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Caught In A Ladder Chapter the Thirteenth

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:  Still haven't managed to work out formatting, so expect the font to randomly change.  Sorry!  Think it has something to do with Word.  Also, it appears some people have wandered here from FF.net, and I should point out that  the chapters that go up on FF.net are slightly more polished than the ones that go up here.  The trade off is that these are faster.  I post these ones as they're written, pretty much, but the FF.net ones get extra proof-reading and I tend to plug more holes, since FF.net readers can be damn picky sometimes.  But that's a good thing.  If they weren't, more writers would get lazy (like me). 

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

Caught In A Ladder
Chapter 13 – Making Messes
By Sinnatious
Stopping by the newsstand closest to the Go Association, Touya picked up the latest issue of Go Weekly and flipped automatically to that week’s results. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Shindou had scored another forfeit. That made over three weeks since he had stopped coming to matches. One week could be explained away easily enough. Two weeks would sting a little on the record, but would be smoothed over quickly. Three weeks caused damage to a reputation. Especially to a brand-new sho-dan. 
Disgusted, he folded the paper up and stuck it in his bag. What was the other boy thinking?! Sure, his rival hadn’t been looking the greatest when they’d last met, but surely whatever the issue was, it would have been sorted by now! Maybe he ought to go speak with Ogata to see if the Jyudan had extracted any more information from the teen. He’d go wring it out of the other pro himself, but if friends and neighbours couldn’t get a hold of the missing teen, Touya didn’t like his own chances. And lightning didn’t strike in the same place twice. 
“Just this issue of Go Weekly….. thanks,” a familiar voice muttered behind him, accompanied by the jingle of coins in a pocket. “Ah! Again! I don’t believe this! Morishita-sensei is going to go ballistic!”
Reflexively, Touya turned around, catching sight of a quickly-growing familiar head of red hair. “Waya?”
The other sho-dan glanced at him somewhat distractedly. “Oh, Touya. Hey.” After a minute, the red-head seemed to remember that he was supposed to hate the other pro and sent a token glare in his direction, before reverting his attention back to the magazine held in his hand. “Can you believe this? Shindou forfeited ANOTHER match!”
“You have to buy Go Weekly to find that out?”
“Our schedules haven’t overlapped lately,” the camouflage-clad youth replied absently. 
“So you still haven’t seen him, then?” 
“Of course I haven’t! He’s just vanished! Shindou’s always been a little weird, running off and doing things without telling anyone and spacing out all the time, but I never thought he’d just completely disappear like this! It’s like he skipped town or something.”
Touya was briefly tempted to correct the other teen, and let him know of his chance encounter at Ogata’s, but hesitated and eventually dismissed the idea. It would just get Waya worked up for nothing – and after all, it wasn’t like Touya knew what had happened to his rival after that bizarre match. For all he knew, Shindou COULD have skipped town after their game a week ago.
“It really is a mystery. Anyhow, I suppose I’d best get going. Hopefully he turns up soon,” Touya said politely, bowing slightly as he passed the other teen who was still leafing through the paper.
“Why would you care anyway?” Waya muttered, clearly not paying much attention to the conversation. “Dammit, I really don’t want to turn up at Morishita-sensei’s alone again this afternoon…. I wonder if Saeki…”
The red-head’s murmurings were lost in the wake of a passing car as Touya Akira made his way home. He had homework to attend to that night, but tomorrow there was a match scheduled for the afternoon. In the morning, then, he could replay the game one more time.
It was always ‘just one more time’, and it would probably continue to be so until the next puzzle or challenge presented itself, distracting him from his current endeavour. Or until he figured out the secrets that his rival’s game contained. Akira could admit that much to himself. Yes, he already considered Shindou a rival – even without playing an official match, he could sense in his very bones that this was the person destined to challenge him, to be his peer and his equal. He’d always sensed it, and when evidence seemed to fly in the face of that sensation, he’d become angry and upset and disenchanted. Shindou had eventually proven his initial predictions right, so it was frustrating that right when he thought the mystery solved, right when they were almost face-to-face, the teen had become elusive once again. 
Resolutely, he pushed the issue from his mind. Rival though Shindou might be, he was not going to waste any more time dwelling on the frustrating youth that day. 
