Hikaru no Ghost
Chapter 2: Hikaru's Disguise!
When Sai woke up, it was the next morning, and he came to consciousness lying in the middle of his own bed in his own bedroom.
Blinking at the unexpected familiarity, Sai propped himself up onto his elbow and looked around curiously. There was only quiet in the dark, curtained room.
Getting up, Sai's feet automatically found his slippers. He was dressed in his pajamas.
Fingers brushing at the fabric self-consciously, Sai ignored his lingering unease in favor of pointing out to himself that—logically—what happened last night had just been a very strange, disturbed dream.
Sai found all of his clothes hung up inside his closet. His overnight toiletry bag was sitting on his bathroom counter. And his suitcase had been neatly stored away within the far closet where he kept his winter coats and extra winter blanket.
He didn't actually remember putting his things away, but he must have if they had been put away. Right?
Later, Sai found himself hesitant in leaving his bedroom. Which was ridiculous, really. He had already dressed for his schedule today, in a navy blue suit with a bright yellow tie for the occasion. But he still shuffled uncertainly in front of the door, undecided and anxious.
There was the steady hum of his air conditioner flowing throughout his rooms. And the faint sounds of the city outside his windows. It was all so quiet and familiar. Just another morning on just another day.
Holding his breath, Sai steeled his resolve and pushed his bedroom door open.
The apartment was silent and empty. And Sai breathed a sigh of relief. And then tried ignoring the strange sense of disappointment that followed.
A little more confident, he walked briskly down his hallway. And it wasn't until he reached his living room that Sai slowed and paused to glance over at the goban.
Usually, he would start the day the same way every morning. It would be strange if he didn't follow routine. Right?
Sai nervously cleared his throat, looking surreptitiously in the direction of the antique.
"Err…good morning…" Sai coughed into his palm.
He almost added 'Hikaru' to the end of the greeting, before mentally hitting himself in the head and wondering if he were going insane.
Hikaru wasn't real. That was just a dream. A very strange, very…Hikaru-ish dream.
Then Sai caught sight of what was in his kitchen.
There was a traditional Japanese breakfast waiting for him at his dining table. Rice porridge, grilled fish, miso soup, and a fresh garden salad.
Whoever had made it had known that Sai liked porridge in the morning rather than rice. And that he preferred a salad rather than Japanese pickles for breakfast.
After staring at the dishes he had uncovered in complete shock, Sai finally noticed the note.
It had been tucked into a traditional long-styled envelope, 'STUPID SAI' written in startlingly artful calligraphy.
The envelope and letter paper Sai recognized immediately. He had never used it, instead keeping everything packed away in the polished wooden box the set came in. It had never even left his study since he had moved in.
The envelope hadn't been bound. It hadn't even been closed all the way, as it could only be Sai that would find it and read it.
Slowly, Sai picked it up and carefully examined it from all angles. He was very careful when he turned the envelope upside down to slide the letter paper out.
The letter itself was like something Sai had been shown by museums in his childhood. It was folded and written in an antiquated fashion, flowing from right to left, the elegant ink characters moving in a top-down fashion, with particular focus on the aesthetics upon the page as much as it did the words themselves.
It was both jarring and amazing to hold something like this in his hands. And Sai was never more grateful to have been forced to memorize Kanji than he was now. Even then, it took him many long moments to discern the content of the letter as he didn't have much experience with Cursive Script.
This honorable personage has partaken his time and expended his effort to present the unworthy you with a delicious morning meal. Eat it or die! You always skip breakfast and the habit is vexation without apology.
Standing alone in his apartment, Sai very carefully thought over just what this letter meant.
The swirls of inky words proved that it had not been just a very strange, delusional dream last night. Sai would question his own sanity, but there was no possible way that he would have been able to write this letter while in some kind of blackout haze. He could barely read it! (He resolutely did not turn back to look at the goban.)
In the end, despite wanting to promptly faint again, Sai obediently sat down and ate his breakfast.
Later that morning, Hikaru was busy at work observing the modern day era.
"Geez, it's not that much more exciting from a thousand years ago." Hikaru sighed as he leaned back from observing the everyday interactions of everyday people.
