Credit to the "blindgo" challenge on LJ for getting me started on this, and much thanks to Sailor Mac for providing editing, support and in general being her usual wonderful self. This is a two-part fic, and contains Akira/Hikaru.
Touya Akira injured in hit-and-run accident
By Amano Ichirou
TOKYO - A hit-and-run accident has seriously injured one of the Go world's upcoming stars.
On Saturday, Aug. 19, Touya Akira 7-dan was struck by a vehicle while crossing the Hitsumori Street at approximately 5:45 p.m. The vehicle, a white Honda Civic, left the scene of the crime.
Touya, 17, was taken to Tokyo Memorial Hospital via ambulance. He remains in serious condition. His family was unavailable for comment, but the Tokyo Go Institute issued a press release.
"We hope for Touya Akira 7-dan's swift recovery from this horrible accident. He is an invaluable asset to the Go community, and an upstanding young man. Our thoughts are with him and his parents, Touya Kouyo-sama, former holder of the Meijin title, and his wife, Akiko," said Takemoto Kiyosumi, current president of the Institute.
Investigation into the incident is ongoing. The driver is described as an Asian male in his thirties. Those with information should contact the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department at 555-5555.
The last thing he remembered seeing was the light changing, and stepping into the crosswalk. Someone had cried out a warning, but it was too late. He remembered the shock of impact, but no pain. Then there was darkness, and it'd been dark ever since.
He could tell his parents had no idea how to deal with him. It was fine, since he wasn't sure he could cope with himself - how could anyone be expected to handle being blind?
After the initial headache subsided, Akira was able to think, although he didn't want to. Along with the frightening blackness that surrounded him, he couldn't avoid thinking of what his loss of his sight meant. He could not play Go, not if he couldn't see the goban.
His doctor had explained his injury. "When you were struck by the car, you hit your head on the pavement hard enough to cause damage to your occipital lobe. While your eyes have no injury, your brain can't process the signals, which has resulted in your blindness."
"Is there a cure?" he asked.
A long pause answered him. "No. I'm sorry."
"I see," he said in a flat voice. It was only his training that helped him maintain his composure.
"What can be done?" he heard his father ask. His father, always so in charge, was commanding solutions be offered.
"Surgery's out, since we don't know enough about the brain to mess with it," the doctor said. Akira thought he sounded very young, and also a bit wary. "The only thing we can do is help you live with it. There's plenty of blind individuals who lead productive lives, and are valuable members of society."
"You can't play Go if you can't see," Akira said stiffly.
"There's other hobbies blind people can enjoy. Many of them like music," the doctor said. "If you learn Braille, you can read or even use a computer."
Akira couldn't believe how insensitive the man was being. He opened his mouth to object, to explain that he couldn't bear to live a life without Go, but his father beat him to it.
"My son," and the proprietary words were stressed heavily, "isn't a hobbyist. He's a professional Go player - it's his career," his father finished. "He's been playing his whole life."
"I'm sorry," the doctor murmured, apologizing again. "But it's best if he try to find a different profession. We'll have a therapist work with him to help him learn what he needs to know."
Akira wanted to throw something at the idiotic man, demand how he would feel if he suddenly lost his reason for existing. "I see," he said, nearly choking as he heard himself speak. So much of language was about sight. "Or I guess I don't see," he corrected.
He found himself reassuring his mother and father that he would be okay. He told them he understood what had happened, and he would manage. He could tell from their voices that they wanted to believe him.
Akira waited until he was sure he was alone, then bowed his head and let himself cry.
The world became frightening and unfamiliar, and he felt cut adrift. Without his Go, he didn't know what his future would hold. If asked, Akira would have defined himself as a Go player, and now he didn't have that.
There were visitors, far too many for Akira's liking. All he wanted was to be left alone, but that wasn't going to happen. Instead, he used the opportunity to listen to their voices, learning to distinguish what wasn't being said through tone. He bitterly recognized that he would have to learn quickly.
There was hesitation in the way many of them addressed him. They seemed to be thinking carefully before speaking, and treating him cautiously. No one mentioned Go.
Some were better than others. Ogata was one of the worst, often changing the topic in the middle of a conversation. He talked about his fish, the woman who he'd just dumped, a planned vacation to Hawaii. It was stilted, though, and after hearing for the fifth time about the hotel Ogata planned on staying at, Akira lied and said he had a headache and needed to rest.
