The Incorruptible
Chapter 2 - First Blood
by ainokitsune


The Incorruptible (2) First Blood

Stop the world.
Turn out the sun.
I'm so tired of it turning

Stop the world.
Call it a day.
Leave it all behind.
Leave it that way.

Not this. Not this.

He stood still, hanging for a moment between terror and awe. The charred land shifted beneath his feet, pebbles skittering down the side of the hill, and dust rising in brief clouds to settle again over the blasted earth. In places the stone had melted and run, then cooled again into smooth, glassy rivulets. He squatted beside one, ran his fingertips over the surface. A trace of warmth still lingered.

Takeru stood.

"What happened here?" he asked the empty air.

He wasn't sure how he had come to this place; he vaguely remembered walking, or rather wandering, aimlessly through a forest of blackened, shattered trees, across a dry and barren plain and then, somehow, as if guided by a will other than his own, he had come to this place.

He had seen no Digimon, or life of any kind, and his throat and mouth were dry and tasted of ashes. He remembered hearing somewhere that the human body could go only a brief period of time without water, and he wondered suddenly if he was going to die.

He began to be aware of the fact that his hand was aching, and wondered for a moment why that would be, until he remembered his digivice. He raised his hand and when it refused to open on its own Takeru carefully pried the fingers back with his other hand, and plucked the white mechanism from his palm. He was not surprised to see that his hand was bleeding.

He wiped his right hand absently on his shorts and hefted the digivice thoughtfully in his left. It looked and felt the same as it had in the real world, and Takeru was worrying that he had not come to the Digital World under his own power at all. He felt as though someone had called him, or worse, that he'd been commanded.

He started to walk again, choosing a direction at random and picking his way carefully over the uneven ground. The hilltop was high enough to command a decent view of the surrounding landscape, but no matter which way Takeru turned he saw only ashes and black land. The sky, though, was blue, eerily so, and cloudless, and no wind blew out over the land. There was a sense around him, in the very air he breathed, that some great thing had ended. Takeru felt tears spring to his eyes, and as he walked they ran down his face and dripped on his shirt and on the naked ground. He made no effort to wipe them away.

"It's a horrible sight, isn't it?" a voice behind him said. It was a quiet voice, almost gentle, but there was something about it which didn't sound quite right.

Takeru turned.

The boy facing him--if he truly was human, something which Takeru initially tended to doubt--was one of the most bizarre beings the blonde boy had ever laid eyes on. He stood out against the landscape, a splash of deep blue and brilliant gold on a backdrop of endless grey. His hair fell in thick spikes all around his face, and his eyes smiled on Takeru from behind pale purple lenses. The entire effect was unsettling and also deeply, fundamentally wrong.

"You're him, aren't you?" Takeru whispered. His voice was hoarse.

The boy gave him an odd look.

"Him who?"

"Him. You know. The Kaizer."

"Am I?" the boy blinked. "I...suppose so. I'd forgotten...." He turned away, looked around himself as though confused. "Sometimes I...I can't remember things the way...I used to....It's funny...." he trailed into silence, then looked back at Takeru. "Have we met, you and I?"

Takeru wasn't in the mood to exchange pleasantries. He stalked closer to the dark-haired boy.

"Did you do this?" he demanded.

"Do what?"

"This!" He waved a hand at the desolation that surrounded them. "All...all of it," he finished painfully.

"Your hand is bleeding."

Takeru dropped his hand hurriedly.

"I don't care. Just answer the question."

"I did this," the boy murmured. "I came here...looking for something...I think...." he reached up, pulled the glasses from his face. "I can't remember what it was. you know?" The eyes he turned on Takeru were full of confusion, and were also, he noted, a pale blue. A most unusual color.

"How would I know?" Takeru was beginning to feel exasperated. Not the sort of emotion he'd expected to associate with the boy who had terrorized Daisuke and the others for years.

" here too, so...I thought you might...." He was holding the glasses in both hands and gazing out over the landscape, head turning from side to side. "I thought you might remember what it was that I'd forgotten." He turned a radiant smile on Takeru, but when no response was immediately forthcoming from the blonde boy, his face fell. He sighed and pushed his glasses back on his face.

