Disclaimer: I disclaim! zzzZAP! /disclaimed/

This is basically the same thing that happened in the anime but with slight differences, as this story is AR (=alternative retelling). And we're nearing the end of the line, people. Be patient, only one chapter to go after this.

One Step Closer

Step six: The path to victory is not paved

by rebecca85

Narita International Airport was bustling with people. The plane had landed roughly about half an hour ago, and the busy buzz of passengers filled the terminal. Over the steady murmur of voices came the sound of a young lady urging passengers to board their planes at their designated gates. Time to time there was a delighted shout from a child, finding something new and exiting about the airport, as businessmen in their suits rushed by.

Isumi Shinichirou shouldered his bag more securely and looked around in search for the airport terminals. As he finally spotted the placard for directions, he managed to head for the Narita Airport Station. Feeling an excitement slightly bubbling in the pit of his stomach, for a moment he relished in the knowledge that he understood everyone and could express himself with ease now that he was back in Japan, back in his own country, back home. But he quickly pushed those mushy emotions aside and walked briskly towards the train station.

A newspaper stand caught his eye. For a second, he thought that they wouldn't be selling it anyway but still decided to take a look. To his surprise, he actually found a bunch of the latest edition of 'Go Weekly.' Eagerly he took one and paid for his copy. But he had a train to catch, so he just rolled it to go and went to start his two hour trip to finally get back to Tokyo.

As he was sitting on the train, the scenery didn't get much of his attention. Isumi took out the Go Weekly and before immersing to it in depth, he scanned the paper over, finding an article about the upcoming pro-exams where Kadowaki, the holder of three student titles, would participate. It would be a tough competition again. Then he found the games he was most interested in. 'Good, Ochi won his game against Mashiba. And Waya… oh, he didn't have a game. Shindou… loss by default due to absence? What does this mean?'

"Ittekimasu!" shouted a joyful voice and a door slammed shut before any other sounds were heard from inside the house. Touya stayed at his place, leaning against the brick wall surrounding the Shindou household. When the half-blond boy appeared through the gate, they started walking along the road. They had no particular route in mind, but Touya knew where they would end up.

Their stroll was a quiet one. Hikaru was still slightly embarrassed of his outburst the other day, and Touya didn't know how to put his thoughts into words. He decided to give it a shot anyway.



"I've been thinking…" he started vaguely.

"Yeah, me too," came an unexpected reply. Touya didn't know why but his heart fluttered in excitement and anticipation. He focused on Hikaru, who had his hands behind his head and was watching the field they were passing where five kids were playing baseball.

"Akira… How did we meet?" Hikaru suddenly said softly. Touya was completely thrown off guard. That wasn't exactly how he had pegged the conversation to start with.

"Umm… Well, I was twelve at the time, playing at my father's Go salon and…"

"Yeah," Shindou interrupted and turned to look at Touya. "That's it again. Go." He was momentarily speechless at this answer. Hikaru sounded so… disappointed, it confused him. It was obvious Hikaru had desired a different answer, but he didn't have one to give.

Shindou was once again looking the surrounding rather than his boyfriend. Touya wondered how much he knew.

"Let's sit." Touya nodded his consent and they sat at the bench on the park, not far from the Shindou residence.

"Hikaru…" he started again.

"Touya," he turned to look at him in the eye. There was no joviality in his expression. "I want to remember."

"Eh?" was the only intelligent response he could muster.

"There is too much that I'm missing. I thought that just being with you would solve everything. My heart felt content," Hikaru explained, pressing the palm of his hand to his chest. "But…"

"But not anymore?" Touya inquired. The half-blond nodded his head, and Touya felt the bottom of his stomach disappear, and for a minute he forgot his aim.

"You… You don't lo— like me anymore?" he managed to croak out; knowing that he sounded pathetic but unable to withheld the question or have his usual control over his voice. Hikaru shook his head sadly.

"No, no. It's actually just the opposite. I want to know more. Where we met, what happened, how our feelings developed, why is Go so important to us, where have we gone together… Everything!" he breathed. "And I know that you can't just tell me all of this. Last time I saw the doctor, he said that it would do no good to just relay them to me. It would only give me an interesting story but nothing that would seem like my own, I know. Just like the other day. So I never even planned on asking you what happened."

