You May Play the Divine Move
Author's Notes: The final chapter. I thank you, my readers, extensively. I really do hope you have enjoyed (hm, is that the right word?) this fic. If not, I hope it made you think. One of my goals in life is to make myself (and others, hopefully) confront and think about things that normally go unsaid or unheeded. Thank you all again.
When Hikaru knocked on the door of room 341 sometime in February, no one answered.
Hikaru knocked louder.
There was no answer. He tried the door, but it was locked.
"HEY!" he shouted. No answer.
"Touya, if you've just up and died on me, you're even worse than Sai!" Hikaru yelled at the door, kicking it furiously.
"Excuse me, are you looking for someone?" Akira's nurse asked him, poking her head out from another room.
"Where the hell did Touya go?" Hikaru shouted, not remembering to watch his language.
"Now calm down," the nurse said comfortingly. "He's having his surgery today. Didn't he tell you?"
"Now that you mention it…," Hikaru trailed off and thought. "Oh, yeah. He said something like, 'I'm not going to be available next week,' or…um…something."
"See?" said the nurse. "And I think it would be best if you don't come next week – lately you two have started shouting at each other again, and Touya-kun does need his rest, especially after this."
Hikaru nearly rolled his eyes. Akira had flat-out said, "I'd like it if you'd come more often, Shindou," a few weeks ago. The stupid nurse didn't know what was good for Touya, geez. Even Touya's dad had approved when he had visited with Akira at the same time Hikaru came. But he only said the classic teenager line: "Yeah, sure, whatever."
"Good," said the nurse, closing the door to the other room again.
Hikaru was about to turn when he changed his mind and banged on the door again.
"Yes?" the nurse said, now sounding impatient.
"When's Touya getting out of surgery?"
"Two weeks, I said! Can't you wait two weeks?" the nurse asked, obviously annoyed. "He won't call you, I can tell you that – I took it out of his room today when he left."
"You can't just do that to Touya!" Hikaru half-shouted. "You're cutting him off from everything!"
The nurse slammed the door after a cool, "Goodbye."
Hikaru left the hospital, slamming every door he could along the way.
Two weeks later, Hikaru heard a scratching noise coming from behind Akira's door. He opened it hesitantly to find Akira struggling to push himself out in a wheelchair.
Akira sighed and leaned back in the chair. "You know, I was trying to open that door myself, Shindou."
"That's the first thing you say?" said Hikaru.
"You didn't come last week," Akira retorted. "And the nurse disconnected the phone."
"She's the one that kicked me out!" Hikaru exclaimed.
"That only says you're a horrible sneak!" said Akira.
"That's supposed to be a good thing!" Hikaru said.
This conversation eventually reached shouting levels, and the nurse ran down the hall to find Akira halfway out of his room in his wheelchair and Hikaru trying to close the door on him.
"Touya-kun!" the nurse cried. "Get back in bed!"
"Damn it," Akira hissed. He yelled, "This is all your fault, Shindou!"
"How is this my fault?" asked Hikaru. "You're the one trying to get out in that stupid chair!"
"I'm the one who can't walk at the moment!" Akira shouted, but he looked stricken. "God, Shindou, if this isn't my fault and if it's not your fault, then whose is it?"
"Well, maybe it is your fault!" yelled Hikaru.
"Then maybe you can tell me what the cure is!" Akira screamed at him.
"Touya-kun, get back in–" the nurse started, trying to grab Touya's chair.
"NO!" Akira pushed the nurse back, leapt out of the chair, trembled for a second, and then fell with a "thump!" to the floor.
Hikaru could only stare at Akira as he tried to push himself up from the ground. The nurse kept saying, "Oh, lord, oh, dear lord," while Akira continued his unsuccessful efforts.
Finally, Hikaru held out his hand for Akira to take.
Akira looked up at Hikaru, cold fury etched in his eyes.
Hikaru stepped back.
The nurse ran to get help. It was as if time was moving in slow motion.
After five minutes, Akira gave up. He just placed his head back on the floor and closed his eyes, waiting with dread for the doctor to come and get someone to watch him for twenty-four hours a day like he had threatened if Akira attempted to leave his room again.
Hikaru looked up and down the empty hallway, and all was clear. He picked up Akira and slung him over his shoulder.
"Have you been eating anything?" Hikaru asked Akira, who shook his head silently, expecting to be dumped in his bed and then left there.
Instead, Hikaru started walking calmly down the hall and pressed the "down" arrow on the elevator.
