You May Play the Divine Move

Author's Initial Notes: This is a thing where I'm just trying to get my ideas about some difficult topics for me (that I have to think about at some point) to be just a bit more understandable to me. At times, this story will have slight angst. Just warning you – and myself, I suppose – now. Oh, yes, one more thing – this takes place a few months after the anime series (and may work after the manga as well, I don't know).

Two fifteen-year-olds were shouting at each other – again – in a Go salon near a train station.

"I did not say, 'Oh, I see,' ten times!" Touya Akira, a three-dan, yelled at the top of his voice.

"That's right – you said it eleven!" Shindou Hikaru, still a shodan but who was just as good, shouted back.

"Well, you missed this painfully obvious life-and-death problem here!" Akira exclaimed, gesturing wildly at the Go board that was sitting on the table in front of them. "And I only said that three times! You said it at least six!"

"Six? I did NOT! What about this, right here?" Hikaru demanded, pointing toward the lower-right corner. "You missed the–"

"I saw that, it was just better to go here!" shouted Akira.

"Is not! This shape'll die then!"

"No, actually," Akira said, suddenly much calmer. He placed a stone on the board. "Look, if white goes here…."

"Oh, I see…."

"HAH!" Akira shouted. "Seven times now!"

"Not seven! Only FIVE!" yelled Hikaru.

"Seven!"

"FIVE!"

"It is not, it's seven!"

"Well, guess what? I'M LEAVING!" Hikaru shouted. He grabbed his bag that Ichikawa Harumi, the twenty-something who worked at the Go salon, held out stoically for him. Hikaru slammed the door on his way out.

Harumi sighed.

"Are you sure they're friends?" one of the old regulars asked her in a whisper.

"Uh-huh," Harumi replied. "Rivals, mostly – but yes."

"It's good Akira-sensei has found someone his own age to be with," the regular commented.

"Ichikawa-san?" Akira said, coming up behind the two.

"A-A-Akira-sensei!" the regular exclaimed. "How are you today?"

Akira didn't answer. "I think I should head home now. I'm a bit tired after that. Could I have my bag, please, Ichikawa-san?"

"Here you are," said Harumi, handing Akira his bag. "Will you and Shindou-kun be coming tomorrow?"

"We should be," Akira said. "Thank you."

"See you, then," Harumi called as the door closed.

The regular stared. "They're friends, and Akira-sensei says they're both coming again, but all they do is shout at each other? That other boy probably doesn't hold a candle to Akira-sensei."

The door reopened. "Please do not talk about Shindou like that!" Akira exclaimed. "He is just as worthy of being your opponent as I!" He slammed the door.

The regular stared at the door, looking stunned.

Harumi pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to the customer. "Here's what I've concluded," she said. "Have a look."

The paper read:

GUIDE TO THE "KIND-OF" FRIENDSHIP OF AKIRA-KUN AND SHINDOU-KUN:

1. Get along and play half of a game at a Go salon.

2. Yell about the obvious mistakes of the other.

3. Get mad, fight, and walk off angrily.

4. Stick up for each other.

5. Repeat.

"Oh, I see," said the regular.

"Exactly," Harumi replied.

Touya Akira wondered vaguely why he was suddenly so tired as he walked down the steps to the ground floor of the building. Sudden spells of exhaustion had been plaguing him for a while, but he had no idea why. He got sleep, exercise, good food, brain stimulation – his doctor had said that he was a healthy individual last year.

As he walked out of the building, he could see Shindou Hikaru was still around, leaning on a railing.

"Shindou!" Akira called suddenly.

Hikaru turned around. "What?"

"Um…," said Akira, momentarily lost for words. He then remembered what he had been going to say. "You only said, 'Oh, I see,' six times, not seven."

"Yeah. I knew that," Hikaru said.

"Then why did you say it was only five?" Akira demanded, getting angry again.

"Cause…uh…geez, Touya, can't you take a joke?"

"Oh, yes, shouting, 'Guess what? I'm leaving!' is a joke."

Hikaru almost smirked a little. "Maybe someday I'll tell you how it's a joke, then."

"Shindou! You're not funny," said Akira. Shindou had done these kinds of things ever since Akira had first met him. Excuses all over the place – but Akira had seen Hikaru's Go, and that was enough for him now. Still, it annoyed him when Shindou referenced to his refusal to tell Akira the whole story.

It began to rain.

Hikaru started to laugh.

