Author's note: This is a tearful moment… it's the absolute ending! I hope those of you who liked it so far will like the end as well. I personally think that the endings of stories are tricky, and they usually don't please people. I tried my best, so please be kind. Also, since this is the last chapter, please don't forget to review! Tell me what you think of my first piece. Thank you.
The lone wind chime swayed lazily in the wind. Its hollow sound cuts into the freezing winter like a sharpened steel blade. On one hand, the clinking can chill you to the bone; bringing forth shudders from the very core of your existence. On the other, you can be sure that its empty echoes in the garden will always keep you awake…sharp and ready.
He sat, frozen in place. His face betrayed not a hint of emotion. For the longest time, he did not move; why, he didn't even blink. Then, swift as the lightning, his right hand rose and…pah! A stone crashed noisily onto the board, no longer an individual, but a part of a big design…
The door leading out was slide wide open, giving view to the ancient Japanese garden in the backyard. Covered in snow and frost, it was devoid of any signs of life. The wind blew restlessly, sometimes quiet, sometimes noisy. Inside the wooden room, there was no furniture. That is, nothing except the big, old Goban accompanied by its two bowls of stones. In the corner, a stack of newspapers lay obediently, showing no evidence of ever being touched.
"Akira-kun, please..." Akiko pulled lightly at Touya's sleeve. "Please… your father… your father's health… I…"
"Mother, I'm sorry." Touya whispered. He continued to head towards the family study session room, all the while gently prying his mother's hands off his shirt. Shindou walked behind him silently with his hands in his pockets. He did not see what he could do… if anything at all.
It was only yesterday that they made a big scene and landed their first debut on TV as a couple. The publics' reaction was pretty much what they had calculated it to be, shock, apathy, indignant, disgust, loathing … and joy? Touya and Shindou discussed late into the night that it would not do to keep it from Touya Meijin, if he hadn't already found out. And truly, how could he have not? The event that shook the entire Go world…
"Let me talk to him." Akiko argued desperately. "If nothing else then let me go in with you…"
It was true that Touya Meijin's health had not been at its best behaviors these past few years, but what worried her the most was what would happen to this family if… if things got out in the open? She didn't think she could handle the worst. Even after years of practice and getting use to, even after all the self-persuasion it took for her to accept that she would never have a normal family, she could not stand to see it fall apart, at least not before she did.
"I have to do this alone, mother. We have to…" Touya looked at Shindou with a pair of greatly troubled eyes. Shindou could see fear, regret, determination, and desperation… He could feel his heart tightening at the helpless state his lover was in. He walked forward and clutched Touya's hand in his, and squeezed lightly.
"Everything will be fine, Touya-san. I promise you." Shindou said to the woman reassuringly while holding up their intertwined hands, as if declaring to protect Touya from any possible harm.
Touya did not wait. What would he expect from knocking and waiting, his father calling him to enter? No, he slide the paper door open and bowed his head. The chilliness of the room almost undid him. Yet he could feel his hands damping.
"Father, how are you today?" Touya started. He held his breath and waited shortly for his father to reply. Nothing… Touya couldn't help but smile, if not bitterly. At least he had an odd sense of reassurance knowing that things were going exactly the way he expected.
"Shindou and I… have come to discuss a matter with you." Touya added.
"Touya-san" Shindou acknowledged steadily.
A moment passed in silence. Touya and Shindou were unsure as to what to do. They did not want to risk marching in without permission and accidentally setting off the ticking bomb, but they didn't think it would be much help to stand there by the doorway.
"Come in and have a seat." Touya Kouyo said calmly. His tone startled Shindou, who was all too ready for a punch in the face.
"Father…have you heard the news?" Touya inquired carefully after he sat himself down properly. Shindou followed with a slight hesitation.
"Akira…what is your final decision?" The Meijin asked without answering Touya's question directly. Again, his words puzzled Shindou. Why did he sound like he is asking Akira for some kind of advice?
"Father, I have decided to stay by Shindou… no matter what." Touya said; his voice hardened with a challenging tone. "I would be forever grateful if you consent."
"Consent what, Akira?" Touya Meijin went on with his deadly calming voice.
Touya Akira paused carefully. He could not tell if his father genuinely wanted to know or if he was merely being scornful. "I respect you too much to not come and discuss this face-to-face with you, father."
"I see…but not enough to stop yourself from bringing me disgrace and trouble, I assume?" He returned casually.
Shindou frowned. That wasn't fair, and that had hurt Touya. He could tell by the boy's stiffened back and clutched fist.
"I'm sorry." Touya lowered his head again.