Well, they certainly were right. Touya could not possibly tell Hikaru all of what had happened, since he himself didn't know everything. How could he explain about Sai for example? Or what had really taken place between them after their first meeting? And about their 'dating'… he could come up with lies, but he was no novelist.

"I thought it would all come to me, being like this with you," Hikaru continued. "I just thought… That my feelings would somehow bring out the memories that I lost." He rubbed his neck, a little embarrassed, perhaps. "Sounds stupid, I know."

Touya shook his head. "No, it sounds very reasonable to me. If you were being surrounded by the normal things that you still remember, it would lead you to your lost memories, eventually. Being in a safe environment would give your brain the signal to let go, I know. Your mother told me." 'Not in so many words, but…' There was silence. Touya looked at his hands in deep thought.

"I…" he started, but had to struggle with his conscience for a moment. I agreed on this. I decided this on my own. Now that he's willingly following me, I have to get the old Shindou back! He nodded to himself, tightening his resolve.

"I have an idea," he said and raised his gaze to Hikaru's olive green eyes. He was met with such an unnatural calculating look and knowing wise that Touya thought that he had imagined it all when he was looking, yet again, to the curious eyes of his love. Feeling that his decision was making him hallucinate with guilt, he ignored what he thought he had seen.

"I think that you have been regaining memories little by little, by seeing and doing the things you used to do."

"What do you mean? I haven't regained any memories."

"Yes, you have," Touya insisted. "You remembered that I have been playing since I was three. I never told you that." Surprised amaze dawned to Hikaru's face. "And you remembered what Ooteai games are. That is not something you would normally know."

"And you didn't tell me what they were, huh?" Hikaru nodded slowly as he caught on. "So, what do you have planned?"

Akira hesitated for a fraction of a second, then remembered that Hikaru himself had asked him this, wanted to know who he was, is. There was no need to feel guilty, dammit!

"All of your memories have come from things related to Go. Most of them you regained at the Go Association, even."

"Yeah, but I've already done plenty of things related to… Go." There was still the slight hint of disgust in his voice. "I met those Go-freaks – no offence –, I went to the Association, and I even met your dad! He's the leading star of the Go-world or something, right?" he threw his hands in the air in frustration.

"See?" Touya asked calmly. "I never told you that of my father. This is knowledge, yet again, regained by you, on your own, by going straight into the core of the things forgotten," he said contently. Hikaru looked him with round eyes.

"I… think you're right! I didn't know that, but I knew it anyway! How cool is that?!" Touya smiled at his enthusiasm. "So, what do you have in mind? What 'core of the problem' should I face next?"

"I think that if you really want your memories back, you need to play a game."

"A game?" Hikaru sounded perplexed.

"Yes. A game," Touya confirmed. He looked straight into Hikaru's eyes. "Would you like to play a game of Go with me, Shindou?"

"Isumi-san!" Waya greeted, smiling happily to his old friend who had just emerged from the subway station. He was glad to see him again after such a long time and told the man immediately how surprised he was when he had received the phone call. He was flabbergasted when Isumi ruffled his hair and called him Lei Ping. Isumi had to immediately explain to the outraged boy why he was treading him like a kid.

The exchanged news about what had happened with their lives, but mostly Isumi just relayed a lot of his experiences in China to Waya, like how he had gotten to know Lei Ping, how he had lost Yang Hai's MD player and how he had met lots of incredible Go-players in there.

"So why the sudden call, Isumi-san?" Waya asked as they strolled down the street.

"Sorry if I woke you up last night. The plane came a bit late and I was home even later, so I hope you were still awake," Isumi apologised.

Waya waved his words aside. "No, no, not at all. Now that I'm living by myself, it isn't really a bother even if you had woken me up. But you didn't. I was going through a game I saw in the Go Weekly. There was this weird move, you see, that I couldn't figure out. It wasn't a bad one, just… Well, you know Shindou's style of play, right? It was pretty much like that, but not him," the redhead babbled on enthusiastically.

