The Incorruptible
Chapter 3 - Bitter Sweet
by ainokitsune

Thanks to everyone who reviewed, and for sticking with this little experiment of mine. Special thanks to Herongale, whose praise is always terrifying. ^^; In spite of rumors of capability I am forging ahead and hoping this chapter turns out halfway decent. I apologize for the copious amounts of dialogue and explanations in this. Sorry.

One more thing: Kill Devil Hill (not to be confused with Kill Devil Hills) is in North Carolina and is the sight where the Wright Brothers made their first successful heavier than air, power-driven airplane flight in 1903. I don't know what this song is actually about, and wasn't originally going to use it, but it actually seems to work pretty well. Anybody with theories on the actual meaning of this song, let me know.


The Incorruptible (3) Bitter Sweet

Movin' through rough waters motel boy
and swimming in your sleep.
How could I be so blind, mis-sighted,
not to see there's something wounded deep.
Anyone could scratch your surface now,
it's all amphetamine.
You're blasting yourself into the present,
Learn some vast indignity, stay that.

"There's something wrong with the sun," he said, though no-one was around to hear.

Takeru was alone, and had been for quite some time. He didn't know where the Kaizer had got to, but assumed that the boy was outside by now. It was possible, of course, that he was still within the confines of the fortress, not in the Control Room but perhaps wandering the endless maze of cold corridors below and therefore lost to Takeru's perception. The blonde boy had hurried down to the Control Room as quickly as he was able the moment he felt the great slow-moving fortress grind to a halt, but by the time he had arrived the room was empty. The screens cast their pale blind light on an empty chair, and the stillness was nearly overwhelming. Takeru had never felt his aloneness as acutely as he did at that moment.

He was back on the observation deck now, staring out over the landscape and unsure of his next action. He'd been standing like that for well over an hour, as his brain tried unsuccessfully to correlate what he was seeing with what he knew. He shuffled his feet on the pale floor and stared at at his reflection in its smooth surface. Blue eyes blinked back at him.

He furrowed his brow. Something about the face wasn't quite right. It was his face, but changed, somehow. Different. The jaw, eyes, lips...and then he realized. He was too old. He was a teenager. Here, in this World, he should have seen a child's face looking back at him. This one...too thin, too defined. He reached up, touched his cheek, his jaw. His mouth opened.

He didn't look like himself. Not at all.

The trip to this place, that the Kaizer called the House of the Lost, had taken well over a week. The two boys had barely spoken that entire time; Takeru had spent the duration on the observation deck, with little more than a blanket and pillow for his comfort. Food and water were available, but, Takeru suspected, not inexhaustible. He didn't know if the Kaizer ate but he'd kept himself on strict rations that left him painfully hungry and thirsty most of the time. More than once he thought of giving up altogether and fleeing back to the Real world.

He never considered it very seriously, though.

As for the Kaizer...the boy was like a ghost. Takeru knew that he spent the bulk of his time in the Control Room; he'd snuck down on a few occasions when the tediousness of the journey began to wear on him, and quietly observed the other boy. Whenever he did the Kaizer always seemed to be asleep, hands resting loosely in his lap and head bowed. The sound of soft, steady breathing filled up the silence of the room, louder than Takeru's heartbeat.

He's not afraid of me, the boy had realized on one such excursion. He'd crept closer, until he could see the faint dark glitter of the glasses beneath the black strands of hair, and observe the rise and fall of the boy's chest as he breathed.

He's not afraid of me, or he doesn't care.

Sometimes, in the deep hot silence of the afternoon, when the searing light of the sun was splayed over the deck like a prisoner, Takeru would be stirred from his reverie by some unidentified sensation. He would look up, away from the window and the grey desert outside, and see the Kaizer standing in the doorway, half-hidden in the darkness. The terrible unremitting heat of the sun would make Takeru's pale skin stream with perspiration, and his breath would be thick in his lungs and his mind slow, heavy. At those times he couldn't speak, he couldn't think to speak, but the expression on the Kaizer's face was that of someone who wished desperately that he would.