"All right, how is this funny?" Akira demanded. Now he would be tired and cold – neither of them had umbrellas.

"Just – you," said Hikaru.

"Shindou!"

Hikaru only laughed again. "You getting all mad over me laughing at the rain."

"So you finally tell all."

"Someday, I said, someday!"

"When is someday, Shindou?" Akira asked.

"Um…didn't you say my Go was enough for you?"

"Uh…yes…I did."

"Then it should be enough for you! Geez!" Hikaru exclaimed.

They were both soaked already.

"I suppose it should," said Akira. He began to walk towards the stairs that led to the train; he was longing for his bed at home, where he could just lay down and try to ignore all the aches he seemed to be getting lately. More Go study would have to wait until the next day.

The last thing he remembered of that day was Shindou's voice saying, "Um…Touya? This isn't funny. Hey! Touya!"

When Akira woke up, he wasn't sure where he was.

His first conclusion was that he was visiting his father in the hospital.

This was struck down by the remembrance that his father, Touya Kouyou, was in China at the moment, and that he had recovered from his heart attack long ago.

Then Akira realized that he was the one in the hospital, because he was the one in the bed with people sitting on the couches. From the looks of the young woman who was now sitting near him, she was probably a nurse.

"Touya-kun, right?" she said in a cheerful tone. "Hopefully you'll be out soon; I know the doctors will be glad that you've woken up."

"Why am I here?" Akira asked. He truly didn't know. He wasn't sick. He had just been feeling tired, that was all. Shindou had probably gone overboard on any help he had gotten. Speaking of which, where was Shindou?

What day was it?

Akira asked, "Excuse me, how many days has it been since Thursday?"

"Today's Saturday," the nurse informed him. "So, just two." She stood up and began to rummage through a bag.

"Um, what do I have, exactly?" asked Akira. "Now that I've woken up, how long will it be before I can return home?" More importantly: He had a match on Monday. He needed to be there. He didn't want to forfeit just because Shindou the idiot had had him taken to a hospital – and probably in an ambulance, too. Great.

"You probably will have to stay here for a few more weeks," said the nurse.

"Weeks?" Akira sat straight up in bed. "I have to be in the semifinals for the tournament that decides who gets to be the challenger of Kuwabara Hon'inbou on Monday!"

"I'm sorry, Touya-kun," said the nurse. "But someone did stop by when he heard, I think his name was…um…Amano-san, maybe? Anyway, he said to give you this, and he also said he had filled out most of it for you – all you have to do is sign it, apparently." She handed him a sheaf of papers.

Akira looked at the top-most one.

PROFESSIONAL GO PLAYER APPLICATION FOR EXTENDED ABSENCE.

Akira scanned the form. Under "reason," the box "terminal illness" was checked.

"Terminal illness?" Akira exclaimed, shoving the form under the nurse's face. "What do you mean, 'terminal illness'?"

"Well…it's potentially terminal," said the nurse, looking uncomfortable.

Akira began praying that this was all some dream – or, as Shindou would probably put it, a whole big joke.

"Touya-kun, when did you start experiencing symptoms?" the nurse asked.

"Of what? Symptoms of what?"

"Fatigue? Fever? Aches? Swollen glands?"

"Er…fatigue and aches," said Akira. He was really thinking, Swollen what?

"How long have you been experiencing these?"

Akira thought. "A while. Two months, or so."

The nurse's eyebrows rose and Akira took that as a bad sign. "Two entire months?"

Akira only shrugged a bit; he hadn't thought it was anything to worry about.

There was a knock on his door, and a doctor motioned the nurse out. The nurse closed the door and began to converse with the doctor in low tones.

Akira was starting to get annoyed – couldn't these people even tell him this 'potentially terminal illness' was? He rose from the bed, ignoring his body's protests that he was tired, and began to eavesdrop at the door.

"Two months?" the doctor's voice said. "It took him two months before anyone else noticed?"

"It's definitely A.L.L.," said the nurse. "The blood tests just came back in."

"I've contacted his mother – his father is in China, playing Go, apparently," said the doctor. "He's coming as quickly as he can, the mother says – with the amount in his blood and the two months it went unchecked…. It could even go back farther than two months, it probably does."

"I haven't even told him yet," said the nurse. "I was wondering if his family breaking the news would be more appropriate."

I don't know what A.L.L. stands for, just say the entire thing, please! Akira mentally begged. That way I'll know what I'm facing and it will be just like another game. Then, I'll only think of the game and find a way to win. Now, if you could just tell me who my opponent is, we could begin. But I suppose my opponent has already taken black….

