Hikaru's eyes narrow when he sees Akira standing just outside the Room of Enlightenment, and Akira's stomach plunges. “Why are you here?” Hikaru says, voice laced with suspicion. "No, wait, nevermind. Come here."
It's shortly before nine, and Hikaru ought to be focusing on his match with Saeki-san. Instead he's grabbed Akira by the wrist and is tugging him into the antechamber. Akira wants to say that he thought Hikaru would be glad to see him, but if he's being completely honest, he knows that's a lie. “You didn't have to bring that reporter with you,” Hikaru hisses.
“He just showed up,” Akira mutters, retrieving his arm from Hikaru's grip and brushing himself off. “He's been following me around for some interview. I didn't think he'd be here today." Hikaru rolls his eyes as if he thinks it's Akira's fault that the reporters won't leave him alone even though he just lost his last tournament match . Akira's patience thins. "So sorry,” he adds. “Are we interrupting your serious pre-match preparation?”
Hikaru rolls his eyes again and ignores him. “I thought you weren't speaking to me," he says dryly.
“I never said anything of the sort.”
“You didn't have to,” Hikaru says. “You've been too busy avoiding me.”
“You're the one who stopped coming to the salon!" The words sting more than Akira wants them to.
“Because what's the point in coming when you can barely look at me? And you won't even replay our match——”
“I am not having this conversation with you in public,” Akira interrupts desperately, throwing a glance over to where the Go Weekly reporter is staring at them openly, scribbling notes like mad on his annoying omnipresent tablet. When he agreed to this interview, he had thought, naively enough, that it might divert attention away from the game he lost to Hikaru, which is all anyone's wanted to talk about for weeks. But the reporter has asked some pointed questions, and what with him showing up here now, Akira has probably made a serious error in judgment.
“Then I guess we just won't have it at all,” Hikaru says, crossing his arms. “Since I never actually see you outside of the Institute anymore.”
“It's only been a couple of weeks,” Akira blurts, then feels like an idiot for even admitting that he's been avoiding Hikaru since he lost to him, because when he hears it aloud, it sounds just as ridiculous as he always expected it would.
“So? You're the greatest Go pro in half a century or whatever," Hikaru answers with an equally ridiculous hand wave. "Get over it."
"It's not that easy," Akira mutters, feeling his cheeks turn red.
"Well, hurry up! You're crazy if you think I'm going to slow down and wait for you to stop moping around,” Hikaru says, and hurt flares up, bright and angry, in the center of Akira's chest.
“Right, because it's not like I've ever done that for you before,” he snaps.
Hikaru's eyes go wide. “That's different,” he says, and Akira notes with a dry kind of satisfaction that Hikaru's lowered his voice at last.
Touya just looks back at him. It's not different. It's not any different, and he's sick of pretending that he's okay with the imbalance of secrets between them. Maybe it didn't matter when Hikaru was still catching up. But after their last match, everything is different.
“At least recreate the game with me,” Hikaru says in an undertone. “Akira. We always ——”
“ We don't always do anything,” Akira breaks in hastily, cold hot panic shooting through him the way it always does when Hikaru calls him by his name. “You and I have only played each other a handful of times in official matches.” He should be satisfied by the way Hikaru straightens and stares at him, the beginning of hurt starting to linger around the corners of his mouth. He isn't. “It's ridiculous to pretend we really know each other's game,” he continues. If he sounds bitter, it's only because it's nothing less than the truth.
There have been plenty of times in recent months, maybe even longer, when Akira has wondered if perhaps this thing growing around Hikaru, the thing that keeps waking him up breathless at night, has nothing to do with Hikaru's secret at all, and more to do with the determined look in Hikaru's eyes, the way Akira's skin turns hot whenever Hikaru touches him, the way Hikaru sometimes just rakes his eyes over Akira's face as though he's thinking of strategies that have nothing to do with Go. There have been times when Akira's been almost certain Hikaru wants to move closer to him, a lot closer, and times when Akira's been almost certain he wants him to.
Now, Hikaru just keeps looking at him with the same wobbly, sad expression, and whatever this feeling is, it no longer matters whether it comes from losing the match, or from all the things Hikaru's not telling him about their past, or from the look on Hikaru's face. All that matters is that it is the worst Akira's ever felt.
“You know how to fix this,” he whispers.
For a moment Hikaru doesn't respond, and Akira wonders if he's just going to go inside to play his match and leave Akira standing out here.
