i made it this time!! extremely self-indulgent hikago/tsurune crossover because shu's surname is fujiwara, end me, i must feed myself because no one will feed me.
"Dude, that's what she said!" The sound of an English movie echoes from the living room, despite his closed door. Shu doesn't look up from his textbook, but his brow wrinkles the tiniest bit. His little sister has yet to break the habit of turning up the volume to deafening levels when they visit the summer house. She cites their grandparents' weakening hearing, but really she's just excited that their parents aren't around to scold her for it. Shu hasn't the heart to reproach her either, since the movies are how she bonds with their grandfather.
In any other circumstances, he would deal with this minor annoyance by escaping to the shooting hall and losing himself in the silence and the intermittent song of his tsurune.
This summer, however, there is Sai.
"Shu," whines the man, on cue, "can't we join Chika-chan and your grandpa for the movie? You're always so stuck in your books, when are you going to have some fun? I heard Chika-chan say it's about show business!" Sai pronounces 'show business' like it's some kind of exotic fruit.
Shu has never had his patience tried this much in his entire life, and he thinks he is a very patient person. He successfully resists the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose, continuing to review his summer homework as if Sai isn't rolling on the floor next to him. In fact, it's been four months of putting up with this and Shu still has no real guarantee that Sai isn't just a startlingly realistic hallucination.
"Or you could just play Go with me," says Sai petulantly, like he's read Shu's mind.
"I haven't finished my work," Shu points out, in the most reasonable tone possible. Now he's a little bit thankful for the din Chika's making in the living room, since he doesn't have to worry about anyone overhearing him talking to himself.
"That's what you said the last five hundred times I asked you." Sai attempts to poke him in the side, but as always his finger passes through. "Shuuuuu."
It looks like peace and quiet don't exist in his near future, so Shu takes a last look at his math problems then decisively closes his book. "You haven't asked me five hundred times yet," Shu informs him, "and besides, Sai-san, you can't pick up the stones."
"I can tell you the placement— or I can just point and you can place them for me!" Sai counters immediately. His eyes have taken on a gleeful shine; he must have had his answer prepared.
"It's a lot of work," Shu hedges, looking away from the edge of some other strange emotion touching the lines of Sai's face.
He's been reluctant to actually let Sai play Go from the beginning. The— ghost? claiming to be his ancestor had appeared out of nowhere in his bedroom one day in May, just under a week before Shu turned thirteen. Sai had been distraught, grasping around himself like he didn't know where he was (in hindsight, Shu supposes he truly didn't know). He had looked like a man who had lost the one thing most dear to him, and he had stared at Shu as if Shu was the cause of all of it.
Even then, Shu hadn't really been scared. It was just an instinct he had, that Sai was harmless. He had even thought he was going to help this strange apparition deal with whatever brought him back and move on to the afterlife— but that was four months ago, before Sai revealed himself to be the most fantastically persistent Go maniac Shu has ever seen. He's almost certain that if Sai actually gets to play Go, any thought of the afterlife will be the last thing on Sai's mind.
"Please," Sai begs pathetically, the heretofore eager sparkle in his eyes instantly replaced by the wet gleam of tears. Shu imagines the rest of his precious summer holiday beset by a weeping ghost everywhere he goes, even in the bath, even at practice, and barely manages to stifle a shudder. He's only almost certain, anyway. Maybe Sai will be satisfied after a few games. Maybe the sun will rise in the west tomorrow, he thinks, sighing inwardly.
"I'll play with you, Sai-san." Shu gets to his feet and neatly sidesteps a flying hug from Sai, because it's just strange to have another person pass through you like that. "But I don't think I'm very good."
"Perfect! You can be my student—"
"I'm sorry," Shu interrupts, very firmly, and they both glance at the far side of the room, where his cloth-wrapped bow is waiting for him.
After a pause, Sai pouts. "Fine."
Shu looks for his grandmother and she agreeably points him in the direction of their goban, which turns out to be an antique family heirloom kept in the annex building. Sai goes oddly still when he sees the covered board. But a second later, he's back to enthusiastically hurrying Shu along, flapping his wide sleeves like an oversized duck, so Shu puts it out of his mind.
Carefully, he lifts the paulownia cover off the board and discovers a faint whitish cast on its surface, probably from its long time kept in storage. Shu wonders why no one has kept it maintained; the board looks like it's priceless.
Sai has grown still again. "You need to wipe it down," he says quietly, motioning to the storage box just next to it. Shu looks inside: there are the matching bowls, some cotton cloths and a container of wax. He picks up a cloth and starts to rub off the whiteness, just the same way he rubs down his bow after shooting. He does this until Sai pronounces it done, then sets up the board how he remembers his father teaching him years ago.
All throughout the process of cleaning and setting up, Sai remains uncharacteristically subdued. His right hand keeps making aborted grasping motions, as if he's trying to hold something that isn't there any more. And there is a certain kind of reverence in the air, akin to the heavy solemnity of the shajo during a shooting session. Shu folds his legs under himself and nods at Sai, not wanting to spoil it.
"I will play white." Sai gestures for him to begin. "You may place your handicap stones."
Shu, considering the way Sai talks about Go and the fact that he himself isn't much above average at the game, unhesitatingly places the full nine stones down. This earns him a wry smile from the ghost sitting opposite.
"How rare for you to be so unconfident." Sai covers his mouth and laughs, pointing to a spot on the board. Shu places a white stone accordingly.
"You've only seen me with the bow. There, I have no reason to lack confidence." The click of the clamshell stones on wood eases some tension in his shoulders he hadn't realised was even there. They continue to play, Shu relaxing more with every move.
After a time, Sai smiles at him again. They both know Shu has already lost, but the game continues on, spilling across the board in a surprisingly elegant configuration.
"Would you give me a handicap if we competed in kyudo?"
Shu gives it some polite consideration, even though the answer is obvious. "No," he concludes, placing his last stone and bowing to Sai respectfully. "I've lost."
Sai dips his head in return, watching Shu gather up the stones to wipe them off again. "Why not?"
"Kyudo isn't a game," Shu answers. "If you play around with handicaps you'll lose sight of your bow."
"Go isn't just a game either," the ghost says softly, "not to me."
And if his attachment to Go is so strong that he hasn't moved on in almost a thousand years, Shu can understand that it's stopped being just a game. Kyudo used to be just another way to wage war, too. He looks at the way Sai's fingers hover above the goban, the downward pull of his lips and the minute slump of his shoulders, and decides that if he's given in once already he might as well go all the way. Shu isn't heartless, after all, and the ghost does claim to be his ancestor.
"Sai-san," he says, "do you know what NetGo is?"
For a moment, something like pain crosses Sai's face, and then he breathes out, and all that's left is simple joy.
"Yes," says Sai, "I know all about it."
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