Here We Go (Again)

Chapter 13: It's Not the End if It's Forever

...

It was finally finished.

They had estimated that it would only take six weeks. Except, the estimate had been wrong because it had taken them twelve whole weeks to finish. And Hikaru had been sure that he would be an old man again before they would finally give it to him.

"Hikaru, I dare say that you have never looked as well as you do at this moment," Sai said through the sniffles of pride he was hiding behind his fan (the crybaby ghost).

"You don't have to dare, Sai," said Hikaru, looking in approval at the long-awaited result reflected in his mirror, "because you are absolutely right."

Hikaru took a moment to preen in front of the full-length mirror, taking extra care to adjust the hat so that it sat perfectly upon his head. After all, he had waited three whole months—an entire season—to wear the full set of his Heian robes.

Sai had been the one to design it, mostly, with Hikaru describing it to the Kyoto fashion house designer and the entire gaggle of seamstresses looking over their shoulders. (Hikaru had, thankfully, also stopped some of Sai's more horrendous suggestions this way.)

Unlike what they had told him at his consultation, the hat and shoes hadn't actually taken that long to be made. But Sai had been unmoving in what particular style Hikaru would be wearing. It didn't actually include the full hat that Sai wore, as Sai was older and would have ranked higher than Hikaru. Instead, Hikaru had a little hat with a little flap in the back that was meant to be pinned to his topknot. Except Hikaru didn't have a topknot, so the seamstresses had devised some complicated balancing (and lots of ribbon) to make it look like Hikaru had pinned this little hat on even though it was secured by the ties under his chin.

Unfortunately, the silk couldn't be cultivated the same way as in Sai's time. It meant that the fabric didn't fall the same way as Sai's clothing, but the silk itself was smoother and stronger thanks to modern techniques.

It had actually been the embroidery which had taken the longest, as Hikaru had ordered an elaborate crane to be splashed across the chest of his white over-robe. And then the seamstresses had had a party adding extremely-intricate designs all over his blue silk pants and yellow silk shirt-thing (even though no one would be able to see all of it since it was practically hidden under the over-robe).

Honestly, all of the ladies from the fashion house had been overly-excited by Hikaru's choice of outfit, and so, had gone a little overboard in their work. Apparently, no one ever ordered Heian robes to actually be, you know, worn these days. Huh, who knew.

Thankfully, Sai had agreed to leave off on the Heian underwear. Hikaru was wearing the under-robe though, so that was, like, three layers he was wearing. And Hikaru was pretty sure Sai wore even more layers, which was just a nightmare to think about.

To finish off the look, Hikaru held onto a folded fan which Hikaru had had to paint himself. (And Sai had bemoaned Hikaru's poor calligraphy for months.)

But finally, it was done. And last night, there had been a little ceremony for just the two of them as Sai had formally accepted Hikaru as his heir. And Hikaru didn't tear up, not at all, he had no idea what Sai was talking about.

Today was a different story, however. Today was Hikaru's Viewing Party. And he had invited all of his friends to his grandparents' house for it, much to the (continued) bafflement of both of his parents.

"The bell at the door has rung, Hikaru!" Sai announced, despite the fact that Hikaru was standing right next to him and so could hear everything Sai could hear. "Our first guests have presently arrived!"

Distantly, Hikaru heard muffled voices as his mom and grandma answered the door and greeted whoever had shown up. He took a quick look at the clock.

"Exactly on time too!" Hikaru said as he hurried away. "I bet I know who it is!"

Downstairs, Touya-Meijin and Touya Akiko and Touya Akira were exchanging polite introductions with Hikaru's parents and grandparents. And the entire little family had dressed in kimono, just as requested. (Though, Hikaru supposed that was his regular everyday outfit for Touya-Meijin.)

"Akira! Touya-Meijin! Akira's okasan!" Hikaru exclaimed from the top of the stairs. "Welcome to my viewing party!"

Touya-Meijin nodded gravely as Akira waved awkwardly at Hikaru. Meanwhile, Touya Akiko had clasped her hands to her chest and exclaimed,

"My! That is an impressive outfit, Hikaru-kun!"

Hikaru grinned happily, standing tall and striking a very noble and elegant pose. Sort of. From Sai's sigh of exasperation, there had been an attempt.

The Touya family matched in their Meiji-style kimono. Touya-Meijin's was black and astuare. Touya Akiko wore a black-and-white checkered-print kimono to match her husband's color scheme at least. And Akira's was black with an arrow-fletched print on it, which made him look older and too serious.

"They're Heian robes!" Hikaru excitedly informed them as he grasped the long-hem of his robes and pulled them up so that he would be able to run over to everyone. "I had them especially designed in Kyoto. It's a design house the Imperial Family uses!"

Touya Akiko's eyes widened in surprise. "That must have been very expensive, Hikaru-kun."

"Oh, they were!" Hikaru replied without a care in the world. "But they gave me a discount since I'm their youth ambassador or whatever now. Still spent all of my pro earnings on this though!"

Touya-Meijin looked speculatively at Hikaru's robes, impressed.

"Follow me!" Hikaru told them, beckoning them towards the back of the house where the real party had been set up. "I'm having a good old-fashioned ancient-times viewing party. We're going to eat and look at leaves and recite poetry and play go and stuff."

Touya-Meijin and Akira both perked up at the mention of go. And Touya Akiko looked fondly exasperated at her son and husband.

The party was being held at his grandparents' house because it was a traditional-style house rather than Hikaru's western-style one. The back garden had been transformed with painted paper screens and large outdoor square-shaped tables meant for tea ceremonies and formal picnics. The party was being catered by a traditional tea and sweets shop. And all of the food looked like edible art, which was the kind of art Hikaru was most excited about.