"So what you said in the press conference," Hikaru says finally, and Akira's stomach drops again. "That I'm keeping secrets from you. You really..." he sighs and his expression deepens into something even more lost, something bottomless. Akira wonders for the millionth time what kind of pain put this look on Hikaru's face, and what, if anything, he can do to ease it.
“Do you really want me to say it?" he says.
"I don't know," Hikaru answers softly. "Is that why you're here, to force some kind of confession out of me?"
"No," Akira says. "I came to watch you play."
Hikaru's far-away look clears. He cocks his head and eyes Akira steadily, and Akira feels wide open and vulnerable like new territory. “Hey,” Hikaru says. He reaches out and touches Akira's arm. Akira glares down, but he doesn't flinch away. “I have to go in soon, but we should at least make your reporter-guy think we kissed and made up.”
Akira meets his eyes. He could say any number of things he's thinking——that he means what he said, this isn't his problem to fix, no matter how much of an ass he's being to Hikaru about everything; that he wants to wait, he'd wait forever, but he can't anymore, he just can't——but instead he just says, “Yeah, okay,” and unfolds his arms.
Hikaru visibly relaxes. “So,” he says loudly, pasting a grin on his face. “You're here to watch me beat Saeki-san.”
It shouldn't feel comforting to trade insults as if nothing's wrong, Akira thinks. But he laughs right on cue anyway, and when he sees Hikaru's lips twist up at the sound, he's almost relieved.
It's nine am on a Thursday morning at the Go Institute, and Touya Akira and Shindou Hikaru are squabbling as usual.
Touya's appearance here today is an exception. As the youngest Japanese title contender in two centuries, Touya keeps to a study regimen that rarely allows him time to put in appearances at other people's matches. Still, Japan's rising star is frequently seen at Shindou Hikaru's games, regardless of his busy schedule, and vice versa.
Far from being impressed by Touya's willingness to make time for him, Shindou seems put out. Following his captivating and landmark defeat of Touya four weeks ago, he has been invited to play an exhibition match at the Institution today with Saeki Ouza. Despite the fact that the two rivals have regular weekly meetings to discuss their games, he seems to think Touya's attendance will be something of a distraction. His hands wave wildly as he talks, a trademark that regulars to the Institute have long since come to regard as just one in a long line of Shindou's odd habits.
In contrast, Touya's body language is a rigid line telegraphing impatience, annoyance, even displeasure. His responses to Shindou seem to vary between cold politeness and icy restraint. One might wonder, in fact, why the son of the late Touya Meijin is bothering to show support for someone who only a month ago handed him what many are regarding as the worst defeat of his career. The defeat itself was extraordinary; Touya's emotional response to it was almost unheard of in a player as composed and seasoned, even at the still-young age of sixteen, as Touya Akira. Even weeks later, it's evident that the sting of his loss—Touya's resignation before Yose was only his second in three years—has not faded.
But, as anyone who observes Shindou and Touya for any length of time quickly learns, theirs is a friendship that defies easy understanding. Just being around Shindou brings out an intensity in Touya that few other players ever see and even fewer are prepared to deal with. Shindou takes it in stride, as though the hostility is just another component of the strange mix of screaming, taunting, trading insults, and utter loyalty to one another that have come to comprise their rivalry.
And then there is their Go itself, the game of a rivalry years in the making. Rumor has it that as many as three thousand Go pros and amateurs as far away as America watched the game online last month. There was a time when the outcome would have been unthinkable, but there are many who, having had their own encounters with Shindou Hikaru over the board, have greeted his stunning victory with a calm that shows they have been watching him for a long time. “A tiger doesn't need to show his stripes until he's ready to strike,” Ogata Meijin reportedly said when he learned of the outcome of the match.
Right now, the tiger is preening. “So you're here to watch me beat Saeki-san,” Shindou says, all the tension of moments before replaced by an easy grin.
“I'm here to see if you'll try risking half your territory for the sake of experiment again,” Touya huffs. Teasing is yet another side of the famously polite Touya rarely on display for anyone else that Shindou seems to take for granted.
“What! No! That was just the one time!” he replies, hands moving again. It is hardly the retort of the four-dan who, after an inexplicable string of forfeits early in his career, has been quickly working his way through numerous title lineups, sending nearby heads spinning along the way.
But Touya Akira, whose head is obviously on straight, only laughs.
The news stand between his house and the train stop always displays the latest issue of Go Weekly on the top row, so Touya will see it. It's an old habit to look for it every time he passes, but even in the dirty rain that's been falling all over Tokyo for weeks, it's impossible to miss their faces on the cover——his own and Hikaru's.