Takeru never even tried.

He jerked his gaze away from his reflection, off the floor and back to the world outside. His expression hardened. His hands clenched into fists at his side and before he had time to second-guess himself he pivoted on his heel and dashed out of the room.

He didn't believe it. Not even the evidence of his own couldn't be. It was impossible. He refused to believe it.

The world was empty. He'd seen it, he knew. Thousands of miles of seared and lifeless, waterless desert. His feet pounded down the corridors, steel ringing with each step. His heartbeat, he could hear it, he could feel it in his ears. A clanging pulse, hollow, echoing, around him and through him and inside of him. No, he wouldn't believe it. The sun and the heat and the...the loneliness, the despair...that was real. He knew the difference. He knew the difference. This was all a lie. It was a lie, a wicked and evil trick to confuse him. That was all. A stupid joke, a trap. Hope. Hope was a trap.

He pelted down a corridor and reached the exit sooner than he expected, a blinding white hole bursting into the darkness of the fortress. He didn't stop, didn't even slow, but let his feet carry him forward until he felt as though he was flying. Forward and over the threshold and through, suddenly into the light, and his feet splashed down and he threw his arms up to shield his eyes, and he felt it. Before his saw it he felt it. And he knew.

He stumbled and fell to his knees and his arms dropped limply to his sides. His mouth opened and he gazed around himself, but even if he had been blind he would have known the truth. He looked down.

He was up to his waist in water.

You say that, you hate it.
You want to recreate it.

"The House of the Lost," The Kaizer had said at the beginning of the journey, "is where all the abandoned things go."

Takeru didn't really know what that meant, or what it would mean if he actually did find Hikari and the others in this place....In fact he was trying hard not to think about what it would mean.

He'd been walking more or less without aim for a little while, wading in the water and shielding his eyes to peer around himself. The water was clean and the air had a damp feel to it, a sharp contrast to the dry, breathless atmosphere within the fortress to which Takeru had grown accustomed. He was reminded a bit of spring.

There was no dry land to be seen, but submerged stonework showed beneath the pristine surface of the water. The sky was not so bright as Takeru had first imagined, stumbling out from the darkness of the fortress, but rather a pale soft color, almost pearl grey. The sunlight was gentler, too, and glistened on the water like broken stars.

The logic of the place's name was lost on Takeru. He'd imagined himself coming to, well, a house of some kind, or perhaps a mausoleum. If this was a mausoleum it was one with a ceiling as wide as the sky.

He bit his lip, a gesture of indecision he had acquired...when? He couldn't remember. There were a few islands of worked stone scattered across the gleaming vista, some with pillars and even roofs. Looking down, Takeru saw that he was standing on a bridge of some sort, wide enough for a vehicle to pass over. He walked to the edge and looked down; below were buildings, streets, stairways. A city. Sunlight shafted through the water and played silently over the stone surfaces.

"There are no fish," Takeru said aloud. He expected to see the flash and glitter of life below the surface, and perhaps the greenness of plants, but here, as in all the rest of the World, there was nothing. Despite the presence of water this place, too, was a desert.

He stood up and started walking along the bridge, away from the fortress. The water was only about at high as his shins and rippled as he moved. Each motion of his legs broke the glassy stillness of the surface, but not for a very great distance. The water was a still and perfect mirror of the sky, and Takeru's ripples traveled only a short distance before they were subsumed by the silence.

It felt unreal. No person could really be as completely alone as he felt himself to be; no-one could be so utterly isolated in an empty universe. It simply was impossible. There had to be life...somewhere.

As he was making his was over the bridge his thoughts turned, seemingly of their own accord, to the memory of the face that he had seen before. His reflection. Was that really how he looked now? That sharp face, but still soft; eyes that seemed smaller, more appropriate, and that were starkly, uncompromisingly blue. His hair was shorter, too, emphasizing the alien-ness of his features, and his lips were the color of coral.

