It was barely four o'clock and already the sky was starting to grow light. Touya lay in bed wondering whether to try to fall asleep again, or just give up and get up. He'd surprised himself by not having any trouble falling asleep the night before, but he'd woken after only three or four hours and hadn't slept again.
He was surprised that he didn't feel more angry at Shindou. Of course Shindou hadn't died on purpose, but it was just the inconsiderate sort of thing that he'd do, on purpose or not. Maybe the fact that this time Touya knew what had happened helped. Well, a little bit. Being older helped too. All the same, it bothered him. All the questions he'd wanted to ask. The answers he'd never get.
Last night he'd thought about drinking Shindou's bottle of booze. As a final gesture of affection, perhaps. Or maybe just because he felt like getting truly hammered. But he hadn't, and the bottle was now safely out of sight at the back of one of the kitchen cabinets. He'd probably come across it the next time he moved, laugh and throw it in the trash. Maybe.
The go board was a different story. There would be something wrong about throwing away a go board, even a cheap, much-used one like Shindou's. But he didn't want to keep looking at it sitting there in the corner of his living room. Maybe the Go Association had a "donate-a-board" program. Surely some go club would be happy to get it.
Eventually he gave up on the possibility of sleep. He got up, showered and dressed. He didn't have any matches today, but he didn't want to stay inside. He thought of one thing he ought to take care of.
Touya was glad to see Amano-san at his desk. The man was getting on in years, and had been going to retire 'any time now' for close to a decade. Touya paused at the door, having dodged several young reporters whose hopes for a big interview were, he noted with relief, outweighed by their trepidation at approaching a title holder unbidden.
"Kisei!" Amano rose from behind the desk. "What can I do for you? It's an honor."
Touya couldn't help smiling. "You might just as well call me Touya-kun, Amano-san. You've known me since I was old enough to walk. As it happens there is something you can do for me. I have something I'd like printed in Weekly Go. You print notices of this sort from time to time, as I recall. I don't know if this is worded as you would prefer, so make changes as you see fit," Touya said, handing him a sheet of paper.
Shindou Hikaru, former go professional, died on the 5th of May in Tokyo at age 42 after a long illness. He will be remembered by older go fans as one of the most talented young players of his generation. At age 13, less than two years after beginning his study of go, he passed the pro exam, despite taking it the same year as Isumi Shinichirou and Honda Toshinori, both of whom passed the following year. Apart from a loss to Touya Kouyou in the 1-dan series, he never lost an official match as a pro. However, soon after the start of his pro career he abruptly vanished from the go world and never returned. His reasons for abandoning go remain unknown. He leaves no survivors.
"I'm not sure if it's accurate to say that he never lost a match as a pro." Touya said. "After all, when he stopped going to matches he was ruled to have lost all of those matches by default. But during his brief time as a pro, he never lost a match he actually appeared for. Do you remember Shindou, Amano-san?"
"Of course I do. I'm getting old, Touya-kun, and I couldn't possibly tell you what I had for dinner last night. But I'll never forget that match with your father, where Shindou took twenty minutes to make his first move. I was right there in the room with them, you know. I've never seen anything like it, before or since. I wouldn't forget anything like that. Had you kept in touch with Shindou-kun over the years?"
"Not at all. I hadn't seen him since soon after he quit go. I happened upon him by chance this winter. I didn't recognize him, but he recognized me. Eventually, we- renewed our acquaintance. He no longer played go, but he had continued to study it. Amano-san, let me tell you something off the record."
"Certainly. May I ask, why off the record?"
"Because it's really speculation on my part, and some things Shindou told me that -he might have lied to me about. But so far as I know, when I recently met him, he hadn't played a game of go in almost thirty years. Not a single game. He had been completely out of touch with the go world for almost all that time. Only in the last couple of years he started subscribing to Weekly Go. He would play over the games you printed and analyze them. Just before he died, I visited him and we played a game. Amano-san, I've been studying go full time my entire life. I started studying go ten years before Shindou did, and kept studying for another twenty-five years after he abandoned the game."
"And? You did beat him, didn't you?"