Soon, the rest of the guests filled up the garden. Akari and Mitani and Tsutsui from the Haze Go Club. Waya, Isumi, Ochi, Nase, Honda and Fuku from the insei class. The insei instructor, Shinoda-pro, as well as Shirakawa-pro from the community go class.

Hikaru had begrudgingly invited Ogata, since Touya-Meijin and Shirakawa-pro were both invited. (Somehow, Shirakawa-pro was Ogata's friend.) And then, Hikaru had invited Kuwabara-Honinbo just to annoy Ogata. (Kuwabara-sensei had agreed to come after Hikaru had declared that he was gunning for his title in their first meeting, only to then hand him the invitation written in his messy calligraphy.)

Almost everyone had worn kimono, as requested (except for Ogata, because he was a jerk). Akari and Nase instantly became best friends, to the surprise of no one. Waya and Mitani got into some argument, which Isumi had to referee before Hikaru had declared that the argument would be settled by an old game of kick-ball. (It was a colorful cloth ball filled with cotton that just got kicked or thrown around, apparently.) (Sai had loved it as a child.)

There had been some excitement immediately following that, when both Waya and Mitani had taken it too seriously, and they recruited Fuku and Honda and even Akira into the impromptu game. Isumi was still stuck refereeing. Ochi had refused to play and stood with Nase and Akari, fuming and looking like he wanted to play but didn't want to embarrass himself in front of everyone.

Hikaru initiated another game of ball with the adults, except they threw theirs instead of kicking it. Touya-Meijin had been surprisingly skilled at catching whatever was thrown at him. Kuwabara-Honinbo had been amazingly skilled at pitching the ball right into Ogata's face. (Hikaru had held his sides as he had pointed and laughed.)

They had lunch and viewed the tops of the trees just beyond the garden wall, having just turned red and gold, with the weather not too warm or too cold just yet. Hikaru entertained everyone with poetry recital, since he was determined to use it if Sai was always hounding him to learn it.

Akira had selected a poem to read, despite his obvious embarrassment through the whole ordeal. It was a poem about a river meeting the ocean, but it was really about fealty and love for one's parents.

Surprisingly, Ochi had also prepared one to be read. (His was war-themed.)

Honda and Fuku had actually gotten together and written one. (And it was bad and hilarious but everyone clapped and cheered anyway in support of their terrible poetry.)

And Touya Akiko—who had a college degree in Japanese literature—impressed everyone by reciting a poem about an autumn viewing party from another age just off the top of her head.

To close the event, Hikaru had rented a half-dozen gobans for an afternoon of games between friends. Ogata had immediately challenged Kuwabara-Honinbo. And everyone broke up into small groups to play informal games during which everyone made remarks over the game and players even switched out mid-game and moved around the multiple gobans freely.

Hikaru's parents and grandmother and Touya Akiko, who didn't play go, sat off to the side with tea and conversation and to kick around the cloth balls some more. Hikaru's grandfather and Akari and Nase eventually joined in once that conversation obviously turned into a gossip session.

And overall, it had been a fun and pleasant afternoon shared between family and friends. Some of them had never met before together, but they had enjoyed each other's company anyway, linked by their relationships with Hikaru.

The only thing that would have made it perfect was if Sai had been able to join everyone too.

"This has been an esteemed viewing, Hikaru," Sai praised as the two of them sat atop an empty picnic table, watching the autumn leaves burn red and gold over the tops of the garden walls. "I have thoroughly enjoyed myself."

"Yeah?" Hikaru turned to look up at Sai questioningly. "Even though no one else knows you're here?"

Sai smiled back at him, happy and content. "You know I'm here. And that would have been enough, even if it hasn't been abundantly clear that you have planned this entire event for my benefit."

Hikaru grinned up at him, not at all affected by the fact that he had been caught. He really had planned this entire party for Sai. After all, it must have been a long time since Sai had been able to attend a party like he would have had during the Heian.

"You're not going to be snobby and tell me that this isn't as good as the palace?" Hikaru joked.

Sai looked down at Hikaru with disapproval. "It is not the place or the luxury that makes one remember moments such as this."

"Huh," Hikaru remarked. "Then what makes a moment memorable?"

"The feelings that moment carries," Sai answered with a gentle smile. "And I think that you'll remember this moment for the rest of your life."

HIkaru looked back at the party and at all of the people he cared about just…being happy together.

"This will be a good memory," Hikaru decided, before glancing back at Sai. "I'll always remember sitting beside you at this party and being glad that everyone was here."

Sai said nothing. But there was nothing that needed to be said. It was a good moment to be quiet, to remember.

"We'll have lots of moments like this, Sai," Hikaru promised, turning to Sai with his brightest smile. "We'll both live a good, long second-life together."

And Sai smiled and said,

"Yes, we will, Hikaru."

THE END

Author's Note:

Thank you so much for reading this story. I hope you've all enjoyed it!

I started writing this five months ago because of the coronavirus/COVID-19 global pandemic. It was a particularly hard time in my personal life, enough that I had stopped writing altogether. At the time, I had already been on a two-year hiatus from fanfiction. But I decided to jump back in because my Hikaru stories had always been easy and funny and fun; and that was exactly what I had needed.

I'm so glad I returned because I was able to write this story and share it with all of you. This fandom has always been so welcoming and enthusiastic, and I always feel so privileged to have written something you liked so much. You have all made this uncertain time a little bit brighter for me, and I hope I was able to do that for you too.

Thank you again for reading. I've had a lot of fun. :)

2020.10.15 Five-Month Anniversary