"Goodbye," he said quietly, "Whoever you are. I'm sorry we couldn't have...met under happier circumstances." He turned and started to walk away, back the way Takeru had come.

"Wait." Takeru's hand shot out, caught the boy's arm. "Wait. Are you really, really the Kaizer?"

The boy made no response, but regarded Takeru forlornly.

"I'm looking for my friends. Do you know them? Have you seen them?"

"What friends?"

"I need to tell them something. Daisuke, Miyako, Hikari, Iori."

"Oh, them. Yes. Well, you can't talk to them now."

"Why not?"

"They're gone. I don't...I don't think...they'll be coming back; it's really a shame," the last part he said all in a rush, and his expression became almost wistful. "Really, a shame. Such noble children...."

"What happened to them?" Takeru felt horror rise and stick in his throat. He released the Kaizer's arm.

"They're gone. Gone away. And I don't...think they'll be coming back. It really is a shame. They were here, you see." He turned slightly, spread his arms, the cape falling away from his body. "They were here."

"And where are they now?" Takeru's breath was harsh. the Kaizer lowered his arms.

"They're gone."

"Where," he began tightly, "Where did they go?" But the Kaizer turned and began to walk away, down the hill, stones and ashes shifting under his boots.

"They went away," he called, not turning his head, but the words carried in the silence, carried over a vast distance. "They went away and left me here, all alone...." The dark-haired boy was drawing farther away by the moment; soon he was a figure, dwindling into the distance. Takeru didn't try to follow, for his legs felt suddenly weak. Slowly he collapsed into a sitting position, there on the hill, and a cloud of dust rose up around him

"Are they dead?" he asked through stiff, dry lips, but the dust returned no answer.

Peace is just a word
is just a word.
Peace is just a word

Yea .

He wandered, traversing the land endlessly, crisscrossing and redoubling his tracks and never, ever stopping. The sense of loss assailed him, though what he was missing he could not say. It drove him endlessly onward, past the limits of his exhaustion and the pain in his legs, the blisters on his feet, the ache in his spine, his shoulders. The hunger. The thirst.

When his strength gave out he wasn't prepared, he had no warning. His body simply collapsed and left him lying, raging in mute impotence within the confines of his body. There was a terrible fever in his brain, compelling him to rise, to stand and go on. But though he tried, he did try, so hard, his body refused to move. And he could not escape it, not yet.

Alone in the dust of a ruined land, the Kaizer wept.

As the sun was beginning to set, his own eyes began to slide closed. All the pain in his body had become a dull background ache that blended into the other sensations around him: the color of the sky and the dryness of the earth, the smell of the air, the sharp residual tang of burning.

When he was lifted up, he didn't even notice. Not until he became aware of strong arms holding him, as though he were merely a doll, and the unfamiliar sense of closeness to another body. A human body. He could hear breathing, a dry sound, and in a way it was strangely comforting. He had no choice but to accept his helplessness, yet truthfully the sense of it did not offend him. He remembered a distant time, another lifetime, when he would have gone mad with fury at being so helpless in the arms of another. That person was gone, though, the person he had been. All the people he'd ever been were dead and gone, and he had no name.

He let his eyes close completely and the sense of peace rose up and overwhelmed him. He drifted into sleep.

Stop the world.
Just let it be.
Well we've taken more than
everything we need.

Stop the world.
Just shut it down
(Just shut it down, shut it down
Just shut it down, shut it down.)
There's no point in it spinning

In the pale light of the control room, the Kaizer came to.

Takeru was sitting on a stool that he'd dragged in from another room, and had his fingers laced together, chin resting on his thumbs. He'd deposited the dark-haired boy in the only chair that was native to the room, and which looked far less like a throne than Takeru had expected. In face, the entire fortress looked far different than he'd expected. It was like an echo of the world outside, dark and dry and bereft of any life whatsoever. Even Takeru's soft shoes raised echoes in the dim halls, and his breath sounded like thunder.

When the Kaizer's eyes opened they seemed to cast their own pale light into the darkness, shining from behind the glasses. If he was surprised to see Takeru it didn't show on his face.

"Water," he murmured through cracked lips.

