Hikaru no Ghost

Chapter 15: Sai the Fujiwara

"You seem tired, Sensei." Mitani frowned.

Sai offered his student a reassuring smile.

"Just a little, Mitani-kun. Nothing you have to worry about."

"It's that idiot who should be worried." Mitani grumbled to himself under his breath. "What good is he if he can't even take care of Sensei."

Sai benevolently pretended not to have heard that.

Since his return to the city, Sai had been playing the rescheduled games that could not have been moved to Kyoto. It meant his schedule had been overfilled the last couple of weeks. And the recent changes to his personal life had only added to his exhaustion.

"Behold!" Hikaru announced happily, rushing into the dining room with a covered tray in hand. "A masterpiece by my own hand!"

The Touya family all burst into applause without even having seen it. Ogata stared and offered no reaction. And Hikaru beamed with resplendent pride, setting the tray upon the table and revealing what was under the white cloth with a flourish.

Bowls of golden noodles in gleaming broth, boiled bamboo shoots, two half eggs, slices of prime beef, and freshly cut green onion, with a pink and white swirled fish cake. And the entire party sighed softly as the delicious smell wafted into the air in curls of steam.

"Ramen!" Hikaru chirped, already setting each bowl before each of their guests. "The only meal for house warmings!"

"You're so wrong." Mitani commented as he accepted his bowl from Hikaru.

Hikaru only grinned back at him, no offense taken.

"Did you cook this yourself, Hikaru-kun?" Akiko asked warmly.

"Certainly, Touya-san." Hikaru gestured over himself. "And you may rest assured in its quality. For I am a certified ramen chef."

Mitani snorted.

"Who was the master that you studied under, Hikaru-kun?" Ogata asked, unfazed.

Mitani looked at Ogata incredulously, not at all believing that Hikaru had actually studied under a ramen master.

Ogata only took a sip from the delicate porcelain of his sake cup. It was his housewarming gift to them. And though Hikaru had supplied excellent stoneware for the excellent wine, only Ogata and Kouyou were partaking.

"I'm sure it's delicious," Akiko giggled. "Since Hikaru-kun has cooked it especially for us."

Hikaru preened under the attention as Mitani rolled his eyes.

"How do you like your new home, Fujiwara-sensei?" Akira asked politely, looking at Sai with earnest curiosity.

Briefly, Sai glanced around the formal dining room they were currently seated in.

Warm golden light flooded the long room from the handcrafted chandelier lights overhead. The colored glass was delicately shaped to look like hanging flowers, the bronze metalwork covered in wrought leaf designs.

But the room was formally traditional, as befitting a house of the Fujiwara clan. Tatami mats covered the floors, surrounded by painted walls. And the shoji screen doors had been opened and pushed aside, the outer panels of the hall had been removed for the night. All for the benefit of creating an inviting backdrop of the ornamental garden during their meal.

"This is a very lovely home." Akiko complimented.

"Yes," Sai replied absently. "I suppose so."

"I had thought you would be more comfortable here." Kouyou looked on in slight surprise. "You've mentioned before that you didn't particularly like the design of your former home."

To which Sai hastily replied,

"I am quite comfortable here. And it's not as if I miss my apartment. It's just…"

His new home was large and grand, located in a historic neighborhood of the city. And the clan house had come with a small staff. He was still unused to their presence, despite having grown up in a similar environment.

Of course, none of the servants were in sight at the moment. Hikaru had made it clear that he wanted to serve the meal himself. But even then, at least one would be within earshot, should anyone in the party unexpectedly call for assistance.

And Sai had always experienced discomfort in the idea that he was never alone. Even though being alone had been so terribly lonely.

"…a little more crowded now, I suppose." Sai finished.

Without having to physically do it, they all nodded in understanding. It had been surprising for everyone to be greeted at the door by a servant of the house, dressed in the formal kimono stamped by the Fujiwara crest.

Everyone had known who Sai was. But to be reminded that he was a Fujiwara came at an entirely different scale.

"Well, I like our new house a lot better." Hikaru spoke up. "The traditional style is the only true Japanese style."

Akira nodded in staunch agreement. Having grown up in a traditional home as well, he preferred the familiarity.

"I've always preferred the modern, Western style myself." Ogata chimed in.

"Well, everyone's entitled to their own opinion." Hikaru said, even as he looked revolted.

Ogata nodded, moving to pour himself more sake. But after glancing at his sensei, moved to refill Kouyou's cup before his own.

Kouyou nodded his thanks at his student, taking a sip to show his appreciation before glancing over at Sai.

"And are we here to offer more than one congratulations tonight, Fujiwara-sensei?"

Akira furrowed his brow. They were all here to congratulate Fujiwara-sensei and Hikaru on their new home, weren't they? (And Akira was going to ask to see Hikaru's room after dinner, so they could play more go. He had even learned a few new wrestling moves, just in case.)

"You mean we're celebrating more than the new house?" Mitani asked, also mildly confused.

Both Ogata and Akiko said nothing as they continued to eat their ramen, also having no idea what Kouyou was talking about.

"Ahh…" Sai set down his utensils and wiped nervously at his hands. "There is an…announcement of sorts to make. I had planned to tell you all after dinner, but…"

Sai glanced over at their obviously-intrigued guests.

"As you're already aware, Hikaru and I were in Kyoto for some time…"

Everyone nodded immediately.

Sai paused here uncertainly, and looked towards Hikaru.

But Hikaru only stared back at him expectantly, mouth full of ramen.

Sai mentally shook his head, causing Hikaru to grin around his mouthful of ramen through their mental link.