"And you, Shindou-kun? I don't reckon you have come to be my decoration for this otherwise un-tastefully designed room?" The Meijin mocked.
"Not very brave, are we? Akira, aren't you hurt that your … what should I call him? Aren't you hurt that Shindou-kun doesn't seem too eager to defend you?" Touya Kouyo finally looked up at the two uncomfortable teenagers kneeling in front of him.
"I wish you would just get angry! It's clear that you don't like what you are dealing with right now! It would be better if you just hit me or whatever. What's the point of saying these seemingly courteous words if they are meant to sting?!" Shindou exploded at last, a bit too quickly and much to his late realization…very impolitely.
"I see, you are not open to confrontation? Fine, Shindou-kun, how ready can you say you are to take a punch?" Kouyo slanted his head slightly and smirked.
"If you want to, go right ahead!" Shindou puffed up his chest.
"Shindou!" Touya Akira rose a bit. Uh-oh, things are starting to spin out of control. "Father, he is just nervous. He didn't mean –"
"Then… how ready can you say you are to take a punch from every player in the Go world?" the Meijin continued uninterrupted, focusing his sole attention on Shindou.
"If that's how you will acknowledge us, then fine!" Shindou retorted.
"Shindou, be quiet! Let me handle this." Touya was flustered. He refused to believe that his father would ever turn the Go world against them, but that doesn't mean he couldn't.
"Then, I have another question for you, Shindou-kun. How ready are you to take an extra punch from every player in the Go world which is supposed to be directed at Akira?" Kouyo studied Shindou carefully with his burning gaze.
Touya gasped quietly. His father…
Shindou was confused. What is the purpose of asking him these? "I would not let them lay a hand on Akira! Why are you asking me these?"
"Father, I will talk to you later. Shindou, let's go." Touya stood up briskly and grabbed his rival's arm to heave him up.
"Running away?" Touya Meijin's deep voice boomed. "What did you expect, Akira? Did you really think it's smooth-sailing from now on? What I said, can it begin to compare to what the world out there has in store for you? Where are you going to go when they are through with you; the Arctic?!"
Touya stopped cold in his step. From the sound of that… was father testing me?
"I know that it will be hard, Touya-san! I know there will be many ways to hurt us. Many schemes will be devised to weaken us! But I don't think either one of us would handle it well alone. I will not think, even for a second, of leaving Touya because of it. That's what we learned from all this fuss!" Shindou struggled out of Touya's hold and reasoned. "Besides, the whole Japan probably knows by now. Isn't it better to just bare our teeth and follow through with it?"
"If you have the intention, I can easily cover it up for you. Childish prank would work fine. Or I can say it's a publicity stunt. It can be stifled in less than a year." Touya Meijin said calmly again. All the while, he mused over the young man's words and weighted their veracity.
"Impossible!" Touya spoken up harshly, recovering from his shock. "Father, I think you will be disappointed in me if I do something that cowardice. I wouldn't be able to live with myself knowing I have betrayed myself and Shindou like that."
For a longest while, no one spoke. None of them moved. Touya stood glaring at his father. Shindou blinked at his lover incredulously. Touya Meijin studied his son with an unreadable expression. Outside the room, Akiko-san stood wringing her hands, trembling slightly.
"If that's what you have decided…" The older man broke the silence suddenly and sighed.
"You do understand that if you encounter a problem in the future, I will be very reluctant to help out." The older Touya added as an afterthought.
"I… understand." Touya uttered quietly. "Thank you very much and… I'm sorry."
"Right then, anyway, I'm tired. Please leave me now." Touya Meijin stood up and walked to the door leading to the garden. He slid the wooden frame back in place and turned to face them.
"And Shindou-kun, please do come by occasionally to play a game with me." He offered the invitation.
"Uh, ye…yes, I will." Shindou stuttered, taken by surprise by this turn of events.
As the duo retreated from the room, Touya Kouyo sat back down in front of his Goban and closed his eyes. Minutes passed in absolute silence again. Then, like the sun gracing the earth after a storm, he allowed a smile to crawl into his feature; because after all, he never expected anything less from his son and his son's destined companion.
Akiko took a few steps back as the door slide open. She had heard it all… She was happy that nothing seriously bad had happened. Despite Kouyo's stubborn nature, she knew that over time, things would be fine again.
"Mother, sorry for causing you to worry." Touya came to her side and said remorsefully.
"Don't be silly… I just want you to be happy." She said quietly.
She knew that as a mother, she had failed quite miserably. She could not teach him all that she knew and she did not share with him all that she obtained in life. She admitted, quite begrudgingly, that Shindou could perhaps give Touya happiness, and she would not be the one to take it away. That seemed like the least she could do.
"Excuse me, Shindou-kun." She nodded politely and turned to climb the stairs to her bedroom.
"Touya-san…I just want to thank you for raising such a wonderful son." Shindou called after her. He did not see what a reaction his words caused. He only saw her hand moving to her face and the slight trembling of her shoulders as she turned the corner of the first flight of stairs.
"I want to get out of here." Shindou commented as he waited for the house to settle back into quietness again.
"Fine, let's leave now." Touya jolted out of his trance and turned to gather their coats. "But you better get use to this place. It is my home, despite everything."
The two of them left the warm house and looked up at the elegant building thoughtfully. Shindou blew into his gloved hands as he waited for Touya to lock the door.
"I know. It's just that… your family is intense." Shindou said timidly. Then he grinned and added, "I now see why you have that sour personality of yours"
"Take a guess; am I in the mood to bicker with you right now?" Touya turned around and looked up into the sky. It was gray but it didn't look like snow would start pouring down any time soon.
"Come on; take that scowl off your face. You know your father didn't mean the things he said…" Shindou reached over and put his arm around Touya's shoulder protectively. "There always seems to be more to him than I imagine."
"I know…" Touya lowered his head onto Shindou's shoulder and sighed. They stood in the front garden, not moving for the longest time.
"You know, I think there is something we should do right now." Shindou said suddenly and turned to look at Touya with shining eyes.
"Oh? What do you have in mind?" despite his tone, Touya couldn't help but getting a little curious. That's the thing, Shindou can always make him feel something different from what he intended to feel.
"Let's take a trip." Shindou said while dragging Touya away.
"What? Now?" Touya felt his temple throbbing lightly, a warning for the oncoming headache. What did he expect really?
"Yeah…to Innoshima," Shindou kept walking, but Touya could feel the tension in his voice.
"What? Wait. Stop, Hikaru," Touya pulled Shindou to a halt and circled around to face him. His incredulous expression suddenly turned serious and he tightened his grip on Shindou's hand.
"Innoshima? Isn't that where…" Touya found his voice faltering. He was too surprised to believe that he was going to go… He tried again, this time more confident in his suspicion. "That's where Honinbou Shuusaku was born."
"I trust you would know that." Shindou said quietly, smiling lightly at Touya. "Did you know then, that he also died there?"
"Well, yeah. Hikaru, what do you mean? Why are we going there?" Touya asked tentatively.
But he knew… of course he knows! He had always known that when Shindou was ready to tell him about Sai, the one thing he kept out of Touya's reach, he would bring Touya to the homeland of his favorite legendary Go player, to the one place he visits every year, the place where a dreamlike episode of Shindou's past felt most real… the place where an extraordinary secret was carefully preserved.
"Touya, are you ready to hear my story?" Shindou asked carefully, his face solemn and his expression almost sacred.
"You can't be serious. I mean, are you sure?" Touya struggled to express himself. After years of waiting and yearning, the truth is now so close he could almost touch it. Yet… is Shindou really ready?
"I don't know if I'm sure, and that's the truth. But I know that I don't want to have anymore secrets. If you are willing to listen, I'm sure Sai will be alright with it now. So what do you think?" Shindou stared determinedly into Touya's eyes. In reality, he was very much afraid. He didn't have a clue if Sai would be alright with it, he highly doubt he could explain everything right, and he couldn't imagine Touya's reaction… but in spite of all that…he wanted to share Sai with Touya. He wanted him to be their secret.
Completely speechless, Touya lightly nodded his head. When Shindou finally picked up his hand again to lead him in the direction of the station, he felt an exciting burst in his chest. He couldn't wait… after all this time!
Slowly, the heavy clouds shifted. Streaks of golden sun rays pierced through the misty vapor. The gray surroundings brightened up and basked in the pale light. Like reviving elixir, the warmth flowed into their body, washing over their hearts. Shindou turned to the sky wistfully. He could hear it! From the open heaven came a smooth, faraway echo; the tender voice of his dear mentor. And it seems to say…
Touya Akira, my name is Fujiwara no Sai.
"Oh yeah, Shindou, who told you I liked those disgusting green tea candies?!"
One final author's note: Those of you who had stuck with my Shindou and Touya through their ups and downs, they thank you. I know they are not as perfect and interesting as the original ones of Yumi Hotta and Takeshi Obata, but they are my beloved. I think the greatest reward of writing a story piece is to see the characters come through and for them to bring joy to the readers. Now I don't know how successful I was at my attempt, but thank you all for reading it nevertheless. I greatly appreciate it. Bless you. s2.