It had taken some doing for Takeru to locate that simple necessity, and the quest had taken on a tortuous quality as the night wore on. He'd finally located, after seemingly endless hours, a small, serviceable shower room and washroom on a lower level, though he had yet to locate the kitchen. There'd been a cup in the washroom, though, and after drinking a fair amount of water himself he'd carried the cup to the control room. He started to hand it over to the boy, then narrowed his eyes.

"Can you move?" he asked, doubting he would get a positive answer. The Kaizer took a deep breath and made some attempt to raise his hand, but after a moment gave up.

"No," he whispered.

"I can't believe I'm doing this," Takeru muttered irritably. He leaned forward and carefully brought the cup to the other boy's lips. It was a more difficult proposition than he'd realized, though, to help the other boy drink, and at first he tipped the glass too far and spilled more water than the boy could swallow, causing him to inhale sharply, then double over coughing violently. Takeru grabbed the boy as the spasms wracked his body and he retched, spilling water from his mouth to the floor. As Takeru's hands closed on the boy's arms, he was shocked all over again by his unnatural thinness.

"Sorry," Takeru heard himself mutter shamefacedly as the fit subsided. The Kaizer mumbled something and allowed himself to be pushed back into the chair. Takeru picked up the cup again and said, "I'll be more careful this time. Come on."

The second attempt was more successful, and after several sips the Kaizer sat back and raised a trembling hand to his lips, wiping his mouth weakly.

"How did you get in here?" he asked quietly, after several long minutes of silence had passed between the two boys. His voice was harsh from coughing.

"It wasn't hard. Some Airdramon was hanging around, following you, I guess. It was pretty cooperative once I picked you up out of the dust."

"You did...?" His eyes became clouded, confused once again. "Why?"

"Because I figure you're the only one who can help me."


"Besides, I wasn't going to let you lie there until you died."

The Kaizer's eyes dropped, then closed, and he sank lower into the chair.

"I'm so tired," he breathed.

Takeru didn't know if it was intended as a hint, or merely a statement of fact, but he took it as he former, stood up and walked out of the room. Away from the flickering white eyes, the blank screens that showed nothing but silent static. He roamed through the base until he came, unexpectedly, to what could only have been the observation deck. It was broad, empty, and claustrophobic,with a low ceiling and pale metal floor. Takeru could see clouds drifting past the window, and crossed the deck to sit staring through the glass. The floor was cold against his skin.

When he looked out the window he bit his lip unconsciously. The land was almost physically painful to behold. He'd hoped, from this high place, that he might see something that the terrestrial perspective had not revealed. To see some trace of greenery, some evidence of life.

Takeru saw only a flat black land, languishing beneath a merciless blue sky. The sun was distant but searingly bright. Far, far away he could see a thin dark line of clouds, and he wondered if the rain that fell would burn and scar the earth.

"Nothing could live in this place," he said aloud, and felt the despair settle comfortably within his body.

I tell you that peace
is just a word
is just a word.
Let me tell you that peace
is just a word.


He didn't know how long he stayed like that, but after a time he became aware of a gnawing insistent hunger that was gradually driving away all other thoughts. It was time to make a renewed effort to find the kitchen, or pantry, or at least the refrigerator. There had to be some food in this place.

He picked himself up off the floor, cast one last look at the desolation outside, and started to stride out of the room. Started, but was arrested mid-motion by the sudden appearance of a figure in the doorway. Gold glittered palely.

"I might be hungry," the Kaizer said.

"I am, but," Takeru fixed an appraising eye on the boy. "Should you be...walking around like that?"

"I'm fine," the boy said with a slight smile. "I just needed to rest." He gestured with one gloved hand. "There's food, if you like...."

Takeru considered refusing, but to be honest he was having serious doubts that this boy was a person he ought to fear, despite whatever horrors Daisuke had recounted to him in the past. Furthermore, he was famished. He realized suddenly that taking off to the digital World without a word to his Mother, and then spending the night there might not have been the wisest move on his part. The woman was probably frantic by now.

He followed the Kaizer through a series of identical corridors, occasionally trotting to keep up with the taller boy's stride. No words were spoken, on Takeru's part because he was too tired to speak and hurry in the Kaizer's wake at the same time--he didn't know what compelled the other boy to silence.