"So, should I tell him?" the nurse asked.

Heck yes, Akira thought.

"No need," said the doctor. "But you can tell him that he's not going to be playing any of these – um, he's a professional Go player, his mother said, so–"

"Isn't he only fifteen?" the nurse interrupted.

"The Go world does things differently," said the doctor. "It's a shame – apparently he's one of the best players, too. But he won't be going anywhere for a while. It'd be good to file a leave of absence form."

"Someone already dropped one off for him," said the nurse. "I'll go back in and make sure he understands it, and then I'll get him something to eat, but then what?"

"Wait," said the doctor. "Ask him if he wants anything from home; we can pass it on to his parents."

"All right," said the nurse.

Akira heard footsteps and quickly climbed back into his bed.

The nurse opened the door. "So, Touya-kun, that form – is it all clear?"

Akira nodded as he stared at the request for excused absences gloomily.

"Is there anything you want to eat?"

"No, thank you."

"Anything from home I could ask your parents to bring?"

"A Go board and a laptop," said Akira. "That will be all."

"A laptop…?" the nurse said.

"Online Go," Akira explained. "I will be able to play every day that way."

"The doctor says you should take a rest from playing Go," said the nurse.

"Absolutely not," said Akira.

"Touya-kun, the game isn't life, right?"

"Yes, it is," Akira said. "I've devoted my life to it, haven't I? Why shouldn't I play? Aches don't stop me from clicking a mouse. Besides, I was going to play Ashiwara-san, Ogata-san, and Shindou today at the Go salon."

"Think of your health, Touya-kun," the nurse wheedled. "You want to get back out there as soon as possible, right?"

"Not if this illness is terminal," argued Akira, now very irked with the hospital people. "If I'm going to die anyway, shouldn't I play as much as I can before I go?" Akira thought that if he kept mentioning his illness, the nurse would let slip and tell him what it was.

"But A.L.L. is curable, most of the time!" said the nurse.

"What is A.L.L.?" Akira asked.

"Um…," said the nurse.

Akira looked at his bedside table. There was a phone there. Akira picked it up and dialed what he hoped was Ogata's number.

"Hello?" Ogata's voice answered.

"Wait, Touya-kun!" the nurse exclaimed, but Akira was already talking.

"Ogata-san, it's Akira. Do you happen to be online now?"

"Akira-kun, what is this about?"

"Do a search on 'A.L.L.' for me, please," said Akira. "I'm unable to get to my computer at the moment."

"Akira-kun, Touya-sensei is coming back from China."

"I know – please do the search."

"Very well," said Ogata. Thirty seconds later…. "Akira-kun…."

"Yes?"

"Why are you in the hospital?"

"That's what I'm trying to find out. Could you please tell me what A.L.L. is before the nurse manages to wrench the phone out of my hand?" Akira pleaded, fighting off the nurse with his other arm.

Ogata chuckled on the line. "This is almost as bad as your reactions to Shindou."

"Please, Ogata-san!" Akira begged.

"I think it will be best if Touya-sensei tells you," said Ogata. "But I'll be coming by later. Goodbye."

Akira heard the dial tone ten seconds later.

Time for his last resort. His mother wouldn't tell him even if he called home, his father wasn't there, Ogata-san wouldn't tell him…. So there was only one option.

Akira again prayed that he dialed the right number.

"Hello, Shindou residence," he heard a woman's voice answered.

"Is Shindou home?" Akira asked, before remembering that, if he was calling Hikaru's house, they would all be named Shindou.

"Oh, Hikaru? Yes, just a moment. Whom should I say is calling?"

"Touya. I am also a professional Go player."

"Oh, all right," said the woman's voice.

"Get off the phone!" the nurse hissed.

"Get off me!" Akira exclaimed.

"Touya, what are you calling me for?" Hikaru asked on his telephone, back at his own house. "Are you out of the hospital?"

"Shindou…do you have…a computer at your house?" Akira asked breathlessly, now battling furiously with the nurse for control of the phone.

"No – and I'm not Sai, if that's what you're asking!"

"No, Shindou – do you have…a dictionary…then?" said Akira.

"Yeah, sure, but I don't use it."

"Look up A.L.L., now!"

"Why?" asked Hikaru.