The cover photo is a shot of Akira and Hikaru heading out the door of the Institute. It must have been taken the day of Hikaru's exhibition match, he realizes. Hikaru is grabbing him by the wrist, and Akira's heart swoops straight out of his chest before he realizes that they haven't, crazily, been caught holding hands like children. The camera angle is such that what should be completely innocent is suggestive. Hikaru's hand is obscured so that it looks like their fingers are entangled. The expression he wears as he looks back is one Akira sees out every day, but taken out of context it takes Akira's breath away. The curve of his lips; the way he's tugging hard on Akira's arm with easy familiarity, his eyes shining; the way he's looking straight at Akira. Who is looking straight back at him.
Knowing Hikaru, he was probably just hungry after his match, Akira thinks. But it doesn't matter. The thought of thousands of people all over Japan seeing the two of them looking at each other like this churns his stomach.
The headline on the cover reads: Touya Akira has a secret.
Akira buys a copy and heads home.
All eyes are on Shindou Hikaru since his defeat of legendary pro Touya Akira last month in the Honinbou tournament semifinals. But we here at Go Weekly have long suspected that any real discussion of Shindou Hikaru begins with a look at Touya Akira himself, and the extraordinary connection they share. Indeed, "rivalry" hardly seems to cover all that Shindou and Touya mean——to each other and, of course, to the rest of us.
The reporter is someone the magazine brought on staff recently to shake things up and overhaul their image for a new generation of players. Akira didn't know much about him when he agreed to the article, and he doesn't want to know anything now. He's never giving him an interview again.
“They're both sixteen and neither of them has ever had a girlfriend,” someone whispers across the table where the Insei are gathered around the matchcast. “That's odd, right?”
He's not ashamed of the article. He's not ashamed of anything it might imply, or anything people might think of what he and Hikaru are to each other. There's nothing new inside it, not really, nothing he hasn't heard implied before in a hundred different ways. The reporters from Go Weekly follow him around frequently enough that Akira isn't self-conscious anymore. Even when he's around Hikaru, even when they listen in on conversations and scribble notes when he leans over and touches Hikaru's arm—even that Akira accepts as part of the small price to pay to be able to play Go.
But the article lingers on their last match, just as Akira had feared it would.
Touya has frequently gone on record as saying that Shindou is the player of his generation who poses the biggest challenge. For years, seasoned pros and casual observers alike have scoffed at Touya's confidence in Shindou's ability. But at the Honinbou semifinals in March, Shindou's white blew past Touya's opening dominance and overwhelmed his hands with a brilliance that took everyone by surprise, even Touya himself. At the post-game interview, when asked what he thought about the development of Shindou's Go, an unusually shaken Touya directed his response, not to the press, but to Shindou himself.
“Shindou has his secrets," he said. "I wish he'd share them with me——I'd like to know more about his strategy of winning games through blind surprise.”
It shouldn't have happened, Akira thinks, biting back a wave of self-loathing. He knows not to take defeat personally; he's never fallen into that trap before. But it was never Hikaru beating him before, at least not like this. Akira hadn't just lost; he'd been crushed. He'd felt just as if he'd been playing the Hikaru from their first two matches——the one he'd come to think of crazily as the player inside Hikaru.
The player who'd finally re-emerged.
Akira has always had faith in Hikaru's Go. He feels a strange mix of pride and helplessness when he thinks about that game. Hikaru, who knows Akira in and out, through and through, better than anyone else, had surpassed him completely in that match. And Akira is prouder of him than he'd ever admit. But what it means for Akira's game——Akira can't bear thinking about it. What it means for their rivalry. He can't bear it.
That game is proof that Hikaru knows everything there is to know about Akira's game, when Akira still knows nothing. Nothing at all.
Shindou has his secrets. I wish he'd share them with me.
He had intended it as a challenge, as something wry and a little vindictive. It had sounded, instead, like an accusation, lost, angry, and hurt. Hikaru had gone slack-jawed and stared at him for the rest of the interview.
Akira hadn't bothered looking at him again.
After his match with Saeki-san, Hikaru had resolutely dragged Touya out for lunch, where they'd sat and talked about everything except Go. Akira had been charmed and annoyed and angry and sorry, and Hikaru had blithely pretended like everything that was horribly awkward between them was actually just fine.
And now the Go Weekly article is shoving it in their faces again, the match, Akira's loss, the rivalry, everything.
He shouldn't have gotten angry, he thinks. He promised himself he would always wait for Hikaru. Nothing has changed.