It made Akira realize how much Go was a part of his life; without it, he didn't have anything to talk about. Ichikawa became his favorite visitor, because unlike the majority of his acquaintances, she had a life outside of Go. She would spend time cheerfully babbling about her fiance, and about her plans for their new apartment. She talked about her friends, sharing gossip, and about how her favorite baseball team was doing.
She was the one who first brought him book tapes and loaned him the CD player. He'd never been a heavy reader before - Go took up too much time for that - but he found the tapes a relief. By putting on headphones, he could escape the world. He developed a fondness for mysteries and police dramas. His parents, relieved that there was something they could do for him, brought him several tapes a day.
He finished all of them quickly, letting himself relax into the story and forget about his situation. The tapes helped those long nights go by. He'd never been good at getting to sleep, and his condition was exacerbating the problem. He couldn't tell day from night anymore, except by the regular visits of his mother.
He didn't know how he was supposed to be reacting to this. At times he became so depressed he would have cheerfully put a gun to his head, and once he became so angry that he threw Ashiwara out of the room by shrieking at the top of his lungs at the older man. They'd actually sedated him after that.
It took time for Akira to suppress his mood swings. They told him it was natural, that he was grieving and he had the right to feel the way he did. For Akira, who always prided himself on his control, it was embarrassing. He resolved to find his center again, and not indulge in the flurry of emotions that assaulted him.
By the time the third week had passed, he resigned himself to the fact that the man who'd hit him would most likely never be caught. He was angry about that, because if they'd at least caught the bastard, Akira could start to heal in earnest.
He would have someone to blame for stealing his future, rather than the nebulous concept of "an accident." He would spend his life angry at the man who had done this to him, wondering if every person he met was the bastard who had injured him.
Akira was jumpy about sounds, which suddenly seemed intensified. His sense of taste and smell were also heightened - or maybe he'd just never paid enough attention to them. Someone told him that humans relied on their sight for sixty percent of their perception. His other senses were starting to improve, but they would never fully compensate for what he had lost.
He started to create a routine, setting an alarm clock to beep at eight a.m. and p.m. He began to get a better grip on what was going on around him; his mother arrived at ten a.m. without fail and stayed through lunch. The therapist came at two p.m. and worked with him for an hour. His father and Ogata alternated days visiting, stopping in about four p.m. Dinner was at six p.m., and he started to listen to a jazz program that was nightly at seven p.m. There were occasional interruptions from other visitors or the nurses checking on him, but gradually he began to feel more grounded.
Nearly a month after the accident, the routine shifted with the arrival of another visitor. The person came after therapy, so it had to be late in the evening near the end of visiting hours.
"Hey, Touya?" someone said from the door. Shindou's voice was slightly raspy, but nice to hear. There was a quality in it that was more real to Akira than anyone else's. Shindou had stopped in once before, while Akira was still groggy from the pain and painkillers. He hardly remembered that visit.
An ill-timed trip to Korea to visit the institute there had kept Shindou away. Akira wasn't sure if he was glad for that or not; talking to his former rival would only stress what he couldn't have, but Shindou wasn't likely to treat him like he was fragile. Akira wanted to feel like a person again, not a cripple.
Akira turned his face toward the door, guessing where Shindou was standing. "Hello, Shindou," he said. "Did you have a nice trip?"
"Not really," Shindou said softly. "I would have like to be here with you."
"I told you to go, didn't I?" Akira asked testily. He did vaguely remember that, trying to convince his rival it was fine, that he'd only be underfoot if he stayed.
"I only went because you didn't want me around," Shindou answered, sounding unhappy.
"I didn't," he admitted. He couldn't lie to Shindou. In the beginning, he'd had hoped he could recover, that it was a temporary setback. Now he was coming to terms with his new reality. "I didn't want you to see me weak."
"Did it occur to you that I needed to see you? Touya - you could have been killed," Shindou said. His voice was even huskier than usual, and trembled slightly on the last word.
Akira hadn't thought about what Shindou wanted. All he had known was that he was hurting and didn't want Shindou to see that. He hadn't known Shindou would react so strongly to his disability; they were rivals, not best friends. Or they had been, until Akira lost his ability to play.
He hated to think of who Shindou's new rival would be. Possibly Ochi, since the boy was full of fierce love for the game. Or maybe it would be Yashiro, with his brilliance and daring that matched Shindou's own. He tried to keep from feeling jealous, although it was a hopeless task. He didn't want to be replaced.