"I was barely winning when the game was-broken off. Amano-san, no other go player I know of could have beaten him. I know that sounds egotistical, but I've- I've always been interested in Shindou's go. And-"
"He was playing blind go. His eyes were bothering him, so he played lying down with his eyes closed. He had me call out my moves, and he called his out. I placed the stones for both of us. I knew he had been a pro of course, but even so I was astonished that he could play at such a high level, blind and not having played a game in years. I can't imagine how strong he might have gotten if he had remained a pro and kept studying the game all these years."
"It's a terrible shame that he stopped playing, then."
"Yes. Yes, it is."
"Well then, Touya-kun. I'll see something gets into the next Weekly Go. The advantage of being a weekly is that we can take a day or two to call around and get people's comments or memories of Shindou. We'll do anything from a brief notice like this," Amano-san said, waving the paper Touya had given him, "to as much as half a page. Depending on the response we get."
Out in the hall, Touya breathed a sigh of relief. He'd been worried that he might get emotional- start crying, or even shouting with anger. Where Shindou was concerned, he still couldn't always predict how he'd react. What would Amano-san have thought?
He got off the elevator and instantly came face to face with Shirakawa-san.
"Kisei!" the older man smiled at him. "It's unusual to see you here on a Saturday!"
"I had some business upstairs, Shirakawa-san." Touya had hoped to avoid running into anyone, but now that he thought about it, this was probably a good thing. "Umm, Shirakawa-san?"
"I'm afraid I have some bad news. I really should tell you, as you're a student of Morishita-san."
"Bad news?" Shirakawa looked puzzled.
"Yes. Shindou Hikaru, one of your teacher's former students, has passed away. Did you know him?"
"Oh, yes. He even came to my go class. That was only a year or so before he became an insei and started coming to sensei's study sessions with Waya-kun. It really doesn't seem so long ago. He didn't know a thing about go. I remember showing him the 'ladder'. And he grew so strong so fast." Shirakawa-san seemed lost in thought. This might be a good time to slip out of here, Touya thought.
"Well, I'd better be going, Shirakawa-san." Touya got half way to the door but then stopped and turned. "Shirakawa-san?"
"I'm thinking of taking a student. Perhaps one of the more promising insei does not have a teacher?"
A/N: Well, that's the end. I never expected this story to grow so long. If I were a better writer I could have written just the deathbed scene (my original intention), and say all the things I wanted to say just with that. But it is what it is.
My thanks to all reviewers, especially those who reviewed later chapters. I needed of encouragement to get me through the later stages. My special thanks to Risha11, who provided the title for the last chapter in response to my query.
Finally, I'm going to close with a very brief epilog. It's rather silly and doesn't match the tone of the rest of Closure, so I don't really consider it part of the story. But it amused me to write it, so I thought perhaps someone would like to read it. (The idea of doing an epilog at all was inspired at least in part by the "bonus" material at the end of volume 6, which I read just the other day. As an aside, I would recommend anyone who knows only the anime to go and read the manga. Much of it is more or less identical, but some things are different.)
Touya sat at the go board, waiting for his student. He checked his watch and frowned. Almost ten minutes late. So far Mori-san had been such a good pupil. In addition to being as promising a go player as Shirakawa-san had said, she was polite, never late, and best of all didn't remind him of Shindou at all. And she'd gratefully accepted the used go board he'd offered her.
He heard footsteps of someone running down the hall towards him. His student entered, flushed and out of breath.
"I'm sorry I'm late, sensei. It's just that I got into an argument on the bus with this complete jerk and I forgot my stop. I got off at the next one but I had to run all the way back here. And it's all his fault! Yes it is, too! Seriously, sensei, did you ever have somebody who totally drove you nuts? All the time, even at night when normal people have to sleep?"
"Excuse me, Mori-san, but we're already late beginning our lesson." Touya answered, somewhat bewildered by his student's outburst.
"Sorry, sensei. But all the same, what kind of jerk keeps opening with crazy moves like this?"
Instead of placing her four handicap stones, Mori reached into the goke, pulled out a single stone and slammed it onto the board with a loud thwack.
"Seriously, 4-2? What kind of an opening move is that, sensei? Sensei, are you all right? Sensei?"