Except there he is on the cover of the magazine, flushed and reaching out for Hikaru, and everyone can see , and Akira knows that he was right. Everything has changed, somehow.
He can't fix this. Only Hikaru can.
Hikaru doesn't avoid Akira after the magazine appears all over Tokyo, but he closes off, which is worse. Worse because he keeps trying to act as though everything is fine, and worse, too, because Hikaru is so open normally that when he tries to shut up, it just reminds Akira of all the other things he's not saying.
Akira does the only thing he knows how to do in these moments——namely treat Hikaru like dirt until he comes to his senses.
Except Hikaru doesn't. He just looks at Akira as though somehow Akira's the one who's hurt him . Which is stupid, since as far as Akira knows, waiting around for Hikaru, waiting for years , is not supposed to cause Hikaru more pain than it causes Akira. Waiting for Hikaru to stop declaring things to him on trains and over boards and on the covers of Go magazines that he can't seem to say himself is not supposed to put that ragged worn-out look on Hikaru's face. Except it does.
But Akira has been waiting for so long he doesn't think he knows how to do anything else.
April moves sluggishly along towards May, and Akira waits and watches as Hikaru, amazingly, closes off even more. Hikaru's resumed his visits to the salon, but nothing is the same anymore: they sit, they play, and then Hikaru leaves again. It's like Hikaru's too far away to even bother fighting with him, and Akira can barely get a decent game out of him when he's like this. Months of frustration and years of secrets have settled over each of them in a heavy cloud of gloom, and Akira can barely see through it.
The cloud bursts one afternoon in early May. "I can't do this anymore," Hikaru bursts out in the middle of a completely lacklustre game that they're both having trouble pretending not to be bored by. "I can't——I'm sorry." He scoots back from his chair.
"You're just going to go?" Akira says cooly. "We're still not even going to talk about it?"
Hikaru halts, one hand still by the goke. "You lost to me fair and square," he says, looking intently at Akira. "It wasn't because of anything I'm hiding from you."
Akira sighs. "I know," he says. "I know that. And——and fine, I'll replay the match with you. But Hikaru..." Hikaru glares at him, waiting for the rest. "It felt like——like the second time you played me. It felt like that."
Hikaru's face changes so swiftly Akira almost wishes he could take it back. "It did?" he asks innocently, and Akira can't bring himself to wonder why he suddenly sounds as if he could cry. It's part of the Secret, and it's how they got here, and Akira refuses to feel guilty for it.
Hikaru stares at him a moment longer, and then he laughs, a short, abrupt laugh. "It's just in your head."
"I don't think so. I remember how I felt then," Akira answers.
Hikaru's eyes look a little watery. "You're about a thousand years too early to start worrying," he says, but he scoots his chair back and stands up to leave.
"You're going?" Akira asks.
"Yeah," Hikaru says. "I should."
"You always leave," Akira says, and then, before he can stop himself, he hears himself blurt, "you saw the Go Weekly article, I know you're not stupid." He looks down at the board but he can still feel Hikaru freeze across from him.
"I saw it, yeah," Hikaru says finally. He sounds wary. Akira wants to kick himself bringing it up. "Anything you want to tell me?"
"You first," Akira snorts, staring resolutely at their terrible sets of forming territories, and when he looks up again, Hikaru is gone.
It's 11:45 am, and Touya is watching the final hands of the match between Saeki Ouza and Shindou, out of whom the Ouza barely managed to wrest a win. Shindou's play has been typically brilliant but distracted, and it's inevitable to wonder if his heated exchange beforehand with Touya was over something personal. Certainly, from the way Touya is concentrating on the board, it would seem that he is invested in Shindou's performance on a level that defies most common definitions of rivalry in the Go world. It's over ten minutes before Touya looks away from the television, and then only because Shindou himself waltzes in.
Even though Touya has been studying Shindou's moves intently, the first words out of his mouth are, “Idiot. You could have ended the game before yose if you'd pressed your advantage in the upper left.”
It's sound advice, and Shindou's only response is to stick out his tongue. “I was having fun,” he says. “I wanted to see what Saeki-san would do with the territory in the lower right.”
Touya snorts. “If I'd been playing you, I wouldn't have given you a chance to play around,” he says. The other players in the room begin hastily packing up to leave. This is a ritual they know all too well, the pre- and post-game fighting between Shindou and Touya. It leaves no room for spectators. This interviewer wonders if Touya would even hear him right now if he pursued his final few questions.
