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Caught in a Ladder Chapter the Second

I keep forgetting I even HAVE a Livejournal now.  Really have to remember to update this thing more often.

Title: Caught In A Ladder
Author: sinnatious
Rating: PG-13
Summary: A chance encounter with Ogata and a slip of the tongue turns Hikaru into a victim of Sai's success.  What is he supposed to do when even the truth won't save him?  Predominantly angst.
Author’s Notes:  The first chapters are linked below.  In this chapter, Ogata weaves his logic in a web that Hikaru can't escape.

Prologue - Nigiri
Chapter 1 - Unlucky Encounter


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Caught In A Ladder
 
Chapter 2 – Trapped In Your Own Design
 
By Sinnatious
 
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Hikaru froze. Forcing himself to don a disarming smile, a little too slow to be convincing, he stammered, “Wh-What makes you think a thing like that, Ogata-sensei? Of course I’m Zelda.”
 
The blonde man took a long drag on his cigarette, before replying, “There was a big racket about an internet player named Sai at a Go convention for amateurs I attended about two years ago. Your buddy Waya was there – he mentioned in passing that his online handle was Zelda. Which means that you’re lying. And that, of course, begs the question of why exactly Shindou Hikaru, a newly anointed pro, needs to lie about his online nickname?”
 
“Hikaru, what do we do?” Sai asked. 
 
The youth didn’t have an answer for him, panic beginning to set in again as Ogata continued his monologue. “There’s also the matter of Touya Kouyo asking for no visitors to be permitted on the day of his internet match with Sai, indicating that it must have been a prearranged match, thus it had to have been organised by somebody who both learned that he was playing internet go, and visited him in hospital. That's precious few people. And after overhearing part of your conversation with him... even if the Meijin denies it, I know it had to be you."
 
Hikaru took another step backward, unconsciously shaking his head in denial. Ogata merely pressed forward.
 
"I was still convinced that you and Sai merely had some connection – maybe that he was your master, or friend. But while that answered some of the questions, that didn't solve all of the mysteries. Such as how it was you defeated Touya Akira not once, but twice, two and a half years ago in that Go Salon – Touya never showed anyone the matches, but given his obsession over them, it wasn’t hard to figure out that he had come across someone far above his level – remarkable in itself. At the time, I didn't follow up on it, assuming that such a strong player would inevitably show themselves." The youth kept stepping backward as Ogata moved forward with each sentence. He stopped, feeling the wall press against his back.
 
"But then there was also that incident at the Children’s Go Tournament, and your half-played match against Touya Meijin. Alone, none of these events count for much, but together… it's reached the point where the only scenario that makes any sense is if you were Sai yourself. That solves all of the mysteries, leaving only one question - why would you hide that sort of skill? Why would you pretend to be mediocre? And why would you play your sho-dan series match against Touya Meijin as though YOU were the one with the handicap?"
 
Hikaru cringed slightly at that. Of course, Ogata saw it, mouth curving into a slight smile. "Oh yes, I was watching that match. Twenty minutes on the first move - that's not planning a move, that's having an emotional struggle. If you were Sai, you would be torn between actually playing a proper match against the Meijin, and blowing your cover. Nothing would turn more heads than a sho-dan defeating the holder of five titles. What would be a compromise in that situation? Play the match with a huge handicap, so that you'd be forced to play differently. To anyone unaware of the handicap, it looks like a terrible game. But the minute you factor the handicap in, it becomes remarkable, even if you did ultimately lose."
 
The sho-dan was trapped, and damn near hyperventilating. The Jyudan was so close to the truth, yet still wrong. It didn't matter - how the heck could he convince the man that he wasn't Sai?
 
In the background, the ghost in question had gone eerily quiet, watching the exchange with the same sort of eyes he wore when observing a game of Go. Hikaru quashed the urge to ask the ghost who he thought would win, almost certain that he wouldn't like the answer.
 
"That's a very interesting theory, Ogata-sensei, but I'm not Sai. Nerves just got to me in my sho-dan series game." He had to say SOMETHING, otherwise the blonde man's suspicions would just be confirmed. Dammit, he'd thought he'd covered his tracks so well!
 
"Possibly, but nothing explains those two games you played with Akira, or why you would feel the urge to lie about your online screen name." Ogata took another long drag on his cigarette as though to accentuate his point.
 
