests every time he passed them.

Ironically, despite his popularity amongst the girls, he hardly had any friends in school. He was considered to be an introvert by many, for he spoke little, and only when necessary. However, as an insei at the Japanese Go Institute, he had many close friends. It seemed as if he could only get along with those who shared his passion for Go.

Go, yes, the ancient board game that had intrigued him as a child, and even now as a preteen, he still found nothing as interesting or absorbing as Go. He spent little time on his schoolwork, if any, and spent many long hours playing at Go salons, at his fellow inseis' houses, and in his disorganised room arranging kifus.

Sayoku's parents initially dismissed his overzealous interest in Go as one of the many phases in his life, but after he became an insei at the tender age of eleven, his interest in Go grew into infatuation, and that was when his parents sent him to a psychiatrist. Contrary to Sayoku's parents' belief, Sayoku was deemed normal by the renowned doctor. However, he commented that Sayoku's great and exaggerated interest in Go was somewhat unhealthy for a boy his age, and recommended that perhaps Mr and Mrs Ishikawa ought to give Sayoku a break from Go.

This, however, was not quite possible, for Sayoku refused to give up his position as an insei, so Sayoku continued happily as an insei and the psychiatrist's advice was ignored.

While the whole of the Ishikawa clan was fretting about Sayoku's good-for- nothing Go-playing ways, just one person was happy to see him love Go so: Sayoku's paternal grandfather adored GO, and he was the one who ahd personally trained Sayoku and encouraged him. As a result, Sayoku had always looked forward to his weekend visits to his grandfather's, for that meant that he could get to play Go for the entire day.

However, when Sayoku beat his grandfather in a game of Go at the age of ten (and his grandfather was no amateur), he resolved to become even better, and with his grandfather's encouragement, he took and passed the insei test, and set out on the road to becoming a Go professional.

Sayoku's schoolwork suffered consequently, for he spent even more time on Go and minimal time on homework. However, he still continued to shine in History and Mother Tongue, this being extremely surprising, if not shocking, since he hardly touched his textbooks. Moreover, since he kept late nights frequently as a result of studying Go moves from the kifu he owned, he spent many of his school hours sprawled on his desk, asleep and dreaming of Go.

Sayoku found it very strange that he should score As in History and Mother Tongue for he knew the effort he put into his schoolwork wasn't even enough to produce Ds for his other subjects, so there was no reason why he should score in those subjects.

Still stranger was the fact that Sayoku seemed to know virtually everything about Heian court life and Edo habits without reading up on anything to do with the periods in question. What was more, he had already been making many brilliant moves on the goban resembling those of the genius Honinbo Shusaku during games with his grandfather since he was seven.

It was as if he was carrying memories and knowledge from his previous life. Had he loved Go this much then?

*****

Shindou Hikaru sat in his pod, flipping through 'Weekly Go', reading about his potential opponents and studying kifu of matches past. He was much mellower now, as compared to the pubescent teenage boy he had been about ten years ago.

Life hadn't really changed much; to him, it was just like when he was a newcomer to the professional Go scene. Perhaps he was busier, what with the many events and ceremonies he had to attend. Only twenty-six, and already holding the title of jyuu-dan, his future was indeed very promising.

Although he devoted much of his time to Go, he knew he had to find time to socialise, for his biological clock was ticking. Akari still followed him like she used to in their childhood days, and strangely, he never seemed to figure out why.

Just then, Hikaru stopped flipping and stared intently at the pages in front of him. The contents of the article concerned the successful candidates of the annual Go professional test. All the three who had passed were inseis, one of whom was a preteen.

Somehow, Hikaru found himself immensely interested in this preteen boy, whose raven locks fell messily over his brow. He was Ishikawa Sayoku, and only twelve. Hikaru found his photograph strangely intriguing and stared at it as if in a trance.

There seemed to be something familiar about Ishikawa Sayoku, at least to Hikaru, who felt as if he had met him previously before.

No, he did not just meet him briefly. he knew Ishikawa Sayoku. those expressive, solemn eyes, that dark mop of hair, those delicate features. it seemed remotely familiar to Hikaru, but somehow Hikaru could not place it.

Then it came to Hikaru in a flash.

He had known him when he was twelve, and then lost him just as abruptly when he was fourteen.

The resemblance was both uncanny and unmistakeable.

Ishikawa Sayoku was Sai.

A/n: edited version of chapter 1. hope you liked it. =)