Instead the spectacular blow-up doesn't come. In the middle of pointing at the board, Shindou says, “Whatever, let's just replay it and I'll show you what I would have done if I'd been playing you instead.”
There's a moment where Touya looks almost hesitant, as if offended; then it spreads into a look of pleased surprise, and he blushes all the way up to his ears like a girl being asked on a date.
“Meet you at the salon after lunch,” Shindou says, with the assurance of someone who knows he will always have a partner. Then he stops, turns, looks back.
“I change my mind,” he says. “You're coming with me.” Just like that, Touya Akira is at his side, the Go Weekly interview all but forgotten. Shindou grins and holds the door open for them both, and in another moment the two strongest players of their generation are bickering about where to eat lunch.
Oblivious to all else, they look surprisingly at home together, these two players who could not be more different in style, but who emerge as unfailingly alike in so many other ways.
That night, Akira wakes, clutching at the remnant of a dream he's already lost but feels desperate to remember. His mouth is dry. In his sleep, he's clenched his hands into fists so tight that they are sore when he tries to open them. He wakes feeling like there's a hole in his chest, like there's something he needs to do , something he needs to say, but he doesn't know what. He lies there, listening to the spring rain on the roof and trying to recall fragments of absolutely nothing at all.
He wonders if he was dreaming the answer, the secret Hikaru won't tell him. He wonders if Hikaru will ever trust him enough. A life without trust from the one person whose trust you want the most: it strikes him all at once as an unbearably sad way to live.
He shifts the covers off restlessly and eyes the clock; it's 3:14 am on May 5. He has Shidougo later. Fabulous. He folds the sheets back over his futon and smooths them out uselessly, then lies gingerly on top of them. He thinks about going back to sleep. He thinks about going over Hikaru's latest game with Isumi for the fourth time. He thinks about a life where Hikaru isn't always here with him, wherever he goes.
Instead he gets up and goes to the window for no reason at all, and Hikaru is sitting on the curbside across the street from his house, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the rain.
Akira stares at him. He doesn't want to deal with this right now. Hikaru can't continue to be a dervish who spins chaos into the lives of everyone around him. Especially Akira's life. Maybe it's not worth it anymore.
It's the first time Akira has really had that thought since Hikaru returned to his matches.
He goes downstairs. He makes tea and fills two cups before he goes outside. He probably looks ridiculous, trundling tea and raincoats to the curb, but Hikaru doesn't say anything when he sits down next to him and wraps the coat around him. He's going to be sick later, Akira thinks, but doesn't say, because knowing Hikaru, this is all some giant act of misplaced guilt over things Akira still doesn't understand. He's proven right when Hikaru finally talks and there are sobs in the corners of his voice.
“I can't tell you,” he says.
Akira manages not to throw the hot tea in Hikaru's face and hands it to him instead. Hikaru takes it. Both of them have shaking hands.
“You won't believe me,” Hikaru says. “And then you won't believe in me anymore, and——and Akira, I can't——I don't want to lose you.”
You just did, Akira thinks. He only says, bitterly enough to let it sting, “Don't you think I've earned a little more faith from you than that? Don't you think I've waited for you long enough?”
Hikaru is silent. He sits there, hanging his head like he's just resigned. “I'm going inside,” Akira says, but when he gets up, Hikaru blurts, "Wait."
His hand darts out beneath the fringe of his misery and Akira's raincoat to grab Akira's wrist and clutch it tightly.
Akira's wrist-bones are stupidly thin, delicate like crepe-paper. They are warm with his pulse, and Akira's pulse races whenever Hikaru touches him. Akira is never so hyper-aware of wrist-bones and racing hearts as he is whenever he's around Hikaru.
He stands there for another moment, letting Hikaru touch him, thinking that this is crazy, that quite possibly Hikaru actually is crazy. Or schizophrenic. Or deeply traumatized at birth. Or something.
Akira is crazy for not wanting him to let go.
He finally tugs Hikaru to his feet. “You can change into some warm clothes inside so you don't get sick and die,” he says, rolling his eyes even though his voice lacks bite. Hikaru comes with him like a pet being led, his fingertips cold around Akira's wrist.
They're silent all the way up to Akira's room, Hikaru clutching his wrist until Akira finally shakes him off long enough to dig through his drawers for clothes and underthings. He can hear Hikaru peeling off rubbery clothing behind him, but it doesn't really register until he turns around and sees him stripped down to his boxers, water running down his chin and continuing in slow rivulets down his chest, pale from the cold.