A mother carried her newborn son while holding the hand of her small daughter. A man unloaded wares into a store from the street. And friends happily walked together, laughing and shopping and whatever it was that was so exciting down there.
Cities were, in Hikaru's vast experience, always the same. Big, loud, and full of people. He didn't even need to hide his voice. It was so loud in the city that Hikaru could make his comments aloud and no one would even bother to look around to see who said it. No one was listening.
Hikaru huffed as he pulled his silk cape down over his face in boredom, tumbling backwards through the air.
Though no one could see him, it was force of habit for Hikaru to 'conceal himself' when 'venturing out amongst commoners'. It was standard practice for high nobility, who weren't actually ever allowed to leave their expansive family homes.
The more adventurous nobles 'disguised themselves' when in the city. Hikaru was such a noble. Though to do that, he had to observe modern day culture first to know how to properly blend in.
"Well, that's good enough!" Hikaru exclaimed resolutely, throwing up his arms and legs. He startled some nearby crows by doing that, but no humans.
Hikaru turned to his bird companions, who all either ignored him in favor of something shiny or looked at him in annoyance for the sudden interruption.
"Don't you think so?" Hikaru asked the crows.
Hikaru nodded in complete agreement.
"You're right! I might get some of the details wrong, but no one will pay that much attention to some stupid kid."
"CAW! CAW!" A second crow hopped closer to stand beside the first, looking at the ghost.
"Of course he's right." Hikaru admonished the second crow with a stern look. "Humans are just like that. And you guys could bother to show some support once in a while, you know!"
The two crows just stared up at him.
"Well, I don't have time for this!" Hikaru shouted at them, waving his arms around. "I have to go find Sai! He's such a stupid horse!"
"CAW!" The crows agreed.
And with that, Hikaru waved goodbye to his nearby crow companions. His company all cawed after him as Hikaru flew down to get a closer look. He floated in the air above the moving crowd as he read the prominent signboard at the front of the building.
'CHILDREN'S GO TOURNAMENT' had been printed in big black letters, alongside colorful cartoons of a happily smiling boy and girl playing go. Hikaru rolled his eyes at it.
Leaping down to hide between two bushes, Hikaru promptly made himself tangible. But instead of Heian robes, he was now wearing bright yellow and black sneakers (to match his hair), a pair of loose shorts with lots of pockets (a lot of boys seemed to like it), and a t-shirt with a picture of Edo Castle splashed across the chest in stylistic black ink (which had been a popular souvenir when Hikaru visited that morning).
Brushing himself off, Hikaru looked all around himself to admire his work.
"Heheheh." He grinned in congratulations before returning the silk cape over his head.
"No one will be able to tell a thing."
He then entered the building, his long cape trailing behind him.
Hikaru followed the crowd as they filed into the main hall where the tournament was taking place. There was an overbearing mother in front of him, dragging her very embarrassed and subdued son with her. Hikaru lifted the opening of his cape to spare the kid a sympathetic look, but then the mother glared at him and Hikaru quickly decided to veer in the opposite direction.
He spent a few moments marveling at the sight of so many children playing go, but quickly forced himself to focus on finding Sai. The connection between them felt like a tug over Hikaru's navel, so he only had to follow it to be able to find the man.
"Why is stupid Sai around here?" Hikaru huffed as he darted this way and that down an empty corridor. "The tournament is over there!"
The tournament was being held in the main hall. Hikaru had somehow found himself in the narrow and confusing hallways somewhere behind that. And as Hikaru was feeling the distinct possibility that he was probably not supposed to be wandering around here, he shouldn't be asking for directions either.
Well, Hikaru would be having words with Sai after this. Why were modern buildings so confusing? In a thousand years, shouldn't they have learned how to make them more simple by now! If he didn't have the connection to navigate with, Hikaru was sure he would have been lost a thousand times over already.
Pausing before a corner, Hikaru made sure the cape was secured around him before he peered out beyond the wall to check to see if there was anyone there.
Naturally, this was when Hikaru crashed straight into another person.
Hikaru managed to remember to stay tangible. And even more importantly to the Heian ghost, he kept his grip firm around the cape.
"I'm so sorry!"
