Touya Kouyo dies the night his son takes the Meijin title. He realizes it the moment he opens his eyes - he's standing in the middle of a room that is gradually fading from black to blue rather than laying in bed with Akiko's warmth against him.
(Akiko wakes up in a panic and turns to her husband, only to find him laying motionless on this side. "Dear," she says quietly, tears gathering in her eyes. She refuses to believe what she knows is true. "Kouyo-san?" She places a hand on his bare shoulder and grasps for the phone.
His skin is cold.)
He takes a step forward, and he is suddenly wearing his hakama. It is light against his skin, but he can't feel the familiar fabric. He shrugs off the realization and continues walking. There is somewhere he needs to be, someone he needs to meet, though he's not sure where to go, only trusts his feet to lead the way.
(The phone is ringing. Hikaru rolls over and buries his head under the pillow. A quick glance at the clock tells him that it is three fourty two am.
The phone keeps ringing.
He feels Touya stir next to him and quickly grabs the phone. No sense in them both getting no sleep.
"Hello?" he mumbles into the phone. This had better be an emergency, he thinks.
"Shindou-kun?" a familiar voice says softly.
Hikaru immediately straightens. "Touya-san, what's wrong?"
He listens numbly as she explains. Distantly, he hears himself tell her to wait while he wakes Touya.
"What is it, Shindou?" Touya grumbles once Hikaru starts shaking him.
He hands over the phone. "It's your mom.")
He's not sure how long he's been walking - it feels like years and minutes at the same time. He stops now, though, and stares at the person before him.
Would you like to play a game? the stranger asks, motioning to a goban that appears as suddenly as the man.
Kouyo nods, and they take their places.
(The house is crowded with people coming to pay their respects. He sees Akiko-san and Akira-kun, though it's only for a moment before they're swallowed by well-wishers.
Saeki-kun is standing next to him, awkwardly looking around. It occurs to Hiroyuki that Saeki-kun's never been here before.
He touches Saeki-kun's hand and offers him a weak smile. "I'm going to see Akiko-san and Akira-kun, see if there's anything else I can do to..." He trails off, and Saeki-kun squeezes his hand.
"I'll go with you," Saeki-kun says.)
They have only placed three stones each, but he is certain the man before him is Sai. He places his next stone - tsuke in the upper right corner - and Kouyo responds.
(Seiji takes over study group, though he's not sure whether or not it's a good idea. He pushes past his uncertainty, however, and recreates his last game with Touya-sensei.
The group watches in silence as the stones are placed. When Seiji places the last move, Shirakawa smiles sadly.)
Chuuban goes quickly, yet each move seems to take an eternity. They are tied - every time Kouyo takes the lead, Sai makes up the lost ground with breathtaking ability, while Kouyo catches up with cunning skill he has only recently acquired.
The patterns on the board glow, and Kouyo nows that this is the best game he has ever, and will ever, play. He wishes Akira could see it.
(It's been a month, and Akira is still numb. Shindou has been doing everything he can to help - taking tutoring sessions, running study group, completing all of the chores - and he can see that it's taking its toll.
Shindou is asleep on the couch when Akira leaves.
He wanders around Shinjuku for a while until he finds a small store that sells American band t-shirts. He picks up a My Chemical Romance and a Fall Out Boy shirt, pays the cashier, and heads home.
He's barely two feet into the apartment before Shindou has his arms wrapped around him. Akira closes the door and looks at Shindou - beautiful, frightened Shindou - and drops the bag in his hand. He lets himself be engulfed in Shindou's embrace.
"I thought you weren't coming back," Shindou whispers against his neck.
Akira can hear the underlying like Sai. He adds his own like Father, and clings to Shindou.)
There are no more moves to make - adding even one more stone would destroy the beauty of the game just played. They agree to call it a draw.
Is this it? Kouyo asks, running a finger reverently along the edge of the goban.
Sai shakes his head. This is close, he says.
Kouyo nods. We'll reach it.
So will they.
(It occurs to Hikaru a year later after rereading an article in which someone quoted him asking, "I wonder if the God of go is lonely?" that, no, he isn't.
At least, not anymore.)