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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:  Microsoft Word is just one giant headache.  You would think that by now Microsoft would have mastered at least a basic word processor.

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
Chapter 12 - Resignation
Chapter 13 - Making Messes


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Caught In A Ladder
 
Chapter 14 – Taunting Freedom

By Sinnatious
 
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Hikaru woke suddenly, sitting up and pushing back the bed covers before he even registered what he was doing. Light streamed in through the edges of his curtains. 
 
Wait, curtains?
 
In mild disbelief, the sho-dan glanced about himself in confusion. He was sitting up in bed, wearing his usual black tracksuit, in his room at home. The curtains were drawn, and his bedside clock displayed the time as 7:00. The faint twitter of birdsong from outside seemed unnaturally loud. His go board sat on the floor where he’d left it, with a half-finished recreation of his latest game upon it. That was right – he and Sai had been discussing it the night before. 
 
The night before…. Wait…. Ogata…. had it all been a dream? 
 
He breathed a long sigh of relief, and glanced at the clock again. It read 9:15. His brow furrowed slightly. 
 
“Hikaru!” 
 
“Ack, Sai!” The ghost had been nowhere to be seen a second ago. Where had he been hiding?
 
His friend waved his arms excitedly, causing his long white sleeves to flap about in an undignified manner. “You’re awake! Great! Let’s play Go!”
 
“Not before breakfast!”
 
“Just a few hands, then!”
 
“No!” Hikaru shoved back the bedcovers and started ruffling through his closet for clothes to wear. “I’ve got a match this afternoon, and chores and homework to do before that. And every time we start playing ‘just a few hands’ it winds up being a whole game!”
 
The Heia-period spirit pouted, folding his arms. “That’s only because you lack the discipline to stop.”
 
“Look who’s talking: ‘Just one more move, Hikaru! Just one more’!” The sho-dan laughed out loud as he shrugged on his t-shirt. Hesitating, he grabbed a thick jacket from the closet as well. For some reason he felt cold, even though the weather looked to be fine outside. “Come on, let’s go downstairs.”
 
His steps grew cautious as the teen neared the kitchen, however – there was the clatter of silverware within, and the lights were on. How was that possible, though? No one else was supposed to be home. 
 
“Oh, Hikaru!” his mother declared cheerily as he reached the entranceway. “I was just about to come wake you up!” She was standing at the kitchen counter, untying her apron. 
 
“I… aren’t you supposed to be…” he stuttered.
 
“There was a bit of problem at your father’s company. They called him back as soon as the conference finished – he left for work very early this morning.”
 
“Oh, um, welcome home. Why didn’t you call?” It was all extremely unexpected. 
 
“Well, we wanted surprise you! And there wasn’t much time. We barely made the flight in time, and when we got in last night it was so late and we didn’t want to wake you so… oh, I just finished making you breakfast. You’ve got a match today, right?”
 
How had she known? “Yeah… but…”
 
She laid a plate out in front of him, smiling worriedly. “Well, do your best. I do wish you’d attend school more often… but I suppose…”
 
Hikaru woke with a start, gasping for breath, and then had to resist the urge to cry. 
 
A dim room with plain walls surrounded him once again. 
 
It wasn’t Ogata’s apartment that was the dream. It was his freedom. 
 
“Oh, you’re awake! Are you okay, Hikaru?” Sai asked, hovering worriedly by his side. 
 
“Is Ogata in?”
 
“He tied you back up while you were still unconscious. He left about an hour ago to go somewhere. It’s just after midday.”
“I see,” he replied out loud. “I’m fine, it was just a dream.” It was hard not to laugh at the situation though. It wasn’t the first time he’d dreamt that he’d woken up as normal at home – once he’d even dreamt that he’d woken up at school. Ogata had stormed in and interrupted his nap right in the middle of Akari making fun of him for dozing off in class. 
“I was asking about your head. You hit it pretty hard. I was really worried.”
 
“Oh.” Come to think of it, the hairline near his left temple was throbbing a little, and there was a promise of a killer headache brewing in the back of his head. “It’s a little sore, but nothing to worry about. I’m not bleeding, right?”
 
“No. You have a little bump, but that’s it.”
 
“It should be okay then. It’s only-” Hikaru’s voice caught suddenly. 
 
There was a thin line of light glimmering at him like water on the surface of a desert.
 
Ogata had forgotten to lock the door.
 
“Hikaru?” Sai asked, confused. 
 
The sho-dan didn’t respond, eyes fixated on the sliver of light that gave a tantalising glimpse into the empty apartment beyond. His jaw had gone slack. Had the Jyudan really left the apartment without being aware of this oversight? 
 
A chance. 
 
The teen shifted uncomfortably in his seat, cursing the fact that not even two days before the ties had been replaced by power cords – they had started to fray – and the plastic was not nearly as forgiving on his wrists as the fabric had been. 
 
It didn’t matter though – this was a brand new opportunity that couldn’t be wasted. “Sai,” he croaked. “You’re sure Ogata’s not home?”
 
“Of course. Why?”
 
“The door is open.”
 
The spirit went silent, fan covering his mouth in a gesture of surprise. “Come to think of it, I didn’t hear the lock click…. What are you doing, Hikaru?”
 
The sho-dan had started twisting his hands desperately behind his back, stretching his fingers to try and pluck at the cord in vain hope of loosening it enough to get free. The plastic rubbed brutally against his skin, digging painfully into his wrists when he stretched his hands, but he ignored it, eyes focused firmly on that sliver of tantalising freedom while he tried to twists in his chair, fighting with more vigour than he had even in the beginning to get free. 
 