"I'm sorry," he said, knowing that he owed an apology to Shindou.
"Just... don't shut me out again," Shindou replied, his shoes squeaking slightly as he shifted back and forth. "Please."
"Shindou," Akira felt his throat tighten, and decided changing the topic would be a good idea. "Could you come here? They're teaching me how to... handle my condition," he said. "I'd like to try something."
"Sure," Shindou said, and he shuffled over to the bed, his feet making scuffing sounds against the linoleum floor. Akira could hear Shindou's breathing, but he was still out of reach.
"Sit down on the bed. I have to be able to touch your face," he said.
"Um, sure," Shindou said, and the bed creaked as he sat down on it. Akira could feel the warmth of his presence, and for a second was tempted to collapse against Shindou. The impulse past quickly.
His therapist had tried to school him to use his sense of touch. "You can let your fingers be your eyes," she had said. "A good way to remember faces is by tracing them with your fingers. A lot of people will let you if you ask."
The concept was too intimate and he couldn't bear to do it, not even when his mother had offered to be his subject. Now, though, he wanted to touch Shindou. He couldn't untangle the morass of emotions that assaulted him at the thought, and chose to ignore the cause.
"I'm going to touch your face. It's... it's a way of learning about people," said Akira.
"Sure," Shindou agreed, less hesitant now that he understood what Akira wanted.
Shindou was immobile as Akira's fingers slowly traced his face. His skin was smooth and soft to the touch, and Akira moved his hand slowly to memorize the features that were always so animated. There was a trace of stubble under his chin, and Akira discovered a blemish near Shindou's hairline. Shindou was patient, holding stiller than Akira would have believed him capable.
The slight imperfections in Shindou's skin were things Akira probably wouldn't have paid attention to when he had his sight, but now he cherished them because Shindou was real, not some imagined fantasy. He began to gain confidence, and made another demand.
"Shut your eyes," Akira commanded, and he moved his fingers to Shindou's eyelidss. He remembered them as a startling green, a color that was still vivid in his mind. He was surprised to feel the moisture on the lashes, and realized that it was caused by tears.
"Shindou?" Akira whispered.
"I'm sorry," Shindou replied, reaching up to brush his eyes clean. Their hands touched, but neither jerked away. "I'm just... glad you're okay."
Akira wondered what Shindou would define as "not okay." He couldn't resist snorting, and he pulled back, letting his hand fall into his lap. "Thank you," he said.
"Are you done?"
The silence hung awkwardly between them, until Shindou broke it. "I brought you a souvenir. Take these," Shindou said, and something was pressed into Akira's hands.
After a moment Akira identified the item as glasses. He tried to keep calm, knowing Shindou wouldn't make a joke of his blindness. "What are these?" he asked levelly.
"Sunglasses. A lot of blind people wear them," Shindou said. "Um, not to be mean or anything, but it's kinda creepy trying to hold a conversation with someone who isn't looking at you."
Shindou was being his usual tactless self, but Akira appreciated it. Everyone else was walking on eggshells around him, unsure of how to treat his sudden disability. Shindou, at least, was honest. It would have been easy to take offense at Shindou, but Akira decided to accept the gift in the spirit it was meant.
"They're not pink with rhinestones, are they?" Akira asked, trying to show a sense of humor.
"Nope, they're Raybans. They look cool, and are very, very expensive, so don't expect a birthday gift from me," Shindou replied.
Akira wouldn't have. They had never exchanged presents before. "Thank you," he said, before setting them on his face. "How do they look?"
He heard Shindou laugh. "Very cool! You actually don't look like a nerd in them!"
It was a backhanded kind of compliment, completely like Shindou, and Akira found himself laughing for the first time since the accident.
After a month, the therapists pronounced him well enough to go home. He would have to continue to work with a specialist who would help him learn Braille and other coping strategies. He put the determination he'd fostered as a Go player to work, the single-minded focus that blocked out emotions and all other considerations. His therapist remarked that he was making quick progress.
They gave him a long white cane, teaching him how to use it to walk in unfamiliar environments. He would swing it back and forth in front of him, learning to feel if there was an obstruction in his path. He hated it, since he knew it marked him as handicapped. He wasn't the type to complain, but he was quickly getting fluent with expletives to use while swearing under his breath.
His therapist noticed his annoyance, too. "There's always the possibility of a guide dog. You can get on a waiting list for one," she suggested. "Of course, you'll need to learn to work with the animal."
