He's sitting, as usual, by his goban, and there is someone sitting on the other side of it, but although he is eager to play, they aren't playing.
"I always thought it would be me, but now I know how mistaken I was," the one he hopes to be his opponent says.
"Is that so?" he says, without truly understanding what the other is talking about.
His opponent nods. He tries to look more carefully, but somehow, although he can see the person sitting on the other side of the goban, he can't catch any details. If he looks away, he forgets what the other looks like - and even when he is watching hard, he can't be quite certain. In fact, he doesn't even know whether 'he' is the correct pronoun. He is a little surprised to realize he doesn't really care; all he wants is to play a game.
But his opponent doesn't make a move to grab the stones. "I don't anymore have in myself what it takes," he (she?) explains. Kouyou hears the sadness in his voice, and relents. Perhaps the game can wait a moment.
"Why?" he asks, and the other seems startled.
"It takes a child," he mutters, and somehow it sounds like he is avoiding the question. "It takes a child to play the hand of god."
"Certainly not," Kouyou states. "A child cannot possibly play on such a level."
"Perhaps not a child, then," the other admits. "But someone childlike. Someone who hasn't yet lost child's innocence, child's eyes that look at the world eagerly and with wonder, child's curiosity that leads him to explore the unknown and break the boundaries."
"And you think you have lost this." There is no answer, but he knows it, nevertheless.
Kouyou shakes his head. "Come, let's play. I will prove you wrong."
He is standing on a high, grassy hill, and it's in the middle of the night. The sky above is black, but a little ahead, on the highest point of the hill, stands Shindou with a bowl of white go stones in his hands. He's throwing the stones up into the sky, and they stay there, shining and twinkling like stars.
"What are you doing?" he asks.
Shindou looks back with a grin. "What does it look like? I'm creating the universe."
He looks up into the sky where stars are beginning to take familiar formations - but not, he suddenly realizes, familiar from the night sky he used to know, but from the thousands of games he has played. Like over there, the stones shine in the form of the first game he ever played with Shindou.
"Did you have to put that on the sky?" he asks, annoyed, but gets no reply. Instead, Shindou is humming happily as he goes on.
"Do you think you're a god now?" he tries again, but the other just laughs.
"Twinkle, twinkle, little star," Shindou sings as he throws the next handful up to the skies, "I don't wonder what you are..."
"That's not how it goes," Akira points out, but he is ignored.
"Cause I put you on the sky," the song goes on, and he snorts.
"Don't get carried away. You're not truly the creator, you know."
"...little go stone shining high! Twinkle, twinkle..."
"Shindou!" he yells. "Are you listening to me!"
"Yes?" Finally the other turns to look at him. He falls silent. What was he going to say? Oh. Yes.
"Don't throw all the stones to the sky. We need them for playing."
"Silly. Look! All the stones are right there. If you wanna play, let's play! Up in the skies!"
Akira realizes that the grassy hill has disappeared somewhere, and they're both floating high among the stars which are white go stones. "But..."
"Come!" Shindou laughs. "I might not be god, but I will find the hand of god some day. Won't you look for it with me?"
Akira looks up at him. He can see the black stones, the unexamined universe, in which the white stones shine bright. And so does Shindou, like a diamond among the stars. He is determined not to be any less bright, and he climbs higher after Shindou. "How I wonder what you are," he mutters to himself as he chases after his rival.
She is washing go stones. Dozens, hundreds of stones that her husband and son hold every day - or rather, maybe, stones that hold her husband and son day after day. Their edges are sharp, and she has to be careful not to get cuts on her hands. She takes a stone at a time, cleans it, dries it, and places it lovingly into the correct bowl, white ones into one, black ones into another.
She washes the stones, one by one, and she is worried. It's a strange, wordless worry, an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach, and she isn't certain what it is about. She washes the stones, and waits for the feeling to go away.
She looks behind. She didn't know that Akira is home - shouldn't he be out playing some official game or another - but there he is, standing in the doorway, looking at her with serious eyes.
"Why are you washing the stones, mother?"
She looks down at the stones. Why? Because they are go stones, her husband's go stones, and she has to see to it that they are clean.
"They are clean, mother. You just washed them."
She takes the next stone, cleans it in her fingers, dries it. Doesn't yet put it away, but stares at its black shining surface.
"Where have you been?" she asks. "I thought you were playing."
"I was. With Shindou. We played an eternity of games."
"Oh." An eternity of games? She wonders what he means by that. The single go stone still in her hands, she turns to face her son.
He is younger than she remembered. Still a child. A little child. With such serious eyes.
Don't be so serious, she wants to tell him. Please don't grow up. Be a child forever, happy and carefree, playing in the sun... But her child reaches his hand and tries to get the go stone. She holds it high, unwilling to give it to him, but in the end, facing his pleading eyes, let's go. The stone drops from her hands, and he picks it up, the seriousness giving place to wonder.
She kneels down beside him, cups his face in her hands. Looks hard into that young face. Smiles, a little sadly. "Just be happy," she whispers. "That's all I want."
Her smile reflects from his eyes, and he raises his hand, the go stone between his index and middle fingers. "Yes!" he exclaims, the smile spreading from his eyes to his face. "I will! I'll play even more with Shindou and we'll find the hand of god, and who knows what else!"
She watches him ran away, into the bright morning sun, and the tight feeling in her chest disappears.
The next morning is quiet at the Touya house. Akira can't help noticing the small, enigmatic smile on his mother's face as she watches him, and doesn't quite know what to make of it. He plans to ask his father for another game, but finds him sitting in front of his goban deep in thought, apparently mulling over some old game, and decides not to disturb him. Instead he goes to his own room and puts on some music, in a desperate attempt to get rid of the annoying children's song that has been stuck to his mind ever since he woke up. He has no idea where the song came from, but somehow he is certain it must be Shindou's fault. Which just figures.