Sep. 20th, 2014 10:41 am
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When I Was Your Age

Akira started playing when she was two and her chubby fingers sometimes scattered the go pieces. Her father would chuckle and Akira’s ears would burn as she tried to sit up straighter even though she much preferred to squat. “Like this,” her father had said, guiding her hand so she would place the pieces strongly and decisively on the go board. He taught her like he would have taught a son. Akira would watch his hand and she would shake, her bangs quivering when her father placed a piece. But her eyes never left the go board and so her father continued to teach her.


They didn’t see many girls in the go salon. So when she – with her bleached bangs and her trendy clothes, even more unusual – entered, the whole go salon paused for a second. The girl stilled for a second, and then she screwed up her face and walked over to the counter. She smiled at Harumi, leaned on the counter, and said she wanted to play. Harumi seemed to stifle a laugh. Her gaze drifted over the salon and Akira sat up straighter when it settled on her. Harumi was always talking about how Akira needed friends her own age, not a bunch of retired men.

“How do you feel about playing Akira?” Harumi asked warmly. Akira wandered over and suppressed a snort when the girl seemed ready to dismiss her, but the girl shrugged, as if ignoring an internal argument.

“Sure,” she said. “Do they make you wear those terrible clothes?” She said, as they walked through the go salon, to one of Akira’s favourite go boards.

Akira looked down and didn’t understand. She thought the other girl was dressed obnoxiously bright.

“Nice to see a girl here. These places seem full of old men,” the girl whispered, her voice way too loud for a quiet go salon. A couple of the regulars spluttered. The go salon was soon filled with muttering; about how glad they would be when Akira would be beat that girl punk.

It didn’t quite work that way. Akira didn’t have high hopes, not with the way the girl was placing the stones, as if she only half knew they were supposed to go there. But then. Akira leaned back.

Akira was twelve when Hikaru beat her. She stared across the go board, shocked. Because Hikaru didn’t fit in here, with her bleached bangs and very casual clothes, she stuck out like a sore thumb where the average age was closer to sixty. She then left and Akira was left facing a go board that showed her defeat, but didn’t show how Hikaru, of all people, had beaten her.

It started an obsession, something even Akira could admit.


As a rule, Akira didn’t enter competitions. Not against children.

She had been six and she had already been escorted by her father several times to the Go Institute to watch him play. It was fascinating and Akira had wanted to play. The only people she usually played with were her father’s students. And they smiled at her, patting her on the head, saying what a pretty girl she was, what a wonderful wife she would make, especially for a go master.

They offered to play her and her father had nodded. Then they had seemed unnerved by her intensity, how she had placed the stones with a sure and practiced air. At six, she usually didn’t beat them, not unless they had made some truly fatal errors at the beginning. But.

“They fear what you could become, especially for a girl,” her mother had whispered in her air. Her mother had taken her hand and led her to her bedroom. There she had tucked Akira into bed, smoothing her bangs and pressed a kiss against the soft skin of her forehead. “You’re already strong, who knows what you’ll be at fifteen? Twenty five?”

Akira had wrinkled her nose, because that was terribly old. Her mother’s laugh was gentle and musical. She hummed an old song and Akira fell to sleep dreaming of go boards and victory.

The next day her father had quietly told her she would crush the children, the boys, because she was too strong. Akira had continued to eat her breakfast for a few minutes before nodding.

“But I can still play here, right?” Because most of all Akira wanted to play.

Her father smiled.


The girl was going to be there. Akira was almost jittery from excitement and it was only her mother’s quiet voice in her head that stopped her from storming over to her, shaking her and demanding a rematch. Akira had dignity, but she also wanted to play her. So she begged, she cajoled. The teacher, who she could easily beat, had nodded finally. She was going to be playing Hikaru in the third round.

When she played the girl – it wasn’t the same. At first Akira had marvelled at Hikaru’s smooth playing, but then half way through the game, something changed. Akira bit her lip, fighting back anger and tears, because she had always listened to her father and thought maybe this girl could help her find the Hand of God. But now the girl was playing clumsily, not at all like someone who had beaten Akira. In the end the girl resigned, her blonde bangs moving to cover half her face.

“You didn’t play like this before,” Akira murmured. Hikaru started and looked at her with wide eyes. Hikaru looked she was going to say something before she ducked her head and bit her lip. She was rather pretty, Akira thought, even with the blonde hair. Akira looked away, her nails digging into her thighs.

And so she became a professional. Playing in a middle school go club was - was for children.


And then Hikaru became a professional. She was grinning, bangs freshly bleached, on the cover. She was brighter than Waya and Ochi, even though Akira should have been looking at Ochi as his former tutor. She could only imagine some of the more conservative go players, shaking their head at this new wave of go professionals. Akira had moved smoothly into their world, at least as smoothly as a woman could. The old men of the go world had huffed heavily. The younger go professionals had all heard of her, of course. Many of them had already played her and they resigned with more good humor.

She knew how to sit, knew the procedures because she had lived and breathed go since she was a child. Hikaru wasn’t going to be wave, Akira thought, she had the potential to be a tsunami.

Later, at her father’s home, it was a regular study night. Akira was distracted, thinking of playing Hikaru professionally.

Ogata made unsavory remarks. It was something that Akira usually ignored entirely, that she didn’t even blink when he made a comment about Hikaru. Then the actual words hit her and Akira frowned. Ogata seemed amused, his eyes hooded.

“You won’t speak about her that way,” Akira said and her words rang out. She stood up, smoothing her skirt and stared imperiously down at Ogata. She didn’t know where she was getting this courage.

She left the room, grateful that hadn’t been in the middle of a game. Her mother’s gaze followed her up the stairs. But it was her father, hours later, who entered her room and sank with a sigh to her desk chair. He sounded old and Akira’s stomach clenched unpleasantly. He didn’t say anything and he didn’t need to, because Akira was speaking.

“Do you think you’ll find it one day?” Akira asked. “The Hand of God.”

“One day,” her father said easily, as if he hadn’t been playing for decades, searching for it. Her father stood up and brushed her hair away from her face. Akira blushed, feeling like she was a little girl again.

“Father,” she started, fidgeting away.

“One day,” he said, patting her on shoulder. “I’ll see the Hand of God.”


Hikaru smiled at Akira. Akira had heard of her return. But it wasn’t the same as playing her.They started their game and it didn’t feel like the Hand of God. But it did feel like the beginning, silver turning to gold. The game went faster. Akira’s breath caught in her throat.

She might not win this; she wanted to win this that was the thrill of playing Hikaru.

Akira smiled, just for a second. Hikaru saw it.

Date: 2014-09-30 09:10 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
That ending line is so sweet, thanks for a lovely read! (And, for some reason, I rather like Akira as a girl.)



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