Hikaru absent-mindedly tossed a bill at the cab driver as he slid out of the back seat. He slid his backpack further up his arm and closed the door. He heard the cab drive off, but didn't look back. He was here now. This was the next step.
The building in front of him felt old, though he could tell that it had been recently remodeled. Tokyo's Seikei University... It somehow reminded him of Children's Day and running through buildings with his eyes as wide as he could hold them. He'd been searching for something then, as well.
Akira was here somewhere. He'd be tucked away in a classroom right now, listening to a boring man spout boring rhetoric as he discussed Japanese history and the role government played. Hikaru had heard bits and pieces of the lectures when he called Akira, though it was sometimes hard to understand the background noise as the foreground noise was telling him not to call there anymore. Well, he wasn't exactly calling now.
With a little help from a group of passing students, Hikaru found the right building and right hallway, and after listening at a few doors, he found the right one. He took a deep breath and leaned against the wall with one sneakered foot propped against it. For the next twenty minutes, he stood there shifting positions and checking his watch. Finally, the door opened. A few students trickled out first, and then there he was.
Akira froze at the sight of Hikaru. His knuckles turned white as he clutched his books tighter to his chest. He moved forward only once he realized that he was blocking the other students. "... Shindou." It was like he had to remember his name from a far-away corner of his mind. "What are you doing here?"
"You told me not to call, so I came in person."
"I thought you'd realize what I meant."
"I did, Touya, and I thought it was bullshit. Now I'm here to get you to come back."
Akira came closer. "I don't think you get it, Shindou," Akira said with his eyes blazing like first-hand tengen. "There's nothing left for me there anymore." He walked away.
Hikaru grabbed Akira's shoulder and turned him back around. "There's me."
Akira smiled coldly. "And maybe someday you'll see how you helped all of this happen."
"I didn't kill him, Touya!"
"You might not have crashed the plane, but you set things in motion."
"I didn't play that game. I didn't make that bet! You think I wanted him dead? I wanted to play him again. Myself!"
"Then maybe you should have gone looking for Sai again! Since that's who my father was trying to find, then maybe they're together. Go have your games with memories, Shindou. I have work to do."
Hikaru let Akira shrug his hand off finally. "I just don't understand how you can honor his memory if you won't bother to remember your life with him. It was all go, Touya! Every second of it!" The sound echoed down the hallway as Akira turned a corner and disappeared from Hikaru's view once again.
It had been over a year now since Touya Kouyo and his wife, Akira's parents, had been on China Airlines flight 107 from Tokyo Narita to Taipei. It crashed into the ocean, almost two hours into the flight. Most of the wreckage was never found, and neither were most of the bodies.
It might not have been so bad for Akira if those two particular bodies hadn't been found, if he hadn't had to plan two funerals when he was supposed to be fighting for the Meijin title, and if he hadn't finally found out about Sai the day before it all happened. When Hikaru first went to Akira to comfort him, he was turned away. "Why couldn't you have just refused to play that last game for Sai? He would have left anyway!"
"And who's to say your father wouldn't have still gone to China without that one game?" But even Hikaru didn't believe that.
Hikaru had always believed that there were things in life that were destined to happen. Still, this seemed too cruel. After losing the Meijin preliminaries, Akira stopped coming to his matches. It was too similar to what had happened to him, Hikaru thought. Only, Akira didn't know any better than Hikaru had about where to look to find the important things. Hikaru had searched through every place he could find that might have some connection with Shuusaku. Akira had turned from go, which reminded him too much of the things he'd lost, and went back to school. He'd buried himself in his studies until he passed his high school equivalency exam, and then got into a good college.
Disregarding the people standing in the halls still looking at him, Hikaru pulled out his cell phone and dialed Akira's number again. It rang several times before he was answered with a curt, "What?"
"You're going to play one last game with me. Just one. Think of it as a last kiss with a girlfriend. You may not want to do it, but it's the only thing that'll get me to leave you alone."
There was a long period of silence, enough so that Hikaru checked his phone to make sure the call hadn't been disconnected. Then, "Okay. One. I have one more class today. Meet me at the main gate in an hour." Hikaru heard the disconnect and shut his phone and slid it into his pocket.
He spent the next hour trying to organize some of his thoughts. He walked around the campus, though never straying too far from the gate he'd meet Akira at, and wondered if Akira came to this park to study, or if he sat on this bench and watched the people passing by. With ten minutes left before the agreed-upon time, he headed to the gate and waited, noting that the sky was tinged with the first hints of sunset.
Akira was ten minutes late.
It surprised Hikaru, at first. He'd never known the other man to not be punctual. But there were always circumstances. Maybe his class had run long, or he'd had to organize a group project meeting for later, or he was just nervous. Hikaru wasn't betting on the last one, really, but he saw the hesitant way Akira walked toward him and took it for what it was worth. Neither one of them were comfortable with what he'd pushed the situation toward, but they both needed the game. It was either going to be the gateway back to go for Akira, or it would be their final game... the swan's song.
Hikaru had something of an idea of where Akira lived from what Ashiwara had told him, and as he began to follow Akira, he knew that wasn't where they were headed. Had the man not even kept a goban when he moved? Hikaru adjusted the strap of his bag on his shoulder and followed in silence. It was nearly twenty minutes later that they arrived at a go salon, but Hikaru thought it was a good sign. Akira knew where it was, even though it was too far away from his old home to be something he'd known about, well, before.
Akira looked at Hikaru expectantly when they approached the counter. Hikaru nodded and footed the bill for both of them. He was making Akira play, after all. They sat down in a darkened corner and reached to nigiri before they said a word.
Hikaru took white and picked up his first stone. This one was chipped just slightly along one otherwise smooth edge. He placed it on a star on Akira's side of the board.
Hesitantly, Akira picked up his first black stone. Yet, his fingers remembered the form easily and he was quick, then, to place his own stone.
They played in silence for nearly half an hour before Hikaru paused with a stone held above the board. "That's a move your father would have made."
Hikaru smiled. "This is how I found him."
A long pause. "Sai?"
Hikaru finally set his stone in place. "When Isumi came back from China, he wanted to play me to get over something that happened during our game in the pro exam so he could take it again with a clear mind."
"That's not the important part," Hikau said with a glare. "But I played him because he begged and, in that game, I found the best way that I can remember Sai. I see the moves he taught me and I remember watching his face when he played. I nearly couldn't finish the game with Isumi because I was crying too hard into my go ke."
"But aren't you sad when you remember?"
Hikaru's breath caught in his throat. "Well, yeah. Of course. Who wouldn't be? But wouldn't it be sadder to forget?" He shook his head. "Your father left you the Japanese Go world, Touya. Why else would he move on to other things?"
Akira let his fingers rest in his go ke. "I don't think I ever thought about it like that. It just always felt like he was just leaving me behind."
"How could he? You were almost as good as he was!"
"But not good enough."
Hikaru pulled Akira's hand from the go ke and found a single stone clutched in position. "You ran away from something that you *are*, Touya. Go isn't something guys like us just *do*. It's not a hobby, or something we do to show off. It's life. And, maybe you've found another one out here, but can you really tell me you're happy?"
Akira took a deep breath and sniffed back a runny nose. "Let me finish up this semester."
"Does that mean you're coming back?" Hikaru nudged the board as he leaned forward.
Smiling slightly, Akira straightened some of the stones. "With such persuasive arguments, how could I not?"
"And if I'm Meijin when you come back?"
"You won't be for long."