"Isn't there...shouldn't there be someone else here with you?" Takeru asked after a pause allowed him to catch his breath and break the silence. The Kaizer turned to regard him with mild curiosity."

"I don't think so."

"But it seems so," he looked around helplessly," So quiet. Don't you ever get...I don't know...isn't it lonely?" He wondered why he was asking such ridiculous questions. The problem was that the silence was so vast it was driving him to project his own emotions out into the void.

"I don't think so," the Kaizer said again.

"Don't you know?" Takeru's voice had more of an edge to it than he'd intended.

"I don't...really think about it very much." He'd resumed walking and Takeru fell into step behind him. "I'm sorry," the dark-haired boy went on, "I don't understand what it is that you're asking. I mean, this home." He led Takeru down a hall that ended, abruptly, in a small antechamber, a steel-sided octagon with barely enough room for a low table and a chair. The ceiling was very high, though, and sunlight poured in through a window at the top. Takeru guessed that the chamber extended up another level, or two.

"There isn't much...right now I, I" the Kaizer paused, raised a hand halfway to his head, "I haven't restocked in a while but you can have whatever you like." He looked away from Takeru, was glancing around the room as he spoke. Takeru looked at the table; white rice, miso soup, pickles and, much to his delight, a small bowl of tempura. There was also a pot of tea.

"Aren't you going to eat too?" he asked when he realized there was only one chair at the small, serviceable table.

"No, I don't eat much anymore....Just take whatever you like," the boy had turned, was walking back out into the hall, speaking as he went.

"There's no hurry, take your time. But sometime you can come and see me in the control room and tell me what your name is."

He seemed to dissolve into the waiting darkness beyond the doorway, his footsteps echoing for a while before they, too, faded into nothingness.

Takeru looked down at the table, not surprised to see that it was made out of metal, or at least of the same metallic material that composed the control room.

"Why am I doing this?" the former Child of Hope asked the air. All he needed were answers; he could march up to the control room at this very moment and wring the information out of the Kaizer, with his bare hands if necessary. He'd come here looking for Daisuke and the others, and somehow had become sidetracked into first looking after, then in turn being treated to breakfast by, the most destructive being in the entire World. Takeru considered the word "ironic" as a descriptor for his situation, then realized that "absurd" was really more accurate.

"Help me to do the right thing, Hikari," he said, turning his eyes to the empty doorway. "I feel lost."

Stop the world.
Take it anywhere.
It's just that living here
is more than I can bear.


"What?" the Kaizer raised heavy-lidded eyes to look up at Takeru, and his speech was slurred, as though he were only half-awake.

"Takaishi Takeru. That's my name."

" it? It is?" he blinked rapidly, several times, then sat up straighter, suddenly, and pointed at Takeru. "It is! I remember...I saw you! You were one of the first---I remember!" He seemed inordinately proud of the fact. A breathy giggle escaped his lips. "Takeru," he said, almost fondly. As though he could hold the name in his hands, a memento of some forgotten era.

"Uh, yeah," Takeru shifted uncomfortably. He'd come to the control room with a renewed sense of purpose which he now found evaporating in the face of the other boy's bizarre speech and unpredictable behavior. "That's true, I was here--"

"But then you went away," The Kaizer was regarding him with that same expression of mild curiosity that Taker had seen before, and it made the darker boy look very young. Almost innocent. "You went away a long time ago. Before the others. Why did you do that?"

"I don't know." Takeru shifted his gaze away, wishing that he was somewhere else. "I guess I thought it was the right thing to do, at the time."

"Do you still think that?"

Takeru shot a glance at the boy, then sighed heavily.

"I don't know what I think anymore."

The Kaizer regarded Takeru in silence for a while, then nodded. "I understand," he said gently, in a voice that almost suggested to Takeru that he did understand.

"I have to, I mean, I need to find out where the others went. Daisuke and...Iori and Hikari and Miyako. You know where they went, don't you? You must know what happened."

The Kaizer licked his lips as though they were dry. "Oh Takeru," he said, his voice brimming over with sorrow, "I don't think you're going to find them in this place. Not anymore."

"Then where--" Takeru began harshly, but the Kaizer raised a hand, cutting him off.