Straightening in his seat, Sai forced himself to keep still as the words came out in a rush,

"And you are all very important to me. People who have become as important to my life as my own family. That is why I wanted to tell you in person."

Everyone stared back in surprise.

And his hands shook, hidden under the table. But Hikaru sent him a strong sense of pride, despite simply appearing as if he were searching for something in his food.

Before he could lose his nerve, Sai forged on through the silence.

"I have been named the successor. After the current head—my grandmother—finds it in her wisdom to pass all responsibility to me, I will be the one to lead the Fujiwara."

Kouyou and Akiko turned to one another.

Ogata finished off his sake.

And Mitani and Akira just continued staring in their shock.

"Congratulations on the honor, Fujiwara-sensei." Kouyou intoned solemnly.

Beside him, his wife smiled beatifically at Sai.

"How will this affect your career?" Ogata asked bluntly.

Sai suddenly found himself in a forceful staredown with the other go-pro.

"My new responsibilities will affect my professional life very little." Sai shook his head adamantly.

This was something he and Hikaru had discussed in depth already, had been the first amongst many serious discussions concerning how his life would change.

"I do not expect to inherit the position for years, perhaps another decade or two, hopefully. It's been agreed that I will accept my responsibilities gradually. And aside from more frequent trips back to Kyoto, it will be my personal life that will change the most rather than my professional one."

Ogata ended his staredown with a nod of satisfaction. He was the top contender in the Judan series this year. And despite their friendship, Ogata was playing to win the title from a Sai in top form.

Sai breathed a mental sigh of relief.

"Is this why you have a new house?" Akira asked, wide-eyed.

"Partially." Sai answered hesitantly. "There are certain expectations for the clan heir. But I would have moved into a similar home sooner or later, whether or not I was named the heir."

Akira nodded in acceptance, glancing around the house with renewed interest. In his opinion, Fujiwara-sensei was more suited to this type of home.

"Wait." Mitani held his hand up, thinking very hard.

Sai swallowed, bracing himself for the anticipated negative-reaction to the news.

But Mitani only pointed at Hikaru, seated across the table.

"Are you actually related to him?"

Sai stared blankly back at his student, nearly gaping.

"I just want to know. And this seemed as good of a time to ask." Mitani shrugged nonchalantly. "Your old apartment had a guest room, but it never looked like anyone had ever stayed in there. And I never saw any of Hikaru's stuff lying around."

Sai was quick to stomp down his rising panic, projecting only calm. It was a mask he had learned to use, starting in childhood.

"I am a Fujiwara."

Everyone turned to Hikaru.

Hikaru stared back at them in a watchful, steady manner. It was the same expression Sai had forced onto his face, but which was so natural on Hikaru.

"I am, just as much as Sai is Fujiwara." Hikaru confirmed. "We're clansmen. And he is my beloved family."

And though his mask didn't break, it faltered as Sai was struck by emotion he hadn't expected hearing those words. He had to look away in order to maintain his composure.

Because, through the bond, Sai knew that Hikaru's words were genuinely sincere.

Mitani narrowed his eyes at Hikaru. That still didn't explain the lack of stuff.

In return, Hikaru grinned knowingly at Mitani, eyes bright and teasing as he propped his elbow onto the table.

"And ignoring the fact that you were spying on me…"

"Don't flatter yourself. My only concern is whether you were bothering Sensei!"

"…I wanted to stay with Sai." Hikaru told them. "I asked to come from Kyoto. I didn't want Sai to be lonely anymore."

Quietly, the words were allowed to settle. And the unsaid seriousness of that decision remained, despite how purposefully cheery and light-hearted Hikaru had kept his tone.

Kouyou and Akiko exchanged an entire silent conversation between them. In their expressions, they conveyed how grateful they were that Hikaru had shown up in Sai's life.

Ogata raised his glass to the table, his thoughts kept to himself.

"As if you didn't just barge in, giving no choice to Sensei whatsoever." Mitani snapped, the only one at the table who had not known Sai before Hikaru.

Hikaru leaned back in his seat, grinning unrepentantly at Mitani.

"If you are ever lonely, Fujiwara-sensei, you should come to our house." Akira offered with determination.

"Yes. As we've said before," Akiko said warmly. "You and Hikaru-kun will always be welcome in our home."

"And I'm sure Seiji would offer his company as well." Kouyou added with amusement.

Ogata bobbed his head once in acknowledgement, before providing his own encouragement,

"All of the turtles like you."

Hikaru hid his laugh behind the sleeve of the formal kimono he wasn't wearing.

And Sai watched the people sitting at the table. The guests he had invited into his home for dinner, because they cared for him, and because he cherished their presence in his life.

A year ago, he would have sat alone at an empty table, in an empty apartment he hadn't even felt he belonged in. And now…

"Thank you," Sai told them quietly, seriously.

And when he smiled, it was a smile for these precious people in his life.

Hikaru was the first to smile back, happy and warm. His was bigger than the calm, caring smiles of the Touyas. More exuberant than the upward curves of Ogata and Mitani's smiles. And Sai was happy, truly happy to have received them all.

"But I'm not lonely anymore."

The End

Author's Note:

I had a lot of fun writing "Hikaru no Ghost". (That title made me smile every time I said it.)

And I'm very happy to have written another story for the Hikaru no Go fandom. In my experience, the readers have been kind, supporting, and enthusiastic people who have given me ongoing love and encouragement. So, everyone is kind of like Hikaru lol.

But in all seriousness, I really would just like to thank you. THANK YOU for reading. And I hope you've enjoyed the story!

P.S. The omake chapter will be posted on the first of June!

2017.05.28