"So why don't you ask Shindou then? I'm sure he can give you insight," the older Go player answered lightly, but kept his eyes on Waya. This was, after all, why he had called him out. The shorter player stopped on his tracks and his brow furrowed. Isumi couldn't help but notice the worry written in those lines.

"I haven't seen him much lately," he told a bit subduedly to his friend and didn't meet his eyes.

"I noticed that Shindou had a forfeited the last Ooteai game due to absence," Isumi noted quietly.

"It's not the only one, Isumi-san," Waya responded gravely and this time did look at him. "Shindou haven't been playing since May."

Isumi was shocked. "What?! Why? What happened?"

Waya pushed his hands to his pockets and started walking again. "I'm not sure on the details, but he got into a car accident." The dark-haired man felt his blood run cold.

"Into a car accident? Is he alright?" he asked frantically, but Waya just continued his lazy stroll. Isumi took him by his shoulders to make his stop and looked him into his eyes to find his answer.

"It was pretty bad, he was in a coma for three weeks," the boy told to the other man, whose worry increased tenfold. "But he was released from the hospital a few weeks ago," Waya said calmly. "We've met a couple of times."

"So he's all right now?" Isumi hurried to confirm.

"Yeah, I guess so," the Go-pro sighed. His companion was baffled at his behaviour but felt like Waya was now in a mood where he would have to pull information from him with Twenty Questions. Isumi frowned with a determinate look upon him.

"I would like to meet Shindou, Waya. Do you know where he is?"

Waya glanced at his set face and seemed to shrug to himself. He sighed again.

"He's been stuck to Touya like a leech, lately, so he'll probably be somewhere near the Go Association about now. Touya has a game today," he revealed. Isumi nodded.

"Let's go then," he said and took a new direction, towards the Association's building. Waya spluttered a bit after him, befuddled about his abrupt decision, no doubt, but soon followed.

Touya Akira emerged from the play room with reporters around him like particularly persistent flies. And no amount of whisking would get them away. He gave his normal polite answers regarding his games, giving some insight to the play and told them he had a prior engagement to attend to, so if they would please excuse him, he really needed to get going now. As always his politeness was like a bucket of cold water to the enthusiasm of the reporters, and they had no other option than to bow to him with smiles and reassure him that they got what they needed. Akira's opponent didn't fare quite as well.

Touya sighed with relief when he reached the hallway but quickly gathered himself and took the couple flights of stairs to get to the guest room. There he found Hikaru, standing by the window and watching the sunset, seemly deep in thought. The green-haired pro was a little disappointed when he noticed that the gobans were neatly put away and the television screen was decidedly black.

"Hikaru…" Touya said softly as he came up behind his current boyfriend, and softly embraced him from behind. The dual-coloured boy hummed in recognition but only hugged Touya's hands on his stomach and leaned more into the touch.

"Thanks," he said softly.

"For what?" Touya asked just as softly. There was a quiet moment wrapped around them like a soothing blanket and neither wanted to dispel that illusion with too many decibels.

"You always make me feel safe, wherever I am," Hikaru whispered and tilted his head, leaning to rest it on Touya's shoulder. The young Go-pro kissed the neck that was exposed and they stood there quietly for a while, just admiring the fiery red shades of colour the setting sun cast upon the sky. Then the ex-pro glanced at his boyfriend.

"Shall we?"

Touya swallowed then nodded calmly but surely. They broke up and Hikaru gathered his knapsack. Then he looked at Akira, expectantly and resolutely.

"The game room is empty now, we can play there. There's more air and peace than any other location, I think," Touya answered. His former rival nodded his consent and they made their way to the fifth floor where the Ooteai games were held, among other games. A quiet dread had fallen upon them and they wordlessly changed into indoor-slippers and padded to the game-room.

Hikaru stayed near the entrance and carefully took in his surroundings as Akira went to the closet and took out a goban and the goishi. He arranged them almost in the middle of the room to give Hikaru as much breathing space as he could. Then he set two cushions on each side and waited for the other boy.

Hikaru took a deep breath, left his backpack near the entrance and took off his slippers as he stepped on the tatami mats. Touya moved by his side and laid a hand on his shoulder.

"Take your time," he reassured him. Hikaru nodded mutely. "Are you okay?" the Go-pro asked softly. Hikaru shook his head a little.