Unfortunately, that was directly against the desperate wishes of the teen in question, currently awaiting Ogata’s inevitable appearance at the door demanding a match with Sai. Having long grown bored, yet not feeling up to another game of blind go, he’d taken to mentally urging Touya to see the meaning in his game, as though somehow his thoughts could reach the other pro. It was ridiculous, but at this point in time, Shindou was willing to try just about anything to escape, including long-distance telepathy. Ogata had fed him while still on a high from the game with Sai, but the only thing he’d been given since was a soggy riceball, and his stomach roiled with hunger.
The door swung open and Ogata strode into the room, looking mildly cheerful, still gloating over finally wearing the young pro down and forcing him to admit the truth – or at least what he thought was the truth. “Come on, brat, let’s play.”
Hikaru stood from the seat once his limbs were free, trying to hide the weakness he felt. Mutely, he trailed after the Jyudan into the living room, faintly delighted to spy a store-bought bento box sitting next to the Go board. As soon as they sat down, he tore into the lunch with the fervour of a wild animal – it was only Ogata’s upturned lip that kept him using chopsticks instead of his hands. They started playing almost immediately, the youth relieved that at least if Sai was playing, it meant he didn’t have to concentrate on the moves so much and could focus on eating. 
About halfway through the bento, though, his appetite waned considerably. Undaunted, he forced himself to keep eating between placing stones, though at a more sedate pace – after all, who knew when elder pro would feed him again? 
The game progressed rather quickly, Ogata eventually resigning. “You’re actually still improving,” he mused as he leaned back and lit a cigarette. The man was going to give himself lung cancer at the rate he smoked the things. “Remarkable.”
Sai was improving, not him, but there was no point in correcting the other pro on it. Hikaru just grunted in response, suddenly feeling queasy. He chewed a mouthful of rice slowly, practically forcing himself to swallow it, before finally conceding defeat and setting his chopsticks down, wondering if he might be able to sneak some food into his pockets or something to eat stealthily later, in case the Jyudan didn’t bother feeding him again. Sure, it was gross, but better than starving – he couldn’t eat while tied to the chair, obviously, but he might be able to sneak it in when he was allowed a bathroom break.
“Another game,” Ogata ordered, eyes shining. Rather than being disgruntled as most pros were when they continually lost, the man seemed to practically delight in the challenge. Though it was true that Sai’s games here were amazing – the challenge of a harder opponent revealing deeper and deeper depths to his skills. The sho-dan figured he should just count himself lucky that the Jyudan didn’t seem interested in discussing the games as was custom, perhaps sensing that discussion with an unwilling participant would be largely useless.
They performed nigiri, and Hikaru came up black again. With Sai whispering guidance in his ear, he robotically placed the stones, mentally analysing the game as they played by habit, though eventually he found himself becoming distracted by the growing waves of nausea washing over him. The bento appeared to be disagreeing somewhat violently with him, and as the game progressed it only became worse. 
“Hikaru, 17-3,” Sai murmured.
Should his tongue feel so thick in his mouth? Why wouldn’t his stomach just behave, instead of going all topsy-turvy at a time like this?
“17-3. Hikaru, I said 17-3.”
It was reminiscent of that time he’d eaten all that bad seafood at Akari’s birthday party when they were kids. Needless to say, it wasn’t a pleasant memory, and in fact the recollection just made the current sensation worse.
“Hikaru, are you okay?”
He couldn’t hold it in anymore – his body was trying it hardest to reject the food, no matter how valiantly he tried to ignore the nausea. Abruptly, the sho-dan stood and half-ran, half-staggered away from the table, making his way to the bathroom.
Hikaru wasn’t even aware that Ogata had followed him until he felt the tug on the back of his shirt. In half a breath, the Jyudan whirled him around slapped him hard across his face. Stumbling, he fell to his knees, stomach lurching as he took a kick to his chest, then his shoulder. When a blow landed on his abdomen, he finally lost the battle and spewed the contents of his stomach onto the carpet of the hallway.
The Jyudan swore loudly, withdrawing from the miserable teen crouched on the carpet who was staring mournfully at the half-digested remains of his bento. The sho-dan’s throat burned and there was a horrible acrid aftertaste in his mouth, leaving him unsure whether it was that or the throbbing pain of his bruised body that was bringing tears to the corners of his eyes. 
Making a sound of disgust, apparently finally realising that his intention had not been escape after all, Ogata grasped Hikaru under the arms and dragged him to the bathroom, unceremoniously throwing the teen in headfirst. 
The side of the teen’s skull collided painfully with the edge of the tub, and the world turned blissfully dark, relieving him of his living nightmare. 


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Jun. 2nd, 2007 11:24 pm (UTC)
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