He paused in his aimless stroll and tilted his head back, squinting into the sun. There was something about it that didn't seem quite right, had not seemed right for quite some time now. Since before coming to this place, certainly, though for the life of him he could not say what it was. It was as though the whole world was a little twisted, somehow, or tilted off its center. He thought he remembered the way things were supposed to be, but nothing--not the earth, not the sky, the sun, or even his own face, matched those memories exactly.

"I guess I just don't know anymore," he said aloud, and sighed.

"Don't know what, Takeru?" A voice asked.

"I guess...I don't know anything about...anything," he answered quietly, then choked. That Not possible. He rubbed hastily at his eyes and looked down.


I've been around, I've been your lover.
I let it go at Kill Devil Hill.
You're coming onto something so fast so numb
That you can't even feel.

His partner--if Takeru could still call him that, something of which he was not entirely sure--gazed back at Takeru. It should have been impossible. It was impossible.

"How...what are you doing here?" There was a note of desperation in his voice. "Patamon...."

The creature was hovering over the water, far out of the boy's reach. Takeru took a step forward, then another, until he was standing at the edge of the bridge, as close as he could come.

"Why did you go away, Takeru?" Patamon asked sadly. His voice sounded as though it was coming from a great distance, or that in fact it was echoing inside of Takeru's head.

"Go--" he gaped. "I didn't go anywhere! What are you talking about?"

His partner's eyes were full of pain.

"You left me."

"I did not!" Takeru could hear the anger in his voice, but didn't know where it was coming from. "I did not! You left me! I came home one day and you were gone!"

"No, Takeru, don't you remember?" Patamon flapped his wings, began to rise up into the air. It seemed to Takeru that he had become suddenly, unaccountably distant, growing smaller and fainter in the boy's sight. "You were the one who went away."

Takeru opened his mouth to protest, but at the same moment he stretched out a hand, one clean white untarnished hand, grasping at the air. Reaching into a heavy wet mist that rose up around him, between them, or that perhaps had always been there. Invisible but irresistible.

He couldn't see Patamon anymore. He couldn't see anything at all.

He stepped away from the edge, swallowed, then turned and started to run, crashing forward through the water and tearing into the mist. Once he slipped, his foot slid over the side of the bridge and he had a terrifying sense of weightlessness and a brief vision of the tremendous depth below him. His knee hit stone and he floundered, managed to get his footing and began to run again. He felt as though something terrible was pursuing him, and as he ran he fought a growing desire to twist his head and look behind himself. The water resisted his every step and all too soon his legs were aching and his lungs burned. His hands were like claws, grasping at the air in front of him and he drove forward against terrible resistance until his legs tingled and burned with numbness.

And then his will collapsed, he twisted around to see the cold mirror stretching away to the horizon, and his legs bent and buckled, and he fell.

He twisted his fists into his hair and began to scream.

You're drinking the wrong dream now baby.
You do-si-do, saddo.
You're you in cartilage, shark-eyed, shock horror, all present tense
and boy you blood is running cold.
Listen, this is now, this is here, this is me
This is what I wanted you to see.

The Kaizer was seated on a bench, on a tiny island made out of marble, surrounded on all sides by the smooth and implacable sea. Pillars rose around him but the roof had been torn away, and the shattered columns were like silent, beheaded gods. Takeru came and watched the other boy for a long, long time, until he felt that he, too, must have been turned to stone.

"Did you find what you were looking for?"

The dark boy spoke quietly, without warning, and at first Takeru's brain didn't even register the fact that he'd spoken. He blinked, and made an effort to shake off the stupor that possessed him.

"Not yet," he said thickly.

The Kaizer nodded, as if he had expected that response. He never turned his head to look at Takeru, and his voice was that of someone whose mind was very far away. He continued to stare out over the surface of the water, though what he was looking at Takeru could not tell. After awhile the blonde boy moved to join him, and seated himself beside the other boy.