"My headache is getting stronger. You were right; I think this is the only way." His voice seemed a bit thick, but Touya decidedly ignored it.

"I'm going to get you something to drink. I have some painkillers with me; maybe you should take one before we play, okay?" Hikaru nodded, but his eyes were strained on the goban sitting in the middle of the tatami covered floor. Touya gave him a last encouraging squeeze and exited the room.

As he went to get something to drink for them both, he kept his mind carefully blank. He knew his mind would come up with the most guilt-ridden thoughts if he just let it. So, he focused with all his might to the task at hand and maybe a little to the upcoming play, thinking through his opening move and how he should play. He soon came to the conclusion that the opening move was pretty much everything he could think right now, if he was black, that is. He had no idea how Hikaru would play now that he had lost his memories of Go.

Touya was in such deep thought that he didn't notice the extra shoes by the outer entrance and only realised that they weren't alone anymore when he heard voices drifting from the game-room. First he thought that Shindou was talking to himself like he sometimes had done in the past, but this voice was deeper than his and much more firm. As he got to the room he didn't immediately recognise the tall man who was facing Hikaru, but he noticed that Waya-san was there as well.

The dual-colour-haired boy seemed to be lost and troubled, but then he spotted Akira and brushed by the tall man to get to him, face lighting up. When Hikaru reached his boyfriend, he instinctively laid a hand on the small of Touya's back to gain some safety. And then Touya realised who the man was, now that he was facing him.

"Touya," Isumi acknowledged him, looking only slightly surprised by Shindou's behaviour but not of Touya's presence.

"Isumi-san," Touya nodded. Then he turned to his boyfriend. "Hikaru? Is everything alright?" He didn't answer immediately, only looked troubled and kept glancing at Isumi. Isumi on the other hand, had a determined look upon him and he looked at Touya.

"I'm sorry to intrude upon you like this, but I need to play against Shindou," he stated firmly. "There was an occurrence at the pro exam which left me unsatisfied with my play. This happened during my match with Shindou, he knows what I'm talking about." Hikaru looked pained and stared pleadingly to Touya. He took his hand and gave him a reassuring squeeze.

"It's okay, Hikaru," he said softly. "You should play with him. I can wait," he said with a smile. He was actually a little relieved that he didn't have to do this, at least not alone, and now he could observe Hikaru more than he would be able to as his opponent. He unclasped their hands and left his former rival no choice but to slowly tread to one of the pillows and to sit down. He fidgeted every once in a while and rubbed his temple. Isumi followed suit and sat quickly opposite of him.

As Hikaru uncertainly mimicked Isumi's movements as they did nigiri, Touya held Waya back a bit. He only needed to slightly raise his eyebrows to which the redhead immediately shook his head a little. The players were engrossed with the preparations, so this exchange was left unnoticed.

'So Isumi-san doesn't know about the amnesia,' Touya mused. It might be a good idea. He would play normally, so they would most probably get some results. His excitement and anxiousness was turning his stomach upside down. It was a good thing he didn't eat during his matches, or he would be emptying his stomach in the bathroom right about now.

He went to ask Hikaru if he wanted to have his medicine before the match, but the boy declined. Taking a deep breath, Hikaru bowed to Isumi, who in suit responded.

"Onegai shimasu."

- Ittekimasu - (lit.) "I'll go and come back", promising a safe return, but nowadays is just part of the culture.

-Lei Ping – His name is probably written as Le Ping really, but how Isumi says it, it sounds to my ears as Lei Ping. He's the small Waya-version from China with the outer bellybutton. /laugh/

-The Go Association – I'm tempted, every time, to write Go Institute, but since I started using Association, I want to avoid confusion and thus I must use it again and again.

-Subduedly – I think I'm thinking up words again. At least Word won't accept that. /sweatdrop/

-goban – Go board

-goishi – Go stones

-Tatami mat – Japanese straw floor covering, sized 90 cm by 180 cm. (About 3 feet by 5 feet 11 inches.)

-Onegai shimasu – This is what they say in the beginning of the game and as it's actually a phrase common to Japanese customs. I'm not translating it. It's basically asking a good game from the opponent.