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Caught In A Ladder Chapter the Twelfth

Title: Caught In A Ladder
Author: sinnatious
: 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:  Dun dun dunnnnnn.

Prologue - Nigiri
Chapter 1 - Unlucky Encounter
Chapter 2 - Trapped In Your Own Design
Chapter 3 - A Game of Patience
Chapter 4 - Rules of the Game
Chapter 5 - Steps in the Path
Chapter 6 - Ko Threat
Chapter 7 - A Wrong Move
Chapter 8 - Conspiracy Theories
Chapter 9 - A Very Strange Game
Chapter 10 - Playing Blind
Chapter 11 - Visiting An Empty House



Caught In A Ladder
Chapter 12 – Resignation
By Sinnatious
On his sixth day without food and into through his third week trapped in Ogata's apartment, Hikaru fainted.  At least, he thought that he'd fainted - tied to the chair, it was always possible he'd just fallen asleep, but he and Sai had been playing blind Go at the time when the world had started spinning lazily, so it probably wasn’t just an impromptu nap.

"Hikaru!  Hikaru, are you okay?  You just stopped talking all of a sudden, and then you wouldn’t answer for ages!"

"Sorry Sai, I must have fallen asleep," the youth responded slowly.  He didn't want to worry the hyperactive ghost too much.  

"Am I so boring?" Sai asked with a light smile.  In an odd turnaround, it seemed as though the ghost was working to keep his spirits up instead of the other way around, as was usually the case.