"I'll consider it," he said, knowing that he would likely have to agree. He had never been much of a dog person; he preferred cats. But the idea of the independence a dog could offer him was appealing.
He was frustrated at how difficult it was to get around. His room was on the second floor of his parent's house, and climbing the stairs was suddenly a challenge. His mother suggested converting the Go Room, where his father usually held his sessions with students, into a bedroom for Akira. He'd immediately rejected the suggestion, saying he'd be more comfortable in his childhood room.
"Besides, I'm going to have to learn to adjust. The world isn't going to change itself for me," he said coolly.
It took a while to relearn his house. Both of his parents were neat people by nature, which helped as he felt his way around the place. Things were kept in specific spaces, and he was able to memorize where items were. A few times he grew overconfident, only to encounter obstacles his mother deliberately set.
"They told me to," she said tersely when he asked why she'd set a kitchen chair in the middle of the living room. He'd hit it hard, bruising his shins and ending up on his butt when he'd lost his balance. "You need to recognize your disability, and understand the handicap you're operating under. You can't get careless."
He'd only kept from swearing at her by biting the inside of his cheek until it bled. The taste of blood filled his mouth, but he refused to let it shake his composure. It was one thing to get frustrated with himself; he would not yell at those that were only trying to help, no matter how infuriating their actions were. They were going through a learning process, just like he was.
A week after he'd moved back, he was sitting in his room listening to a new book tape. It was decent but not particularly riveting, which was why he was happy to hear his mother call to him.
"Akira-san, you have a visitor!" His mother sounded enthusiastic. "I'm sending him up."
There was a polite tap at the door, but the door opened scant moments later without Akira indicating he was ready. He could smell the person's cologne, a cheap scent that made his nose itch. He hated being taken by surprise, but without sight he could not identify a person until they spoke. He was getting good at recognizing voices. "Who's there?" he demanded.
"I guess that bond of rivalry thing we've got isn't as deep as I thought," Shindou teased. "I thought you'd know me instinctively."
"How could I recognize you? You were quiet," Akira said, speaking the truth.
"Are you implying that I'm loud?" Shindou took the accusation as an insult, rather than a complaint. Akira's lips quirked, and he felt his anger fade.
"Shindou, you're the only pro in history to get ejected from the Young Meijin's tournament."
"I was twelve!"
"I'm talking about what happened last year," Akira replied dryly.
"I wasn't ejected! They just asked me to leave."
"And the difference is?"
"Ogata wasn't looming over me," Shindou admitted, breaking into a chuckle. "Okay, so I'm a bit excitable. It's not a crime."
"No, it's you being yourself," Akira said. "Did you want something?"
"I was hoping you'd be up for a game," Shindou said. "I'm playing in the third round of the Meijin primaries next week, and could use the practice."
Akira winced. Surely Shindou wasn't intending to mock him; Shindou had never been the brightest bulb in the box, and maybe he didn't understand what his blindness meant. "Shindou, I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm blind."
"So?" Shindou sounded genuinely confused.
Maybe Shindou hadn't realized that they couldn't be rivals anymore. Maybe Shindou was willfully blocking the recognition from his mind. It would be better to make the break now, and not let Shindou operate under mistaken assumptions.
"Shindou, I can't see the board. My days of playing Go are over," Akira said. Akira told himself he would not cry. He didn't want Shindou to remember him as a weakling.
He heard Shindou's quick intake of breath, but there was no immediate reply. He was probably trying to think of some polite way to apologize, Akira thought. Or maybe he was going to say something encouraging, about how Akira could get better. It was even possible that he would cry again, realizing that their rivalry was no more. Akira braced himself, not wanting to have to offer comfort to yet another person. His parents were bad enough.
"Touya, you're pathetic," Shindou said after a long silence.
"What did you say?" Akira asked. He couldn't have heard that right.
"You're pathetic! You've completely given up Go because of one setback!" Shindou snapped.
Akira felt the blood rushing to his head, and his heart started to pound in his chest. He was on his feet, faced toward where he knew Shindou was standing, his hands clenched at his sides. If he could have seen Shindou, he would have lashed out with his fists. The rage which had been simmering under Akira's skin since the accident finally found a target.
"Just shut the fuck up, Shindou!" he screamed. "You have no idea what it's like! You have no idea what I've lost!"