Minutes ticked by soundless in his head as he wrenched his bonds, shifting his body as much as he could within the confines of the chair. Sai remained quiet while he struggled, occasionally making a brief sound of support. After a while though, when the sho-dan's breath started to come in short gasps from the exertion of his efforts, he quietly suggested, "Maybe you should stop, Hikaru. It doesn't seem to be working."
 
"I can't stop!" he snapped back. "This might be my chance to get out! Even if I escaped this stupid chair before, the damn door was still in the way, but this time the way out is RIGHT THERE. If only... I... could... get.... free!" Each word was enunciated with a frustrated tug at his bound arms.
 
"Hikaru..."
 
Soon his breaths degenerated into sobs, each tug only seeming to make the cords wind tighter around his wrists and ankles. Eventually he went limp, exhausted from the effort, hands and feet numb, and stared balefully at that mocking sliver of light.
 
It was torture, just sitting there, staring at possible freedom. It was taunting him, like an itch he couldn't scratch. It was a thousand times worse than just being tied to the chair. A part of him wondered if Ogata had just left the door ajar simply to tease him, to drive home just how impossible his escape was.
 
He was tired. He was hungry. His entire body ached, his mouth still had a horrible lingering aftertaste of vomit, and he felt unnaturally cold and empty. Despair felt like a liquid bubbling up his throat, until it felt as though he could drown in it. 
 
It was more than just the desire to get out and see the sky again. The young pro was starting to feel that if he didn’t escape from his prison soon, he might never be able to. He was constantly scared, now, his heart leaping into his throat every time Ogata so much as looked at him, terrified of the notion that if he couldn’t find some way to escape, he really might not live.
 
It wasn’t even his ailing health that concerned him the most, other than the fact that it made it more and more difficult to muster the energy he needed in situations like this one. It was, instead, the chilling knowledge that Ogata had backed himself into a corner in his blind lust for strength. The elder go-player has committed a serious crime, after all. To begin with, it wouldn’t have been such a big deal – had he only kept him captive for a couple of days, no one would have really noticed, and the man knew that Hikaru would be reluctant to tell anyone of it, because to do so would be to expose his own secrets.    But he hadn’t counted on the young pro’s stubbornness, and it had dragged on for so long that people would start to notice. The Go Institute wouldn’t think much of someone missing a match or two, or even a week’s worth of commitments, but a month? Everybody would be asking questions.
 
They would, wouldn’t they? If not the Go Institute, then at least the school. Waya or Akari or somebody. Even if Touya never understood that game they played, maybe he’d get frustrated enough to come ask Ogata about it? Surely someone cared that he was missing. Surely…
 
Then why hadn’t anyone come yet? It had been over three weeks.
Had no one really noticed? Or had they noticed, and just not cared? Did they simply not bother looking?
Was this what Sai felt like? Trapped and invisible, with only one person in the world aware of his existence? 
 
The sliver of light winked at him – probably a faint draft coming in from somewhere causing the door to shift ever so slightly. Hikaru had to resist the urge to swear at it. 
 
Sai sighed off the left, but the youth paid him no mind. So what if no one else noticed? His parents were bound to be back any day, surely, and even if no one else did, they certainly would notice their son’s absence.
 
Still, Ogata must know that too. And that was the real concern. The Jyudan must be hearing the ticking clock, wondering how long it would be before someone would discover what he’d done. It wasn’t even just holding him there against his will anymore – he’d been tied to a chair, deprived of food, beaten up – wasn’t that assault and battery? Ogata’s list of crimes was growing ever longer. It was becoming inevitable that police would eventually be involved. And all of the Jyudan’s hard-earned skill at Go would be useless in prison, where he doubted the man would even get to play.
 
This was what Hikaru was beginning to fear the most, every time he felt those cold blue eyes settle on him. That Ogata would simply dispose of the evidence, to prevent anyone ever finding out. 
 
“Hikaru, want to play some more blind go?” Sai piped up, obviously trying to cheer him up in the wake of this latest failure at escape. 
 
“Maybe later, Sai,” the teen mentally murmured in response, hands twitching behind his back. The movement sent prickles down his arms, and he sighed, cursing his rotten luck. What were the odds of running into Ogata in the street like that? Why had he opened his stupid mouth in the first place? Why had he agreed to come to this foul place? Why hadn’t he made a break for it when he was first confronted, before being locked away in this room? 
 
He shook his head. It was stupid to keep dwelling on the what-ifs and could-have-beens. Still, it was hard not to be frustrated at his slowness to react and blindness to the potential of how dangerous Ogata’s obsession could be. 
 
The room grew darker as the sun set and twilight set in, and the sliver of light faded. Hikaru desperately tried to loosen his bonds a few more times, to no avail. Eventually, there was the distant jingle of keys turning in the lock, indicating Ogata’s arrival home. He sat there, head hung low, as the man moved into the apartment, creating a small clatter as he dumped his things and fetched a drink from the kitchen – the sho-dan had become rather familiar with the sounds associated with this routine. Soon, the footsteps came closer to the room, paused, and then came in quick succession, the door swinging inwards with a gush of air as the Jyudan pushed it open.
 
The brief look of panic on the elder pro’s face quickly transformed into relief, then smugness. Hikaru didn’t even bother moving. The chance was gone, and there was no way that Ogata would forget to lock the door again now.