"Horribly so," Hikaru retorted half-heartedly.  He tried to grin, to reassure his companion, but had the sensation that it probably came off more like a grimace.  His stomach was complaining again - the discomfort came and went now, and he could go for hours without really noticing his hunger, but then later his gut would be filled with pain; similar to the sensation of having a particularly bad stomach ache, or retching after throwing up.  The attempt at a smile slid from his face and he hung his head again, despair bubbling up within him. He wasn’t even sure of what day of the week it was anymore. How long was there left until his parents would return and someone would finally come looking for him?
He jerked upon hearing the thudding footsteps that always heralded Ogata’s approach. A moment later, the door swung open and the Jyudan entered, cigarette half-dangling from his lips as he removed his captive’s bonds. The sho-dan massaged his shoulders for a few moments, before Ogata yanked him to his feet and marched him into the living room. Hikaru was starting to hate the sight of the living room almost as much as the guest room. 
“Bathroom,” he protested when he saw the go board already set up. With an annoyed huff, the Jyudan pushed him towards the bathroom. Wearily, Hikaru closed the door behind himself, locked it simply because it made him feel better, then wondered how long he could last in there if he held the door closed against Ogata. Probably not long, but it would be better leaning against the door on cold bathroom tiles than being tied to a chair for hours on end. On the other hand, the consequences for his rebellion would not be worth it, so Hikaru wasted no time in going to toilet, gulping as much water from the tap as he could, and washing his hands and face. He carefully avoided looking the mirror, not really wanting to see what he looked like – his hair at the very least had to be a fright.
He reluctantly shuffled back into the living room, and Ogata herded him over to the go board and handed him the bowl of black stones. The first game was played in absolute silence, the breaks between each move growing longer and longer as the game progressed. The teen wasn’t playing particularly badly, but concentrating and keeping his nerve felt sort of like stirring molasses with a paper straw. The Jyudan huffed impatiently over how slow he was being, but Hikaru forced himself not to get jumpy and make his move before he was ready – that had cost him plenty of games before. Besides, it wasn’t like they were playing with a clock. Even if it was habit to take only a certain amount of time for each game, the elder pro theoretically shouldn’t be able to complain about his sluggishness. Especially considering that the elder starving him was the cause of the sluggishness. 
Giving it his best, the teen almost made it into yose, but when he read through the end game, he still lost. The Jyudan never made mistakes in yose – continuing was a waste of time. “I resign.”
“Hn. Again. We’ll nigiri this time.” Ogata picked up a handful of stones. Hikaru placed down one. It came up even, so the sho-dan was white. 
The Jyudan placed his first stone on the lower left star point. As the youth reached for a white stone to respond, though, he hesitated. Slowly, he withdrew his hand and stared at the board in silence for a long moment. His captor lit a cigarette. 
The agony of indecision held him in its grip for a long moment, but Hikaru had already recognised his plight. His rescue stone had already been laid, but it would be meaningless if the game were over before the ladder ever reached it. 
“Yes, Hikaru?” Sai responded, voice soft, curious as to what his host wanted. 
“You play.”
For a moment, the ghost was overwhelmed with the familiar joy he always felt when he was allowed to play Go. That quickly waned, though, as the reality of the situation settled back in. Despite his own selfish desires, Sai understood Hikaru’s motivations in not allowing him to play. Even if the youth had come leaps and bounds in a startling short period of time, there was still a noticeable gap in their skill level. The lie would be exposed, and no matter how creative a liar he may have become, there was little Hikaru would be able to do to escape from it. 
“Are you sure?” he asked, holding his fan to his lips. Hikaru had already sacrificed so much to keep his secret… why would he give up now?
“….Not really. But I can’t beat him myself.”
“You honestly thought you could?” Sai asked in surprise. 
“No…. I just hoped that if I played him enough, he’d get tired of it and give up. But…. I need to eat, Sai.”
Sai was torn between guilt and anger at those words. As a ghost, with no bodily needs of his own, it was easy for him to forget that Hikaru required such basic necessities. 
“I…. Very well.”
Calmly, the thousand-year old ghost instructed his host to place each stone. After the first twelve hands, the Jyudan hesitated, and glanced at the teen suspiciously. Soon, the title-holder had no time for suspicion, as he was too busy concentrating on the game to look anywhere other than the board. Sai himself was focused whole-heartedly on the game – the Jyudan was a difficult opponent, the likes of which he had not faced since the Meijin, and he was under pressure to win. After all, this game had more than just the path to the Divine Move riding on it.
The shape grew complex, subtle traps were laid and avoided, and black and white stones curled around each other on the board in a deadly dance of life and death. The ghost did not allow any mistakes, and was privately thrilled at the ingenious responses to his threats the Jyudan made. The game the man played was very clinical and detached, Sai discovered, getting a better feel of his opponent as they moved through the mid-game, and his logic was flawless. Still, the ghost had far more experience.
“7-14,” Sai instructed. Hikaru dutifully laid the stone, and the game was decided.
It took another three moves for Ogata to realise what had happened. His hand stilled in the bowl of stones, and he adjusted his glasses several times, as though not believing what he was seeing. His cigarette lay forgotten in the ashtray next to the board. 
Eventually, as though in a trance, the blonde pro muttered, “I resign.”
Sai almost sighed with relief. It had been a difficult match, but he’d managed to win by what would have been a comfortable three and a half moku. It truly had been a wonderful game – not quite the calibre of his game against Touya Kouyo, but certainly approaching it. He was only vaguely aware of Hikaru speaking in the background.
“There, I won. Are you happy?”
The go-obsessed ghost didn’t like the look of that glint in Ogata’s eyes. “You really are Sai…. This game…. You can’t fake this kind of skill. This is the skill that defeated the Meijin.”
“Hey! You got what you wanted! Now let me go!” the youth demanded, though Sai noticed with some trepidation that his charge’s voice was unusually tight.
“Let you go? Why would I do that? You’re Sai! The legendary Sai, who beat even Touya Kouyo, is sitting right here in my living room! If I let you go, you could go play anyone! You DO know that the only way a Go player can get stronger is by playing stronger opponents, don’t you? If I play Sai everyday, not just the Jyudan title - I could get all of the titles! And then… the Hand of God… if I were to let you go, you’d just waste it again, hiding behind that veneer of mediocrity. Or worse, you’ll play Touya-sensei again, or Akira, and THEY’LL be the ones to benefit! No, you’re not going anywhere!”
Sai felt his horror mounting as Ogata’s voice grew louder and louder as he continued his monologue and Hikaru’s head hung lower and lower. 
“At least… at least give me some food?” It pained the ghost to hear how broken his host’s voice had become. “You said that if I played properly, you’d give me food, right?”
“Of course, of course,” the Jyudan said dismissively, eyes still roving over the game that had just taken place. 
“No! You said you’d let him go!” Sai protested, even though he knew his words had no way of reaching the Jyudan’s ears. He snapped his fan shut, clenching it so tightly it should have broken. 
Hikaru just shook his head, and Sai had the horrible feeling that the teen had known this would happen all along. 


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 31st, 2007 02:41 am (UTC)
Awesome! FFN isn't working for me today, and I really wanted to read your new chapter, so I googled it and wound up here to find that its ahead! Thank you! I got three new chapters instead of one... that certainly helped me get over my anger at the annoying computer. lol.
May. 31st, 2007 11:24 am (UTC)
Re: yay!
Ha ha, hey, I was wondering how long it would take someone from FF.net to find this. I didn't advertise it, since the chapters here are a little less polished than the ones that wind up on FF.net - these get posted pretty much as they're written, rather than going through the extra quality-control steps I bother with for FF.net. Still, flattered you liked the story enough to track it down to my lonely little LiveJournal. How resourceful of you! ;) Thanks, it is inspiring.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )