"The North Star tournament was rescheduled for next month. All China and Korea representatives decided to lay off, so that we could mourn Touya Kouyo's passing in peace," Kurata informed Isumi and Hikaru gravely. It had been an entire week since the fateful day Touya Kouyo had left this world. They were in the Go salon again but there were no Go boards before them. There was also an eerie silence to the place. Still, and gloomy but no one commented on it.
"Poor Touya, I haven't seen him, have you?" Isumi asked Hikaru but Hikaru shook his head, looking of into space.
"The funeral is tomorrow, I expect you two to be there," Kurata sighed, he looked rather pale as if from lack of sleep or food. For the first time in the Go salon Kurata wasn't munching on something.
Isumi nodded solemnly, "I'll be there, how about you Hikaru? Hikaru…?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'll be there," Hikaru responded softly looking at them as if barely realizing they were in the room with him.
"Snap out of it Hikaru," Kurata told him sternly once Isumi had headed home. "We can't have two of Go's brightest futures derail from the true path, no matter what happens."
Hikaru frowned, just exactly what was Kurata talking about?
"Touya might go through tough times, a possible depression or slump in his game might occur, you can't let that happen to you."
No, that wouldn't happen. Akira Touya's life revolved around Go, and it wouldn't change…would it?
The next morning Hikaru laid on his bed staring at the ceiling again. He hadn't dreamed of Sai, not since Touya Kouyo's demise. It was as if the misfortune had put a halt to the dreams. Hikaru wasn't sure if to be glad or disappointed of not seeing Sai, but it didn't matter, not today.
He sighed sitting up rubbing his eyes. This was a mournful day for the Go world and for some reason he didn't want to face it. The world had lost another icon. He still couldn't understand how easily they had left; Shuusaku, Sai, and now Touya Kouyo.
A knock at the door startled him as much as his cheerful mother's face popping through the doorway.
"Here's your suit, I prepared it for today," she said laying a black, somber attire fully ironed and apparently washed. The simple sight of it made Hikaru cringe. "What would you like for breakfast?"
"Nothing, I'm not hungry," he mumbled hoping she would leave him soon. Thankfully she did, casting him a worried motherly look before closing the door behind her. He sighed sliding to the floor and crawling to his Go board. His precious fan laid between the two stone baskets. He slid his finger tip gently over it studying every inch of it. Truth be told, it was an ordinary-looking fan with a simple tassel. No one would truly guess its true meaning by just looking at it, just like no one could see the pain it caused Hikaru to have that black suit laying on his bed, waiting for him.
He didn't want to face it, not again.
The clock ticked loudly combined by the noise of washing dishes his mother was making downstairs. The baskets were by his side and he was reaching into them before he knew it, beginning a whole new game. Well, it wasn't an entirely new game. It was the game Sai had played against Touya Kouyo years ago, the one Touya had lost. He remembered everything about it not because he had been the one actually putting the moves on the virtual board but because it was a true masterpiece. Two geniuses going at it head on. A true masterpiece.
Time flew as he played and replayed focusing on the black and white until for the second time his mother came to call.
"Hikaru, it's getting late, you better hurry the service is…Hikaru? Hikaru…are you going to go?"
Mrs. Shindou's warm face crumpled with worry seeing Hikaru ignore her. He kept playing, unhesitantly. The hit of stones against wood fallowed her all down the stairs where she turned to look back at the closed door. She was sure he hadn't even heard her.
'Then he played here at the star point…why? Oh because he was trying to threaten the territory in the upper left…'
A fierce battle that wasn't his own developed itself on the board. He had build himself a wall where he couldn't see the geniuses' next moves, they were just too complicated. A honking of screeching cars blazed out his window for a moment. His eyes went to it but ended looking at the suit instead.
There it was all placid and simple, waiting. Waiting for what? For him to grow up or perhaps take of the blindfold he was trying to hold on so tight to?
'If I put you on, will it hurt as much as it did back then?' he mused letting the stone in his fingers drop back to its basket. 'To loose the brilliant Touya Kouyo…never be able to play him again…will that hurt as much?'
Kurata's warning came back to him and he shook his head standing up. He couldn't let this derail him, absolutely not. He turned back to the game but didn't sit back down. A disrupt would stop him from making good games such as this one. But to play good Go you needed two great people, two geniuses.
The afternoon sun warmed his back as he strided down the maze of monuments and shrines. His tie felt tight around his neck but he resisted to loosen it. The black suit stifled him as he walked on. Gone was the blindfold who's name was denial.
Hikaru searched in vain feeling stupid, he had gotten there late. The service was long over, but that didn't stop his search.
"I thought you wouldn't come, but you're late as always," a soft voice said behind him.
Touya Akira sat under the shadow of a small shrine. His head was cocked to one side as if listening for a distant sound. He also supported a suit just as gloomy but his tie was hanging on his neck untied. To Hikaru he looked normal even if a bit pale just sitting there.
"Better late than never, huh?" Hikaru replied stepping into the shade taking off his tie too. An awkward silence followed in which Hikaru fidgeted slightly and Akira stared off into space.
"So, how are you feeling?" Hikaru finally asked.
"My father's dead."
"So…sad then?" just as soon as it was out of his mouth Hikaru cursed himself. He was being tactless without meaning to but it was hard…what was he suppose to say?
"I feel lonely, that is how I feel Shindou," Akira replied without emotion. "Go won't ever be the same…"
Hikaru's ears perked up, this was what Kurata had been afraid of and when Hikaru actually thought it over, he was a tad frightened of it himself.
"Says who? Go is Go. Your dad is not gone, he's in your game, I'm sure of it."
"How does that make things better?" Akira questioned beginning to sound angry. "You just don't understand. He's gone, you idiot, gone! My game doesn't change that."
"That's not true, it makes a big difference! He'll never be gone if you continue to play!"
"What makes you think that's satisfying? I want to play him not my game!" Akira shouted standing up.
"You just don't get it!" Hikaru shouted back frustrated. "It will hurt like hell all the time if you let it. It will eat you up until you are obsessed with it that all you'll care about will be seeing him again. Everything you'll try to chase will leave you empty. But don't you see? It will all be in vain because you are too pigheaded to realize he is right behind you!"
Their eyes burned into each other's as both stood a few feet away with clenched fists.
"Right behind me?" Akira finally sneered looking behind him sardonically. "There is no one there Shindou. It's empty back there, with you too."
Hikaru shook his head softly then determinately, "I have you Touya, and you have me."
Time went back and they were kids once more. Stubborn kids with desires and goals much different from the everyone else except themselves. Kids who's destinies were meant to collide to end up right where they were.
Akira blinked once, twice and looked away to the brand new monument that was meant for his beloved father. For the first time in his life, Hikaru Shindou saw his rival cry.
"How was the service?" Mrs. Shindou inquired seeing Hikaru taking of his shoes on the hall. "You weren't late, were you?"
"Nah, it was fine," he grunted going up the stairs without a backward glance.
Once in his room he shut the door silently and changed clothes. The Go game was still set as he had left it. He sat before it and played until his arm hurt of being lifted and set down. He worked in a trance knowing exactly what to do. The movements he had been puzzled by before seemed crystal clear, just like Akira's tears.
With this thought in mind he went to bed looking at the flowing kites in the darkness.
Akira Touya sat before the Go board on the same spot Touya senior had sat night after night. His mother was asleep; exhausted from all the tears she had shed.
He stared at the empty board wondering if this was how things would be from now on; a silent home with a miserable core and an empty board. Most importantly, the space across from him was empty. He laid his head on the board feeling the coolness of the wood, dampening it with fresh tears. As sleep took him away Akira wondered if he would be strong enough to make his desire for Go continue, or if he would be able to give up the fight and make his heart pound again.
The grass floated and the sound of ruffling leaves was the same as it had been before. Two players sat peacefully under the shade of a tree, a Go board between them. Their concentration was total on the game before them. It was a game for two geniuses.
Hikaru felt a peace he hadn't felt before. It made him feel complete to watch this. Akira was with him, smiling as he had never smiled before. Both rivals stood side by side realizing that the hole they had each dug themselves wasn't as deep as they had thought. There was hope because rivalries never ended.
"Why are you two just standing there? Come study our game, how else will you learn." Touya Kouyo scolded looking at the standing boys.
"He is right Hikaru, Akira, how will you two discover the Divine Move if you are slacking?" Sai added pouting looking up from the game board, "You promised to play it with me someday Hikaru."
"Yeah, yeah, you whine too much Sai," Hikaru replied rolling his eyes. Akira's eyes lingered on the purple haired man. Sai…
Questions flowed from his mind but he held them back. He really didn't need details, not anymore.
"We'll find it someday," Akira assured the scowling ghosts.
"I know you will," Touya Kouyo said tenderly looking at his son approvingly.
Sai smiled at Hikaru, "Yes, you'll find it together"