Akira thinks about the Go article and chokes down a sudden, bitter urge to laugh. He shoves the clothes into Hikaru's arms, but Hikaru just looks at him with that sad, open look he's been showing Akira ever since their game and says, “I'm sorry, Akira, I'm sorry.”
He drops all the clothes in a pile and steps closer. He tugs Akira's palm up to the center of his chest. Akira draws in a gasp and curls his hand open against Hikaru's skin, clammy and freezing, but still somehow warm and touchable and everything Akira's been wanting for longer than he even knows. "I thought you were avoiding me because of this," he says.
"Uh uh," Hikaru says, tugging him all the way in. "I just didn't know how to do this. I didn't know how to say——"
"Shh," Akira says, smoothing his hair back from where it's plastered to his forehead. "You don't have to say anything."
"No," Hikaru murmurs, tilting his head against Akira's chin. Akira feels like his lungs are capsizing, it's so hard to remember to breathe. "I do. I need you to know——"
"So tell me," Akira whispers. "But this first. Us first."
Hikaru tastes like rainwater.
Akira can't stop shivering as they drop to the futon, scrambling under the covers and pressing urgently together, for warmth as much as anything. Hikaru's movements against him are long and powerful, and Touya wants to close his eyes but he can't stop looking at everything, and Hikaru keeps nudging him and running his hands all over, and Touya doesn't want to love him, he doesn't, but he does and he does so much .
He mouths the corner of Hikaru's ear as they peel back their clothes layer by sopping layer. Akira doesn't say, “I hate you,” or, “Why won't you,” or any of the things he's thought about saying over the years. He lets Hikaru rock into his thighs, gently at first, then more urgently, until suddenly he jerks forward against Akira, and Akira catches on fire in ways he'd thought could only happen over a goban.
Hikaru gasps his name and licks clumsily, wonderfully at Akira's throat. Akira arches into him, clutches Hikaru's hipbone. It's a good thing that reporter isn't still swinging by at all hours, he thinks abruptly, so he won't discover who's sleeping over. Then he thinks: what does it matter, they already know, everyone knows, Go Weekly knew it before we did, and he's laughing into the open warmth of Hikaru's mouth.
He hooks his legs over Hikaru's calves, strong and firm and damp, from sweat now as well as rain. "Tell me," he whispers.
Hikaru breathes in, leans his head against Akira's shoulder, and says, “He was——he was a ghost. His name was Fujiwara no Sai.”
Akira tilts Hikaru's face up to meet his eyes. “I believe you," he says, "I believe you——" And then a pleasure he didn't know he could even contain is rippling through him, like cascades of rainwater, or stones toppling onto a board, or Hikaru's hair spilling over Akira's skin as he shudders and pulses and says Akira's name.
Hikaru tells him the story, all of it, as morning breaks, as they slide careful fingers over each other's skin.
The wonder of it, Akira thinks, is not that a ghost taught Hikaru to play Go, or even that Hikaru trusts him enough to let him carry the secret of Honinbou Shuusaku himself. The wonder is that Hikaru tells him with the sun stippling his hair and his voice hoarse from having Akira's name on it all night. That he tells him with his chest pressed to Akira's side and his knees bumping against Akira's where they are tangled together. That he tells him holding Akira's hand.
And somewhere during the middle of Hikaru's fifth or sixth attempt to explain in halting, fumbling words why he had to take over from Sai, why he had to play Akira for himself, Akira realizes that if a Divine Move truly exists, then Hikaru has just made it——or that maybe they've been making it together, all along.
He reaches blindly and cuts Hikaru off with a kiss, shoving reassurance at him with his lips, his hands, his eyes, his game, his life, trying to imprint I love you, I love you, I love you on Hikaru with them all.
Touya is shoving Shindou out the door when it happens: Shindou reaches down and grabs Touya's wrist to pull him in the opposite direction. For just a moment, Touya freezes, and our photographer snaps the picture that will make the cover: Shindou, a whirl of color and motion and energy; Touya beside him, the fixed lodestone holding him to his course.
Only later, when the galleys for this article are assembled, is the full story evident: Touya's story, one that cannot unfold on its own without placing Shindou's beside it. Shindou may have taken the Go World by storm as all eyes were fixed on Touya, but here, at least, is one pair of eyes that have been focused on him since the beginning.
“Shindou has his secrets,” Touya may have said enigmatically, with a look meant only for Shindou himself. But studying the two of them together, and perhaps, more tellingly, Touya's inability to stop smiling, one thing becomes readily apparent.
Touya Akira has a secret of his own.