He resisted the urge to ask the Kaizer what he was staring at, and instead found himself gazing down at his hands, fidgeting, and occasionally casting surreptitious glances at the dark boy beside him. In contrast to Takeru's restless energy the Kaizer was a picture of serene motionlessness. Takeru began to wonder if his companion had fallen asleep. Occasionally the other boy blinked, long black lashes sliding down, barely missing brushing the insides of his lenses.

The silence was a physical thing, viscous and thick and possessed of a kind of power. It squeezed Takeru's chest, lungs and throat, made thought difficult and speech nearly impossible. It was peaceful, and yet, and yet....

It was like waiting to die.

"Hey," he burst out suddenly, his voice snapping the silence in two, "What the hell kind of place is this, anyway?"

The Kaizer stirred and turned to look at Takeru for the first time. They were very close, Takeru could see the almost inhuman smoothness of his skin, and the faint light in his eyes that the lenses did not completely block, yet he seemed very distant. As if there was a smooth pane of glass between the two of them. If he raised his hand to touch...well, he'd never be able to reach him.

"I'm not sure what you mean."

He remembered the boy as he had been in the fortress. The confusion and the sense of loss he carried with him, and his fragility. It was the same boy, yet he seemed more focused, somehow, or calmer. As though nothing in the world could disturb him.

For a moment Takeru couldn't remember his question.

"I mean," he shifted his weight, slid back away from the other boy, until the distance between them was doubled. "I mean it doesn't seem like any place that I've seen since I got here. It isn't, you know," he waved a hand half-heartedly, trying to avoid the distraction of the Kaizer's gaze, "all burned up."

A faint smile played around the other boy's lips, but all he said was, "That's true," and turned to stare back out over the water again. Takeru gaped at the boy and drew in a sharp breath, but for a moment could think of nothing to say. He leapt to his feet instead, and his sudden motion seemed to startle the Kaizer.

"Look, it's not," He ran a hand through his pale hair, "It isn't like the rest of the world. How can that be? How can this one place be full of water and...and...." he broke off, choking on the memory of the recent and unexpected meeting.

"This place is not a real place," The Kaizer said softly. He gazed up at Takeru with those calm, still eyes, and then he stood, drawing the dark folds of his cape close to his body. This close, he was a dark blot against the pearlescent landscape. Takeru slid back another step.

"I--I don't understand," he said, then winced at the uncertainty in his own voice.

"It isn't real, that is, it doesn't exist, in real time. It's a sort of...a sort of loop. In four dimensions."

"A loop?"

"Or a...a folded cloth. A fractured layer." He gestured, holding his hands as though he held a piece of scrunched-up material between them. "It isn't a tomb, it's a place for echoes."

"Listen," Takeru pinched the bridge of his nose, "I'm starting to get a really bad headache--"

"It isn't that far-fetched. Not in this world. Just...imagine what would happen if all the...the energy of the world, all the power of the beings and monsters, the guardians and demons and otherworldly creatures, were sort of, um," he chewed on his lip, a peculiar gesture in one who seemed so removed from the sphere of human concerns. "If they were sort of...obliterated."


"But the power, the energy, it can't escape this world, you know." He turned away from Takeru again, laced his fingers together and pulled them apart again. "You can't make...something out of nothing. Or nothing out of something. It all has to, has to go somewhere. Somewhere. It...I--I," The calmness was splintering. He drew his cape closer around his body and sank down onto the bench again. "Everything that was alive is dead now. Everything. I didn't mean, but...but these things happen." He shivered slightly. Takeru closed his eyes, briefly, then opened them again.

"Everything dies, Takeru. After all, it happens. That's the way the universe works. Entropy. Nothing lasts forever. Not you, me, the world...." He pulled his glasses off again and stared down at them, turning them over and over in his hands. "I knew somebody. I used to know somebody, I mean... but he's gone now. I didn't know it would work like that. But the world, they say everything's connected, you know?"

"I know," Takeru said softly.

