It was Akari that had gotten him started with this. His mother, her eyes filled with tears, had called his childhood friend over in an attempt to alleviate some of her worry, his pain; he felt a slight twinge of guilt at his mother’s tears, but the dark tinted eyes remained haunted. Empty. Devoid of the joy and brightness that once filled them.
Akari was the one that, despite her falling tears and minute sniffles, guided his limp hands. Took the time to shape the craft. Smiled at him, despairingly asking him to try, even if it seemed pointless to him, in the smile that did not reach her eyes.
She left, unable to watch her friend suffer in a world-weary silence. It hurt, walking away, and she wished she could bear some of his pain, if only a fraction, just to see his burden lifted for a second.
It was not until three days later, when he could not stand it anymore, that he picked up the package she had left.
His eyes traced her craft before he tried on his own. It came out lopsided, but recognizable, and he continued with desperate gestures. The second was more pronounced, but he felt a strange sense of loss at the changes.
Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven.
Weak creases became sharper as he committed himself to doing something, anything, to make the agony leave, if only for a moment, before it reverberated darkly through his heart – his soul – again.
He sat at their goban, which now had a small pile of his efforts littering it. A tray was set next to him, but it remained untouched.
Fourteen. Fifteen. Sixteen. Seventeen. Eighteen. Nineteen. Twenty.
The stack grew steadily, and his mother had given up standing there, helpless. In her denial, she had tried to pretend everything was all right. He could relate. He just wanted to hide, to stop...
Akari had come by again. She had burst into tears upon seeing the little crafts, and he could not fathom why. Was it not her that wanted him to find something to distract himself with? What he was doing did just that, and he was grateful.
One hundred and one.
His father had come home. It was rare that the businessman ever spent much time in their household, but he figured that the man had returned from his work-related trip at his mother’s request. The man glared at his project, and swept it off his desk – where he had relocated them when they increased in number – angrily. His father had screamed, had yelled, and even moved to strike him before his mother intervened, ushering her husband out of her son’s room.
He sat unmoving through it all, only bending to retrieve his efforts, straightening wings with gentle ministrations. He continued creating once he was finished repairing. If only his heart was so easy to “fix”.
One hundred and twenty.
They waited in his living room while his mother called him. Her pleas were ignored, and after minutes of silence, she had started crying again. The shorter brunet had barged into his room anyways, his fiery temper lit.
Amidst screams, yells, shouts and accusations, he sat, silent.
One hundred and fifty-six.
He stopped folding. His fingers felt numb, useless, and he screamed. What was the point of all this?
The loud proof of his torture did not cease to be until well through the night.
One hundred and fifty-seven.
He noted dully that the milieu was altered. The familiar walls of his room were replaced with striking white, everywhere. But that was all right. His episode had ended, and his resolve was hardened.
He screamed and screamed, until his voice was hoarse. Then he screamed some more. It was not until they brought him his work, in a basket, that he stopped, immediately quieting. Picking up the unfinished project, he began again.
Three hundred and four.
His progress was astounding now that he had put his mind to it. Those around him supposed that he was always like that, even as a child, a budding prodigy, yet unrecognized.
But, for whatever reason, he was never deterred.
Nutrition and rest were unnecessary luxuries, and the only time he paused was when the tall woman replaced the needle in his arm, to prevent her from disturbing his creations.
The needle stung, but it went unnoticed to his pain-addled mind.
Five hundred and seventeen.
His mind felt fuzzy, unclear. Sheer resolve kept him awake, and drove away the hunger pangs. Soon.
Seven hundred and seventy-seven.
He was stuck on the bed. But that was okay.
Those he knew had stopped visiting, but that was fine too.
It was not them that would stop the pain that haunted him, nearly drove him insane. As he finished his latest, he rubbed calloused fingertips together. It was supposed to hurt, the broken skin, rubbed raw from folding, but he refused to let anyone touch him.
The slightest hint that someone was coming set him screaming again.
Eight hundred thirty-one.
He was so close. Close to the relief that would drive away the suffering. Bring back the ghosts. No. Don’t leave.
Nine hundred and ninety-eight.
Touya. The teen did not say anything, and his nurses were surprised when ear-piercing yells did not fill the room.
The fiery, yet soothing eyes watched him carefully, but did nothing to stop him from finishing his third to last piece. The third to last piece of his puzzle.
Limbs weak and heavy, he carefully folded in the last crease, and placed it with the others.
He did not object when Touya carefully brushed them out of his lap and onto the floor to join the others that were completed, and adjusted his pillows. He did not fight as he was propped up gently and a go board placed in front of him.
He did not make a sound as Touya closed the door, with its curious and amazed nurses outside gazing in at them.
And when Touya handed him one goke, he did not protest at the cool resolve in the other’s eyes.
Setting down one stone, he felt a rush, and the sheer thrill that had eluded him for so long.
He sighed, and settled himself into the pillows, hands slowly lifting to the board.
Touya understood, in his own way. And even in the midst of the burning agony, he appreciated that.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine.
The game was finished. Touya had cleared it away, and by his bright eyes, he had clearly etched it into his memory.
Touya did not speak, but rather lowered his head, eyes casting to the floor. His voice pierced through the room when he did.
“Promise to be happy with whatever you’re striving for, when you achieve it. Promise me that one day, we’ll have another game as astounding as this one.”
He nodded minutely, sincerely. Voice cracking from lack of use and minimal liquids, he answered, “I promise.”
Touya nodded and left, closing the door behind him, with a soft, “Goodbye.” He stopped halfway. “No. I will see you later.”
The person left in the room nodded, even if Touya had left already.
Picking up one of his last pieces of paper, he creased it in half. Nine hundred and ninety-nine, the penultimate creation.
Gently pulling the wings of the last one apart, he set the creation down.
Holding it to his chest weakly, he sighed, this particular expression on his face oddly peaceful as he lay on the white bed, eyes cast towards the ceiling.
I...I w-wish I could be with Sai. Together. Forever, with lots of go, in his presence. With him. Always.
The room’s sounds floated around, muted. And as he closed his eyes, his hand dropped from his chest, still cradling the crane. The crane twitched, before it fluttered gently to the floor, joining its brethren.
A thousand paper cranes, dancing on the floor, encouraged by the light breeze trailing through the room.
Cool darkness, enveloping silence, and peace.
At long last, peace.
One final labored breath, one last frantic beat, before silence. Dark, enveloping silence, and comforting relief. And the signal of an ending, entwined, reassuringly, with the hopes of a different beginning.