Akira's eyes widened as he realized what Hikaru was doing. "Shindou, are you insane?" Akira whispered.
"It's not like you can get much worse," Hikaru said truthfully. "You want out. What's your address?"
Akira almost smiled. Perhaps it was time to re-evaluate his thoughts of Shindou yet again. He told Hikaru his address quietly as they rode down the elevator.
"Do you think you can stand up long enough to fool the receptionists?" Hikaru asked.
"I think so," said Akira. He leaned shakily against the elevator railing. "Yes. I can." The elevator opened on the first floor. "Let's go."
They walked out so that Hikaru faced the receptionists, so that Akira could lean on Hikaru without anyone seeing. They made it out of the hospital without detection.
Akira began to shake immediately. "Shindou, do you realize it's February?"
"Here, then," said Hikaru, putting his coat on Akira. "Which train should we take?"
Twenty minutes later, Akira and Hikaru – who were both completely exhausted from trying to walk and from supporting another fifteen-year-old, respectively – stood in front of Akira's Japanese-style house.
"I'm starting to get second thoughts, Shindou," said Akira.
"Look, you're probably going to have to go back anyway, right? Might as well come home for a while," said Hikaru.
Akira smiled a bit and said, "Oh, I see," just as he did in a discussion.
"You said it first," Hikaru said.
"Yes. I said it first. Let's go," said Akira.
Hikaru rang the doorbell and the rather intimidating Touya Kouyou opened it to find his son and his son's rival standing in the doorway.
Later, Hikaru wished he had had a camera with him – it was the only time anyone had ever seen the former Meijin look completely stunned.
"Akira!" was all he said, and he pulled Akira into the house. Hikaru followed hesitantly.
Akira was quickly put on a couch before he collapsed, and Hikaru sat in the Seiza style next to him so that he could also face Akira's father.
"Your mother is out," Touya Kouyou said. "But Shindou-kun, Akira, what possessed you to do something so foolish?"
Hikaru and Akira looked at each other, and Akira decided he should answer. "I needed to come back here, so Shindou accompanied me."
"Dragged you, more like," Hikaru said under his breath.
"That isn't my fault; they gave me sedatives," said Akira.
Touya Kouyou finally said, "Akira, you will return to that hospital and stay there as long as necessary. Is that understood?"
"Yes," Akira said quietly.
"Do you both understand that you have done something extremely careless?" his father continued.
"Yes," Hikaru and Akira said.
"Will either of you do anything like this again?"
"Yes," said Hikaru.
If Akira had had the strength to, he would've slapped his forehead. "That was your cue to say, 'No,' Shindou."
Hikaru suddenly realized that the former Meijin hadn't said, "You won't do something like this again," and looked as if he knew he was about to get into trouble. "Um, I'm very sorry, Touya-sensei, I meant–"
"I know," Touya Kouyou said. "I am going to phone the hospital. Shindou-kun, you should go home. Akira, stay there…and never do anything like this ever again."
Akira nodded while looking at the floor. His father left the room.
"Man, he was scary," Hikaru blurted before he could stop himself.
"No. He is only concerned about my health, Shindou. I knew this wasn't a good idea…." Akira sighed heavily.
"You'd think he'd be happy you were home, though," said Hikaru.
"No, Shindou, my father…." Akira's voice went taut, and then he suddenly exclaimed, "His son is dying, Shindou! What would you make of it? What if doing this has – has – just leave!"
After this, Hikaru realized that there was a serious chance that Touya might die. He had always thought that Touya would pull through – it was Touya, after all. Touya, the one who had always pushed the boundaries of the game; Touya, the one who had chased after Sai with relentless and fierce determination for years; Touya, the one who came closest to knowing everything about Sai anyone on the outside of Hikaru's world could ever know.
Hikaru went home and got into bed.
At first, he hadn't believed Touya would just die.
But he hadn't believed Sai when Sai had said he was disappearing, either.
Touya just couldn't die like Sai. Sai had lived for a thousand years. Akira had only lived for a little less than sixteen. They still had to be friends, still had to be rivals, still had to play the Divine Move!
When Hikaru woke up, he told himself that Touya wouldn't die just yet, so long as he was concerned. But he didn't go to see Touya for a while after that.
And Akira didn't call him. Not even once.
It was April when Hikaru received the second letter. It was short, but it wasn't sweet. It read:
Come here. They've put me back in 341. This is short because after five minutes my hand can't seem to be able to hold a pen anymore, so get here before I have to steal a phone.