"There's a belief for that. In Buddhism. Inter-dependence. Everything that exists does so because everything else exists. But when things start dying, and they do, then they start dying faster and faster, like those little pieces--what are they called?" He didn't look at Takeru, but instead seemed to be searching for the answer in his own mind. "Dominoes. Everything is like that. Everything dies. Systems come in pieces that all fit together, and when you start pulling the system apart, ripping things out, then, well...." He drew in a deep breath and shuddered, then unfolded his glasses and replaced them on his face.

"I didn't want to think about it. I just wanted to be here. For a little while everything was okay. Then you came made me--" he broke off, then. And didn't say any more.

"I'm sorry," Takeru said after awhile.

"I didn't want to feel anything, ever again."

Takeru stared down at his feet, at the stone and dust and cracks below them. The silence grew between them, a guilty heavy silence that grew until the blonde boy could no longer endure it. He blurted out the first thing that came to mind.

"What's the matter with the sun?"

The Kaizer looked up at him.


"The...sun, it, it looks weird. You know. I can't say why, but, it's just like everything here, it looks like it got all screwed up somehow, like its bigger than it used to be, or brighter, or something, but--" Takeru knew that he was babbling. He couldn't stop. He needed to do something to fill up the silence. As he talked, the Kaizer turned his slow gaze away and tilted his head back to peer up into the sky. He shielded his eyes with a gloved hand, and then smiled again, slightly, as though amused by some secret joke.

"What?" demanded Takeru finally, interrupting himself in exasperation, "What is so Goddamned funny?"

The Kaizer dropped his hand and shrugged, then gestured up at the sun.

"It's real, you know," he said conversationally.

"What? What's real?"

"The sun. It's real."

"Well woop-de-doo. I didn't really think--"

"No, I mean--nothing else here is. But the sky and the sun are the same sky and the same sun that are over all the rest of the world. And after all, well, that sun isn't at all like the sun of the Earth."

Takeru flopped back down beside the other boy.


"Takeru, the Digital World is a system. A closed system. Self-sufficient and self-contained, nothing exists beyond its confines, either in the physical, or spiritual worlds."

"I really don't see--"

"Your body is a system too. Not a closed system, but sufficient for drawing parallels and examples. I am a virus, Takeru, you must know that. I invaded the Digital World and began to warp and alter its basic makeup to suit my own desires. The Digital World provided its own defensive system, in the form of your friends. The Chosen Children. However, for whatever reason, the defense was insufficient. I was able to defeat the Chosen and successfully lay claim to the entire Digital World, mine to do with as I chose."

"I'm not really sure I understand--"

"What happens to a system, Takeru, when a virus invades and is not contained or destroyed?"


"Think in terms of biology. Of the human body."

Takeru looked up at the sun again, at the slightly swollen, slightly redder, slightly brighter sun, and he said:

"The system dies."

That was then, was that, that is gone, this is past,
you cast yourself cast, passed by, thrown down fast, you used to say:

You say that you hate it.
You want to recreate it.
I've played this round, I've played your lover.
I've played it out to the hilt. Oh.
You're comin' on with something so fast, so numb that you can't even feel.

"I've already done all the calculations, if you want to know how much time is left."

The Kaizer's voice echoed inside of Takeru's head as he stumbled aimlessly along another stone bridge. Dying. The World was dying....

"It seems there are about three days left, give or take a few hours. It's hard to be precise, of course, but judging by the rate at which nuclear fusion has suddenly increased--which, according to accepted astrophysical theory ought to be impossible--the sun will exhaust its hydrogen supply in less than two days. It will then see a very rapid expansion of it's outer envelopes, which my calculations show will be much faster than actually occurs in a star in the real world, and will completely engulf the Digital World, boiling it away into its component elements. Of course there is no possibility that the world can be saved, or that this process can somehow be halted."

"Have you even tried to think of a way?" Takeru had tried to keep his voice from becoming accusatory, and had failed. If the Kaizer noticed, though, or was in any way troubled by the boy's reaction, he hadn't shown it.

"I haven't tried. Why bother? The end result is the same. Why expend the last of my energy in a futile attempt to halt the inevitable?"

The World was coming to an end.