"But you said it yourself, sensei - if I was Sai, why would I bother with being an Insei and playing low-level pros?"
 
"And that's the only mystery. But you're the only one who can answer that."
 
Feeling cornered, Hikaru made a move to step around his elder. "Excuse me, sensei, but I really do need to get going."
 
Ogata's hand shot out, slamming to the wall near his face and effectively blocking his path. "Did I SAY you could go?"
 
“You…. You can’t keep me here!”
 
“I can’t? I’d say I can, until you co-operate. I want answers, Shindou Hikaru, and I’m not letting you leave here until I have them.”
 
The youth shook his head in denial, but made no other move, suddenly apprehensive. Ogata couldn’t REALLY keep him here, could he?
 
Was that so impossible, though? He’d been terrified of Ogata at the hospital… the man had practically assaulted him. Hand covering his mouth as his apprehension grew, he suddenly recalled the second time he’d met Ogata. The man had recognised him from the Children’s Tournament in the street and had forcibly dragged him into the Salon to play Touya Meijin. That had practically been a kidnapping! There’d been bruising on his arm from the pro’s grip for days afterwards, but he’d been so preoccupied with the possibility of Sai taking over his body – a notion that seemed ridiculous now – that he’d never given the entire exchange much more thought. 
Ogata really was a scary individual, once he thought about it. 
 
Ogata grabbed his shoulders so suddenly that Hikaru squeaked, but he was merely steered towards the couch and pushed down into a sitting position. The Jyudan took a seat opposite and folded his arms, cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. “Start talking.”
 
Hikaru glared, finding his backbone again. “There’s nothing to talk about. I’m not Sai.”
 
“Then say nothing. But you’re not going anywhere until you admit the truth.”
 
The sho-dan glowered, but in a show of defiance remained stubbornly silent. Ogata took another drag of his cigarette and regarded him with cool brown eyes. The silence stretched on. And on. And on. 
 
Neither of them were willing to budge. The teen was sorely tempted to make a run for the door, but Ogata had cleverly positioned himself between it and the youth. Even if it was getting late, the sho-dan refused to the break his silence. Ogata had to become bored of this game eventually.
 
Hikaru stared at the clock on the wall as Ogata took another long drag on his cigarette.  The ticking of the second hand seemed abnormally loud in the tense atmosphere.  They sat there in silent stalemate for over an hour, though it felt like a lifetime to the younger of the two.  Even Sai hadn't dared break the stillness.  It had already been mid-to-late afternoon when he'd run into the Jyudan, so the sun was starting to set, adding an eerie orange glow and long shadows to the apartment.  The only other audible noise, aside from the clock and Ogata's breathing – he’d started his third cigarette - was the bubble of the filters in the fish tank next to the kitchen.

He fidgeted, finally deciding to break the silence, "Why won't you believe me?"

"Why should I believe someone who I already know is lying about their online screen name?" came the retort.

"I'm not Sai.  You've seen my Go - even if you think Sai is hidden in my moves, you could say that about anybody who studied Shuusaku's kifu extensively.  Their styles are similar."

Ogata at least seemed to pause and consider that.  "A decent argument, but while Sai's game initially held many similarities to Shuusaku's play style, it changed over the two months he was playing on the internet. Your moves hide that style, not the style found in ancient kifu.  Besides, your play style is only one piece of the puzzle.  There are plenty of other clues that point to your true identity.  Admit it, Shindou."

"There's nothing to admit!"
 
“So you keep saying. Do you think repetitive denial will be enough to convince me?”
 
“Look, you can’t really think you can just keep me here all night. People will become suspicious if I just disappear. I still live with my parents, for one,” Hikaru tried. 
 
Ogata’s brow furrowed, then he stood and strode towards the phone. “That’s no matter. I’ll just call them and tell them that you had a commitment come up with the Institute.” 
 
“No!”
 
“No? Then tell me what I want to know!” His captor’s voice suddenly became much more threatening. 
 
Hikaru bit his lip nervously.
 
The elder pro drew back, looking annoyed. Flipping through a thin book – the sho-dan recognised it from the Go Institute – he started dialling a number. 
 
Inwardly, the youth was panicking, but his mind had gone blank. What could he do to stop him?
 