The writing was slanted and looked as if it had been written by a first-grader.
Hikaru stood up from the kitchen table so fast his mother turned around and said, "What's wrong?"
"Touya," Hikaru said.
"Oh, that pro who's called you a few times?" his mother asked.
"Yeah, I've got to go," said Hikaru. "I think he's gotten worse. Bye!" He ran out, not answering his mother's question of, "Is he sick?"
Hikaru ran all the way to the train and got on the fastest one available. He reached the hospital in a record time of seven minutes. He pushed the elevator button, but since it didn't open immediately, he skipped it and ran up the stairs three at a time.
He sped down the hall that started with room 301 and eventually got to 341. He flung the door open, half-shouting, "Touya!"
Akira turned his head slowly from where he was lying in bed and only looked at Hikaru. Hikaru stared back; Akira looked like he was attached to at least three machines, which were giving off new readings constantly.
"I was hoping you would come today," Akira said softly.
"Well, I was all worried about the phone," Hikaru joked. "It would've gotten an earache if you had found it."
Akira half-smiled at the thought. Then he said, "I was hoping you would come today," again.
"Why?" Hikaru asked.
"This might sound a bit silly, but I was hoping you would come on my birthday," Akira confessed. "And today is my birthday."
Hikaru didn't say he thought it sounded a bit silly. But, since Akira was stuck here, he probably thought it would be nice if he got more visitors on his birthday.
So, Hikaru sat down and began preparing the Go board.
"Shindou," said Akira.
Hikaru, who had been about to place a handful of stones on the board so they could nigiri, let them fall back into the bowl.
"I could barely pick them up this morning," said Akira, "and I feel more tired now. I can't even point. That's…pitiful."
Hikaru secretly agreed, but Akira wasn't very cheery anyway, so Hikaru thought his comment would only make it worse.
The sky darkened outside Akira's window as they sat in silence for a while.
"Last year, do you remember when we played against each other for the first time as pros?" said Akira.
"Of course I do!" said Hikaru.
"And I said that I saw Sai in you, but that the game you play is what you are, and since that won't change, that's all I need?"
"Yeah," Hikaru said, wondering where this was leading.
"Then you said, 'Yeah, maybe I'll tell you everything someday,'" said Akira. He was quiet for another minute before he continued, "Shindou, please tell me. Please say 'someday' is today. I've finally worked out that I've been trying to do three things: I wanted to win once – just once – against Father when I had no handicap, and I did that this morning. And I wanted to know your whole story for my second. At this point, I'll believe anything and everything you say, Shindou. I promise."
Hikaru stared, half in shock and half in awe. "Touya…."
Akira held his gaze with the eyes he had while he was playing a game. They were the only part of Akira that Hikaru recognized anymore, because Akira's worn-out body didn't fit him at all. Akira said, "There are only so many more days that can be 'someday,' Shindou."
Hikaru took a deep breath. "All right."
"Everything. You have to tell everything, Shindou."
"Well, there was this day when I was in sixth grade. It was actually only a few days before I met you. I was with Akari – a neighbor of mine – and I was looking for old stuff to sell in my grandpa's shed because my parents had cut my allowance for scoring eight points on my social studies test."
"I cannot say that I'm surprised, Shindou," said Akira, sounding a bit amused.
"Yeah, shut up, Touya. Anyway, I saw blood stains on the Go board, and I heard a voice, and I got freaked out and fell unconscious. But when I woke up, I met Sai."
"Sai!" Akira interjected. "Who is Sai?"
"I'm getting there, hold on!" said Hikaru. "He was a ghost from the Heian Era, and all he could talk about was playing Go…."
For the next hour and a half, all Akira did was listen to Hikaru tell the story of his adventures with Sai, from going to the Go salon to becoming a pro to Sai disappearing, all the way up until right after his first game with Akira as a pro.
"So you were right," Hikaru concluded. "Sai was inside me, and now he's in my Go." He hesitated before asking, "Do you even believe me?"
Akira didn't answer for a long time. Finally, he said, "Yes."
"Good," said Hikaru. "But don't tell anyone, okay?"
"I won't," Akira said. "Nobody would believe me."
"You got that right," said Hikaru.
"It's all so clear now," Akira murmured, more to himself than to Hikaru. He looked up, smiling, and said, "Shindou…thank you."