He stopped walking and sank down where he was, on an arch that vaulted out of the water and left his feet dangling in dry air. He felt drained and hollow and empty. He stared out blankly to a flat horizon and knew that if he stayed sitting there long enough, the sun would come and swallow him up, along with everything else this side of creation. He fidgeted, and picked at the skin around his fingernails. It was time to go home, back to the real world. He would have to find a way, and soon. The Kaizer had spoken of a Gate nearby, that could be reached from this place in a matter of hours, even moving at the painfully slow pace of the fortress. He'd offered to take Takeru there, with the manner of one making a grand and gracious gesture. He had not mentioned whether he himself intended to return.

Takeru wondered suddenly if the Kaizer had intended to remain in the House of the Lost until the end came. Perhaps reliving old memories. Or removing himself entirely from the world of the living.

"What happened to this world?" he asked the empty air. He'd wanted to ask the Kaizer, but hadn't had the nerve. Had the Kaizer destroyed everything? That certainly seemed to be what he'd been saying...but Takeru had a hard time reconciling the image he had in his mind of the mostly gentle, confused boy he saw with the kind of monster he seemed to have been. Perhaps something else had been involved. Perhaps there was another factor, a second player...?

He was pondering the possibilities when he became aware that the landscape around him seemed to be changing. He hadn't noticed it at first, in the way he never noticed when the sun was setting, until it was nearly hugging the horizon. He looked down beneath his feet and saw that the water had become darker. Or rather, he realized when he squinted and looked closer, it was as though something dark had been superimposed over the water. If such a thing was possible. He squinted. Above the liquid ripples were different kinds of shapes. Dry, sharp shapes with edges, that coalesced slowly as he stared at them into something his mind could comprehend. Grass, and stones. He swung his feet, tried to reach them, and the edge of his sneaker passed through the image and splashed into the water. It wasn't real, then. An illusion, or a phantom. Maboroshii.

He looked up. The sky was darker too, around him, and was growing darker as he watched. Ashen colored, and filling up with clouds. Lightning tinged the edges of some, flashes of white, yellow and sometimes red. And in the distance, slowly becoming more apparent, were images of trees. Trees that had become torches blazing away their lives.

"What the hell--" he began. And then he looked up. Up, and saw a hill stretching away from him, and the silhouettes of people, and of monsters fading slowly into view. People and monsters that he recognized.

"Dai-suke...." he breathed, "Hikari...."

They were there. The images began to move, slowly at first, like bodies trapped in molasses, then faster until they reached the speed of life, until the were plunging down the hill towards him. He turned, and nearly fell backwards into the water. Behind him was an army of red-eyed creatures, charging the hill.

"They'll...they'll be destroyed!" He spun back around, just in time to see Hikari and Miyako charge past him, mounted on terrible winged creatures the likes of which Takeru had never seen. They charged the ranks of the vanguard and were met with vicious resistance, huge tusked Mammothmon leading the fray and tearing at their fragile bodies.

And it was all, all, utterly silent. Miyako twisted on her mount, shouted something to the top of the hill, her mouth shaping the words that no vibrations carried to Takeru's ears. He turned and saw Daisuke plunge downward, riding the back of a sleek saurian creature. And Iori, and his angel.

"My God...what is this?" He watched in horrified awe as his former companions threw themselves bodily into a soundless fray they must have known that they could not win, and his horror turned to amazement as monster after monster fell before them. Their strength, it seemed, was hidden.

"Come on, Hikari! I know you can do it! Come on...." When Miyako and Hikari dismounted, Takeru was at first confused, then stunned into silence by the transformation their partners performed. The new beast attacked with renewed vigor, laying into the army and cutting a swath of digital sparks. Against all odds, they seemed to be winning.

And then there was a sound. Takeru heard it, distantly, or in fact he felt it, a rumbling in the earth. It vibrated up through his legs and reached his heart, and trembled there. And in the vision, Miyako heard it, and Hikari and Daisuke. And the army, which first quailed, then fled outright, leaving the Chosen alone on the ruined plane.