"Please don't," he murmured. "Please don't. Don't get angry, it's not worth it. Just...listen to what I have to say."

You listen. I don't have any time left, and you're the only one who know. You have to know, I don't believe for one second that you weren't involved somehow--" He leaned down, laid a hand on the boy's dark cape and twisted it into his fist.

"Tell me," he growled.

"I could tell you that I don't know, Takeru, if I thought you would believe me." He raised a gloved hand and closed it over Takeru's wrist. "If I thought it would make a difference. But what is it think happened?"

"You said they went away," Takeru said fiercely, "you said they were gone--"

"They are." The Kaizer dropped his hand into his lap and turned his head, gazing off to the side. "They're long gone, Takeru, and I don't know where...." he shook his head. "I don't. I can't help you with that, though I wish I could."

Takeru drew back slowly, releasing his hold on the other boy. The crushed fabric shifted slightly but did not resume its shape.

"What are you saying?" he breathed through numb lips.

"Did you eat?"


"Did you eat?" The Kaizer leaned forward, almost eagerly, as though concern over Takeru's welfare were the primary driving force in his life. "I want to know. Did you eat?"

"I...yeah, I did, I um...." It was difficult to maintain his air of self-righteousness after admitting he'd just eaten the other boy's food. "I ate," he mumbled.

"I'm glad. I wish I could have offered more, but, well--"

"What are you talking about?" Takeru's voice broke with desperation and rage. He grabbed the Kaizer, this time with both hands, and locked his gaze with the other boy's. "Tell me what you were saying! Tell me what you meant! Tell me what happened to Hikari and the others!" He'd grabbed the boy by the arms, beneath the shoulder-guards, and in his fear and fury his hands squeezed tightly, digging into the muscle and driving it against the bone. The boy closed his eyes, but if he felt the pain Takeru could not tell.

"I don't know," the boy said, "I don't know. I don't know, I don't know. I'm so sorry...for you. Takeru I'm sorry...."

Takeru stared at the other boy, then released him with a shove and a brief caustic imprecation.

"I'm going," he said, moving past the Kaizer and crossing the room. He was afraid to stay, afraid of what he might do. The darkness of the empty halls swallowed him up, and too quickly he found himself wandering, lost, though a cold steel maze. The darkness deepened around him until he could see nothing at all and was forced to feel his way forward blindly, fingers brushing over a metal surface so cold it burned.

He was thinking about Hikari, about all the things he'd never told the girl. Wondering what she thought of him now. He wanted to find her, desperately. To tell her the truth, whatever it was. But here, in this place, there was only darkness, confusion, and blind despair.

His foot struck an uneven spot on the floor and sent him stumbling. He flung an arm out but the wall suddenly wasn't there and his knee slammed against the floor, driving a spike of pain into the bone and cartilage. He cried aloud in the darkness and at that moment his fingers found the wall, smooth and cold against his skin. He closed his eyes and leaned against it, and shifted position so that he was not kneeling but sitting on the floor with his legs stretched out before him.

"What am I doing?" he murmured, lips barely moving. " insane."

When he heard the sound of footsteps he wasn't even surprised, and opened his eyes halfway to observe the light that appeared at the end of the hall and began to bob closer. When the Kaizer came to stand before him Takeru looked up, eyes half-lidded as though he were bored, or very very tired.

"The Lost," said the Kaizer.


"The Lost. The House of the Lost. Come with me into that place. It may be...that we both find what it is that we're looking for." He stretched forth a dark-gloved hand, and with the other raised the light to fill the space between the walls. In the radiance there was something otherworldly about the boy.

Takeru reached up and slid his own pale hand into the Kaizer's, and suffered himself to be pulled to his feet. The Kaizer gave him a small encouraging smile which Takeru did not return, then turned to lead the way out of the lightless corridor, hurrying now with the lantern held high.

Takeru followed the darker boy.

Stop the world.
Just pack it in.
Well we've reached the point
Where no-one ever wins.
No-one ever wins.

Peace is just a word.
Is just a word.
Is just a word.

Peace is just a word.
Is just a word.
Is just a word.

Peace is just a word.
Is just a word.
Is just a word.

lyrics: Peace is Just a Word


Next chapter: Bitter Sweet.


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