Hikaru shrugged. "Anytime." He stood up to go and glanced out the window as he did so. "Darn. It's raining."
Akira looked out the window as well. "I don't mind."
"That's because you're the one staying inside," Hikaru grumbled.
"Shindou – stay for another hour. Please."
Hikaru looked at his watch; it was already past nine. Oh, well, his mother would have to worry about him later. Akira sounded half desperate. "Sure," said Hikaru. He sat back down.
"I want to show you a game," said Akira. "See that lever on the side of the bed? Turn it clockwise."
Hikaru got up again and turned the lever, which made half of Akira's bed rise so that he was sitting up.
The first stone slipped through Akira's fingers, but the second he held onto firmly. He began to play the game from memory confidently, but stopped after a devastating move made by black, where he faltered and frowned down at the board.
"Shindou," he nearly whispered, "you can read this out to the end, can't you?"
"I think," said Hikaru. "Black wins by half a point."
Akira sighed. "That's what I thought as well. I thought that maybe…maybe white should resign."
Hikaru stared at the board for a long time, knowing Akira was watching him. Finally, Hikaru said, "Yeah. White can resign. White can still fight over here, but black will still win by half a point."
"Thank you, Shindou," Akira sighed. "I just needed to make sure that white could resign. No one would protest if white resigns, right?"
"I don't think anyone would," said Hikaru, wondering what Akira was getting to and why Akira was thanking him so many times.
"Would you mind making it so I could lie down again?"
A few minutes later, Akira was lying down again and Hikaru was sitting in front of the board.
Abruptly, thunder crashed all around them and the lights went out. Soft green light began illuminating the room from the hospital's back-up power source.
Akira broke the silence. "I said I had three goals and that I've achieved two."
"The third was to play the Divine Move."
Hikaru wasn't surprised. So he only nodded again.
"But I've decided something."
"What?" Hikaru asked.
"At first I was angry about this, this illness – at God, whoever dictated this, and at myself. I couldn't believe it, either. Then I began to dread everything – the doctors, the surgery, everything. But I also wanted anything that would grant me more time. But now, I've decided something," said Akira. He smiled a bit.
"Well, what?" said Hikaru.
"You and Sai…. You may play the Divine Move." Akira looked very peaceful, almost content, when he said this, and watching lightning flash across the sky outside his window with an ethereal sense of serenity.
"Touya…wait, Touya, what do you mean?" Hikaru said suddenly.
"I meant exactly what I said, Shindou. I only hope that I may be there to see that when it happens," said Akira, looking back at Hikaru, still smiling calmly.
"I would like it if you stayed a bit longer, if you could," Akira said quietly. "But I am so tired, Shindou…. So, I will have to see you play the Divine Move tomorrow. I'm sorry…but would you mind staying until I fell asleep?" Akira closed his eyes, not even waiting for Hikaru to answer.
Hikaru could only watch as Akira drifted off in the darkness of the room.
After a few minutes, one of the machines began beeping quietly.
It began to beep more insistently. Hikaru watched it for a few seconds, and then looked back to Touya.
But he could tell Touya was gone. He had gone to the place where Sai was. He, with Hikaru's reassurance that it was justified, had resigned and ended the game.
Hikaru took a shaky breath. Both Sai and Touya Akira, both of his friends, were gone.
But he did remember their words and their games, and someday, they would both be with him again.
And that would be many years later, when he, in the middle of the most important game he would ever play, saw Sai and Touya sitting beside him.
All three agreed on one point that would be the best to play.
Sai pointed with his fan, weeping, and Akira nodded his agreement, smiling as he had been the last time Hikaru had seen him.
Hikaru raised his hand high above the board, and felt Sai and Touya with him, as he placed the stone.
Together, through all their trials and, finally, their friendship, they had played what would be known from that moment on as the Divine Move.
おわり The end.
Author's Ending Notes: This is probably one of the most difficult, and, at the same times, one of the most simple things I've ever written. I've been thinking a lot about life lately, and how death plays a role in it, and how things sometimes aren't that fair. I think I will title this You May Play the Divine Move because that is, in and of itself, the most important statement in this story.
This was meant to give me an outlet in order to think about these things, which I find one of the most challenging topics I've ever given thought to (along with metacognativity). I interspersed a tiny bit of humor (such as Kuwabara Hon'inbou...hee hee) in the hopes that everyone can find something good about someone's life, no matter how or when or why he or she dies. This has just been a good thing to let out. ありがとう(thank you).