The phone on the other end was ringing now. Ogata stood, tapping his foot impatiently, until finally the voice mail picked it up. 
 
The fifteen-year-old cringed as his own pre-recorded message started to play back through the speakerphone. “Hi, you’ve reached the Shindou household, this is Hikaru, I’m not in right now but if you leave a message, I might get back to you. If you’re looking for my folks, they’re overseas at the moment, and they won’t be back for a month, so you’ll have to call back then.”

The smile that spread across Ogata’s face could be described as nothing other than sinister, the teen decided. He inwardly cursed his own stupidity for announcing on the damn phone that he was essentially completely on his own for an entire month. He hadn’t really been thinking when he’d recorded that message, and now it looked like he was going to pay the price. 
 
“It doesn’t sound to me as though anybody is going to be expecting you. You’ll be joining me for dinner. I don’t suppose you’ll grace me with an admission for desert?”
 
Hikaru clamped his mouth shut, but Ogata’s irritation with him had now been replaced with smugness. He gestured the youth over to the kitchen table, and threw two packaged meals into the microwave. 
 
Five minutes later, and the food was done. Hikaru ate his rather tasteless meal slowly, uncomfortably aware of the Jyudan’s steady gaze on him, just waiting for him to spill his guts about Sai. Well, it wasn’t going to happen! 
 
They resumed their staring match after dinner ended. Sai tried speaking to him once or twice this time, but gave up when the stubborn youth didn’t even mentally reply. The two Go players sat like that for some time, until Ogata suddenly glanced at the clock and frowned. 
 
Hikaru blinked when the Jyudan suddenly stood and grasped his wrist, tugging him to his feet. He stumbled after the older man who led him to a second bedroom he hadn’t noticed. With little ceremony, he shoved the surprised teen inside, who lost his footing and tripped, barely throwing his hands out in time to catch himself. 
 
“We’ll continue this in the morning. You can spend the night thinking through what you want to do,” Ogata said as he closed the door. 
 
Hikaru leapt up, running to it and trying to wrench it back open, but the telltale click of a lock had beaten him to it. He pounded on the door. “Let me out! You can’t do this! This is a crime! Hey! Are you listening to me?! Hey! I want to go home! This isn’t a joke anymore, Ogata!”
 
“I never once suggested I was joking. I’m serious, Shindou Hikaru,” the muffled voice replied through the door. “You won’t leave this apartment until you admit to me that you are Sai.”
 
“Are you crazy?! Who would go to this sort of length over something like that! What can I do to convince you that I’m not Sai? Hey, are you listening? Hey!” Hikaru pounded on the door again, but received no response. He called out for several more minutes, exhausting his library of expletives, before eventually giving up, assuming that the Jyudan had either left or was ignoring him, and turned to inspect his surroundings instead, hoping to find some other way to get out.
 
Sai obviously felt that it was safe to start butting in again. “Really, he is overreacting terribly. How rude, to just shove you in here like that! And not even an apology!”
 
The sho-dan contemplated the room carefully, only half paying attention to his invisible companion. The room was largely devoid of any features - obviously it was a guest room of some description, likely one that was rarely used. The walls were a faded light blue, and the contents seemed to be limited to an old, worn futon, a pair of sturdy wooden chairs, a pile of magazines and a cracked old go board. There was only a small window high up on the far wall – similar to the sort usually found in bathrooms, and probably too small for him to fit through even if he was able to get the security grate off it. Not that the window would do him any good, being on the fifth floor.
 
Still, the elder pro must be rolling in money, if he could afford a whole extra room in which to dump his stuff in this suburb. Then again, the blonde haired man did drive a rather expensive-looking car, and was always wearing those designer suits. At one time Touya had quoted some of the almost absurd figures title-holders earned, he recalled vaguely. Apparently it wasn't an exaggeration after all.
 
"Ne, Hikaru, there's a board! Let's play a game!" Sai suggested excitedly, pointing his fan at the weathered old goban enthusiastically.
 
"Not now, Sai! I need to figure a way out of this place!"  Shindou glared at the locked door as though it were somehow personally responsible for his problems.
 
It didn't take a genius to figure out that there was no way out, but Hikaru spent a good ten minutes looking anyway. Eventually, he gave up with a sigh, sinking to his knees in front of the Go board.  "Fine, we may as well occupy ourselves while we wait. My turn to play black, right?"