Cautiously, Hikaru loosened his hold on the silk, peering out at the very concerned voice.
There was a kid sitting across from him. He was dressed in a boring gray school uniform. Meticulously cut bob-style hair. Sharp eyes though. Intelligent.
Briefly, Hikaru wondered if he should have shown up to this tournament in a school uniform. But none of the other children seemed to be wearing one, so he dismissed the thought.
Meanwhile, the kid had shifted to a crouched position and was watching Hikaru curiously.
"Probably my fault." Hikaru replied graciously, like a noble should.
He cheated a little by floating up, but no one would be able to see it underneath the cape.
The kid was still looking at him strangely. Hikaru hoped he hadn't noticed anything.
"Hehe, I don't have very good peripheral vision in here." Hikaru laughed, extending a hand to the other boy through the opening of the silk wall all around him.
The kid kept staring at him, but Hikaru just grinned and winked at him.
Finally, the other boy looked away from the opening which showed only a part of Hikaru's face, and down to the hand offered to him.
"Up you go." Hikaru gave the other boy a firm pull as soon as his hand was accepted.
The other child nearly toppled over. Hikaru winced under his cape. He wasn't too familiar with how much force he should have yet.
"Err, sorry about that too." Hikaru chuckled, hand disappearing back under the cape as he held the opening just a little bit closer. "Guess I don't know my own strength."
"Yes." The boy absent-mindedly brushed at his shorts. "I suppose so."
The other boy frowned at Hikaru, looking at him even more curiously now.
Hikaru blinked back at him.
"I'm Akira." The other boy introduced himself uncertainly.
"Hikaru!" Hikaru exclaimed excitedly, before remembering himself and subtly pulling his cape closer to his person.
Akira opened his mouth, only to close it again with an audible snap. He kept glancing at Hikaru, as if he really wanted to bring something up. But he was also too polite to do so.
Hikaru wondered what Akira's problem was. There was absolutely nothing out of place about his honorable personage, after all. He had studied well.
"Are you in the tournament?" Akira finally asked, gesturing towards the main hall.
Hikaru glanced over, but considering the level of skill the other children were playing at…
"It wouldn't be fair if I participated." Hikaru looked thoughtful for a moment. "There's no true sport if there's no true competition."
Akira watched him carefully, at first in surprise, and then in understanding. He suddenly seemed much more subdued than before, though his eyes had become even sharper at Hikaru's words.
"How about you?" Hikaru asked.
Akira shook his head.
"Then what?" Hikaru looked at Akira in surprise. "Are you just here to watch then?"
Akira looked vaguely uncomfortable then, physically cringing away from Hikaru as his eyes darted over to the side of the room.
"Not exactly…" Akira trailed off.
Hikaru gave him a look, but shrugged it off. He wasn't too concerned about what Akira was doing here. He doubted that the other boy was here for nefarious purposes.
"Well, I'm actually here looking for someone."
Akira looked at him in startled surprise, eyes wide.
"Me too!" He exclaimed, before immediately slapping his hand over his mouth.
Hikaru nodded in dignified understanding.
"I'm looking for my horse." Hikaru announced.
Akira stared at him.
"You may accompany me." Hikaru grinned.
He would feel more comfortable having someone with him. He'd always had a servant caught up in his plans when he had ventured out in disguise. It just didn't feel the same prowling these halls on his own.
"I mean, you must be back here for a reason too." Hikaru stated, quite intelligently, actually. He couldn't think of a reason for Akira to be wandering these hallways. And if Akira were here for nefarious purposes, Hikaru's noble presence would certainly detract the other boy from seeking trouble.
Akira looked uncertain, but he still nodded in agreement.
"You have made the honorable choice, Akira!" Hikaru grinned at him, already turning in the direction of the tugging around his navel. "Let's go then! He's close."
"Do you mean your horse?" Akira asked, staring at the back of Hikaru's caped head.
Hikaru didn't even turn around as he answered,
"I can feel it."
Looking like he wasn't quite sure what he had agreed to, Akira nevertheless obediently trailed behind Hikaru as the two boys made their way down the corridors.
Ghost!Hikaru is kind of a little maniac.