Hikaru, at the end of life, on the last road back to Innoshima. [some Akira/Hikaru]
So little time. This is all the time I've got. This is mine, this small parcel of years that threatens to spill over onto the pavement and be lost among careless feet.
- "Art and Lies" by Jeanette Winterson
This is a pilgrimage.
You came all the way back here, for the first time in many years, to lay your hands on a past you can't gather up in both arms and sift through slowly. What you know of go, you know of Sai: once, thousands of years ago, people stood in your footsteps, placing shale stones down upon the sakura-littered pavement, golden sunlight gilding their focused irises. What has changed? Nothing has changed. Lives come and go, but Sai took with him a link to a thousand games that will never, ever be played again. Time is unrelenting; it rolls by without remorse.
Here, there is no discrimination. The years will eventually puddle around your face like heavy chains. Make peace with their numbers; their inevitability.
The sun rises, you listen for Akira's heartbeat.
You long to press your lips against the curve of his earlobe tenderly, play him another game so that he knows. Instead, you tilt your head back at the rising sun, the beach widening up before its ancient god and dusty prayers carried out by the salty wind; sand incense for the deities. Another ancient sunrise and you're old enough to understand.
Akira wraps an arm around himself to stave off the chill: "It's cold."
It's true. There's nothing but space out here, a distinct widening of the sky and earth that comes with the rising sun. But it's your reverence that has brought you back.
What would it be like to be timeless, you want to know. To extend your heart back through the years and find that sakura-littered floor all over again, to wrap your hand around Sai's real and tangible one, and make the link once more.
Back, back to a time before memory.
You do it already, after all. You do it every time you pick up that goke and place those stones. And the actions of returning, of going back, of coming home, they are indiscriminate, nebulous lines between definitions blurring into the same smooth surface of that ocean.
The same ocean he once sat beside, as well.
Your game is ancient. It mends past and present, transcends time and even brute-force algorithms, the heuristics of eager computer prodigies, wide-eyed and searching for the hand of God through buzzing monitors.
"It's powerful," Akira points out in a moment of rare calm between the two of you, sunlight curving over his face lightly. And you know this is true. You've already walked right into its gravity like the bottom missed step in a stairwell. The feeling hits your stomach heavily, and you're a captive prisoner to the crush.
But go is not a game of offence. It is played out in slow, curving, thought-out moves, a mental dance across the 19x19 board in black and white.
You play a game along the seaside, and Akira's lost in the gravity again. A child passes by and points to the ocean. "It's so big!" He says deliriously.
Some things, you know, are universal.
You are walking back for Sai. Back to where it all began, back to time before memory. In the face of it all, you are what you are: the oldest amidst a world of people who have yet to understand the pattern of black and white upon old wood; the youngest among the old wood and shale stones. Go is your friction. Go is your catalyst. You walked behind Sai, toting kifu and stones-all things you didn't understand even remotely at the time-and listened for the sound of a heartbeat.
Sai never had one. You had found Akira's instead.
It's been a long life, but Sai's was even longer still. You came out here to find him but found the ocean, measured out the shining water by another corner gained in territory, black skirting white or vice versa; and not time. Somehow, your story seems immune to it. You listened for Sai's reasons and found what you've found: 19x19 boards, learned focus and strategy and a link to a past not yet beyond the collective memory. But that doesn't mean that you can explain the ocean.
Here, it doesn't mean anything at all.
You came out here and found the wideness of the sea and sky; the size of the world in the space between the game and the shore. You are immersing yourself in the cool depths of time, racing backwards and forwards nonlinearly, simultaneously, a part of two things that transcend the physical laws. You are rowing. Rowing towards the hand of God, on a different path than the one you walked with Sai. You're listening for the magnet of Akira's heartbeat to guide the way and moving towards the end. Hoping that time will not catch up with you before then.
Using his memory as a visual marker, so that you may never stray.
Just like you always will.