"I have an idea," Shindou replied, and his voice was dangerously level. When he got really angry, Shindou didn't get loud. He got cutting, his usual boisterous attitude tempered into cold fury and self-righteousness. Akira had only ever seen Shindou that angry once, when Ko Yeong Ha had insulted Shusaku. "You're not the only one to get dealt a bad hand, but it could be worse. You still have your mind, and you can still have Go."
"Shindou, I'm blind! I can't play!" Akira yelled back, feeling ready to cry or hit something, or just scream out to make people aware how much that hurt him. His life had been Go, and now that was over. Shindou was a bastard to torment him like this.
"Sai couldn't place stones himself, either, and that didn't stop him! We just found a way around the problem!" Shindou snapped back. "Haven't you ever played without a board? I play like that with Waya all the time when we're traveling. It's hard, but it's still Go."
Once upon a time, Shindou's careless remark about Sai would have sparked interest in Akira. Now it only drove home that Akira was no longer part of that world, for even if he found Sai, they wouldn't be able to play.
"Shindou – just go away," Akira said, forcing the words out. He spoke without emotion, his screaming having drained him of all reaction.
"Just think about it," Shindou said, and he was calmer, too. "If you let this make you give up Go, I don't think you were ever my rival in the first place."
Akira heard the sounds of footsteps, the door opening and closing, and he knew he was alone again. What Shindou said burned into his brain. He had been feeling sorry for himself, hiding it behind his manners.
Akira had never shared the details of his encounter with the members of the Kaiou Go Club. He remembered the three players trying to overwhelm him, his pride in his skill on the line. He might have lost that game if Hidaka-senpai hadn't stepped in. To play on a professional level using that method would be nearly impossible. A professional had no room to err, and he'd rather give up Go entirely than play unworthy games.
But Shindou believed in him. Shindou still wanted him as a rival.
He could hear the sound of footsteps as someone climbed the stairs. For a second, he wondered if Shindou had returned, but the steps were too light. Someone tapped on his door, and he told them to enter.
"Akira-san?" It was his mother. "I heard screaming." She was worried, and he would wager she was twisting her hands, the way she always did when she was agitated.
"Just Shindou and I having our usual disagreements," he said, forcing a smile onto his face for her sake. "It's fine," he said.
There was the soft sound of slippers moving as she came closer. "I'll make sure he doesn't bother you again."
"Mother – it's fine," he said. An idea occurred to him. "Can you get me my cellphone? I need to apologize."
"I'll be right back," she promised. Moments later she returned, and he held out of his hand. He'd been learning to dial the phone by touch, and he carefully picked out the digits – from memory – for Shindou's cell. Pressing it against his ear, he waited for Shindou to answer.
"Hi," Shindou said, and he sounded less lively than usual. Guiltily Akira realized that their argument had gotten to his rival.
"Tell me about Sai," Akira demanded, without greeting.
There was a pause before Shindou answered. "I'll tell you about Sai the next time you beat me in an official game." Then he hung up.
Akira listened to the click of disconnection, and instead of getting mad, he felt his fighting spirit start to rouse. Shindou wouldn't have said that if he didn't believe Akira could do it. Shindou wasn't one to torment people with impossibilities.
He turned the phone off and set it on the night table, luckily not fumbling. A frown marred his features.
"It's okay, mother," he said. "Shindou just said something to make me think. You can get back to what you were doing."
As soon as he was alone again, he started to think. He was quite capable of memorizing a board, and he could always direct his opponent to place the stones. He had done it at Kaiou – why couldn't he at least try it? The only thing he had left to lose was his pride.
The idea was ridiculous, he knew. It was stupid to think he'd even have a chance to play against other pros with such a profound handicap.
But Touya Akira never backed down from a challenge. He waited until later that evening to corner his father in the Go room. Akira walked in, took two steps so he was passed the threshold, and gathered his courage.
"Father? Will you play a game with me?" Akira asked. The words were hard to get out, and he tried not to shake. If his father declined, he would have proof that Shindou's suggestion was ludicrous. Touya Kouyo was not a man for sympathy; he would reply to Akira honestly, no matter how painful the truth was.
The room was silent for a while, and Akira had to consciously will his shoulders not to slump with defeat.
Finally his father spoke. "Akira, there's no one I'd rather play."
Akira's jaw almost dropped when he heard the unsuppressed emotion in Touyo Kouyo's voice. Akira thought his father was crying, but that was fine, since it made the tears on Akira's face less conspicuous.