"Because an insane nurse is trying to not let me find out what I'm diagnosed with!" Akira exclaimed, sounding as furious as he had been during their match against each other in their first year of middle school at the tournament. Hikaru knew that tone of voice, and it meant Akira was serious.

"Yeah, hang on a sec…." Hikaru ran to the dictionary, looked it up, and ran back to the phone. "Why do you wanna know, again?"

"Just tell me, Shindou, or I'll ask Ichikawa-san to make you pay me five hundred yen for each time you say, 'Oh, I see,'" said Akira. "I'd be rich within the hour."

"Fine, whatever," Hikaru said. "It's acute lymphocytic leukemia. Why are you asking me this again?"

"And what exactly is that?" Akira's voice had suddenly gone very calm and quiet, almost as if he was now resigned.

"Um…." Hikaru ran to the dictionary again and came back a few seconds later. "It's a type of cancer when there are malignant white blood cells, which inhibits the body's ability to manufacture red blood cells, platelets, and healthy white blood cells."

Akira thought back to biology. "Oh. I see."

"HAH! You said it before I did!" Hikaru exclaimed triumphantly.

"Shindou."

"Yeah?"

"What are the chances of recovery?"

"Geez, what are you now, an interrogator?"

"Shindou, answer the question!" Akira's voice had gone fierce again.

"Okay, okay! Um…it says it depends on the aggressiveness of the disease, but it can be cured. Uh…quote, 'without treatment, death can occur within weeks or even months,' unquote, but if you get treatment early, the book says you're generally fine."

The full impact of the two months of not telling anyone about his fatigue spells now hit Akira like a punch to the gut.

"Shindou," Akira whispered into the phone, still trying to fight off the nurse.

"Yeah?"

"Thank you. I needed to know that."

"Um…sure," said Hikaru. Akira had never thanked him for anything before. It was almost strange, hearing Akira say thanks to him for something.

"And Shindou?"

"What now?"

"I'm in room 341 of the same hospital my father was in."

Hikaru's translation: You can come and visit.

"Got it," said Hikaru. "Bye."

"Bye," Akira said. He hung up the phone.

The nurse backed up, looking scared, and for a good reason.

"WHY DIDN'T YOU JUST TELL ME?" Akira screamed at her.

The nurse ran out of the room, frightened out of her mind.

Akira's scream had used up the last of his energy. Even though he was incredibly angry and confused, he fell asleep immediately.

The publishing sector of the Nihon Ki-in was going nuts.

"How on earth do we break this news?" someone wondered, sounding frantic. "We can't just say Touya-kun's taking an extended leave of absence for no reason!"

"We don't have to say anything until Touya-kun turns in the form I left for him," Amano, the head of the publishing department, said. "Now, how do we explain Touya Kouyou-sensei's return from China so abruptly?"

"Why don't we ask the Touya family how they would like it announced?" the new assistant asked hesitantly.

The rest of the publishing people looked at him for a moment.

"By God, you're brilliant!" they shouted as one.

"If they answer the phone," said a pessimistic guy.

"Well, I can go see Touya-kun again when he's well enough to get visitors," Amano said. "Then I can ask him. Or perhaps we should phone a student of Touya Kouyou-sensei's…?"

"We could call Ogata-sensei or Ashiwara-sensei," another suggested.

"Or Shindou-kun…," Amano mused.

"Shindou-kun?" shouted the rest of the publishing sector.

"Never mind," Amano said quickly. "But I did ask the hospital if Touya-kun would be able to play his game on Monday, and the nurse I spoke with said that Touya-kun wouldn't be able to leave the hospital for a while."

"Why?" asked the new assistant.

"Something about a vulnerable immune system," said Amano. "Anyway, let's call the Touya house first, then Ogata-sensei – he probably knows something."

"Hee hee hee!" The publishing people looked for the sound of the laughter and found Kuwabara Hon'inbou standing in the doorway. "What were you saying about Touya-kun, Amano-san? Going to go to Ogata-kun for answers?"

"Uh, Kuwabara-sensei…," Amano trailed off. "We…were…uh…."

"Ee hee hee hee," Kuwabara laughed. "The young ones can't take on the old anymore – and we're supposed to be the ones who are getting sickly. Hee hee hee!"

And yes, nearly everyone agreed, even though Kuwabara Hon'inbou was a brilliant Go player, that he was slightly insane.

Author's Ending Notes: This story will have three total chapters, which will be uploaded in extremely rapid succession. Please be kind in reviews; however, do not hesitate to express your true personal opinion. Thank you, and please keep reading.