In the sky was a speck that Takeru thought at first was a bird, but it moved to rapidly and grew too large too quickly to be such. Takeru cried aloud when he saw what it was, when the sky cleared enough to allow him to view the new monster that had entered the field, and deep inside his heart he heard it's hideous laughter.*

A monstrous, distorted creature. An amalgamation of beings, a Frankensteinian horror of mismatched limbs and other parts. It closed the distance on the Chosen with terrible speed and as it drew closer Takeru began to be able to make out a tiny figure, perched on its shoulder.

A tiny figure, clad in blue and gold.

He drew in a breath, as though he was going to try to warn the other children, as though this were not merely some sort of reflection being played out by a World trapped in its death throes, as though somehow he could reach across time and cry out to the people he once called his friends, but he never got the chance even to perform that useless act. For his breath was choked off in his throat when the blue-clad figure raised an arm and the monster opened its jaws and spewed a blast of light so bright it burned Takeru's eyes. He squeezed them shut and flung an arm up in defense against the brilliance, and when he dropped his arm again, he knew what he was going to see.

The image was gone, the memory expunged. And the water lapped gently around the arch.

You love it. You hate it. You want to recreate it.
Now, this is here, this is me.
This is what I wanted you to see.
That was then, was that, that is gone.
That is what I wanted you to feel.

The body of a beast and the head of a man.

He walked back to the fortress, pausing outside to glance around for signs of the Kaizer. He'd gone back to where he'd met the boy earlier but there hadn't been anyone there. He was growing tired of the sounds of water and of his own quiet breathing. He felt lost and confused and desperately needed to confront the dark-haired boy.

The sun was making its slow descent behind the clouds when he finally reached the great edifice, and it cast his long shadow out over the water. The grey clouds were turning to purple and a warm golden glow suffused the distant horizon, the reflection temporarily blurring the sharp and uncompromising that divided the water from the sky.

He went inside.

His footsteps echoed in the halls but did not ring so loud in his ears this time. The oppression of the loneliness outside far outstripped the kind found inside. Somewhere within these walls, Takeru was certain, there was another person. Most importantly, another person with answers.

He began at the highest levels and paced downward, seeking the dark-haired boy whose name he did not even know. Had Daisuke ever told him? The boy's name...all Takeru knew him as was 'Kaizer.' A name of deference. Even in anger, a name of deference.

He would find him now, and learn his true name. He would learn the whole truth. About the Chosen. And then he would go home.

He came in the end not to the Control Room, but to the observation deck. And there he found the other boy, standing and staring out over the water at the sunset all in purple and gold. When Takeru entered he turned to look at the boy, then looked back out over the water.

"Are you ready to go?" he asked.

"No." Takeru was surprised by how calm and firm his voice was. His mind felt awhirl. He knew what he had to do now, but this gentle, fragile could he do it? How could he demand such answers to such terrible questions?

"There isn't much time, Takeru," the Kaizer said softly. As Takeru drew closer he saw that the boy was hugging himself, his thin arms to his thin chest, and the cape fell loosely around him. But his gaze remained fixed and distant. "You have to leave soon. I promised I would take you."

"I'm not...not ready to go, yet." He chewed the inside of his mouth. How could he broach the issue? It would be so easy..."I saw what happened. I know what you did. Just tell me. Tell me the truth." All he really wanted was the truth. But to accuse this boy of such crimes....

"Who are you?" Takeru whispered, far too softly to be heard. He drew closer to the other boy until he was standing beside him, and he peered at the face behind the glasses. He seemed almost...sad.

"I saw something today," Takeru began. He dropped his gaze to his feet when the Kaizer turned to look at him. He looked up again and their eyes met, briefly. He saw something in the other boy's eyes he could not name.

"What did you see, Takeru?"

It was like a legend, or a fairy tale. Coming into a faraway land and encountering a being who was not quite human, but not so alien he could not be approached. Approached, but never truly understood.

"I'm...not sure. I was hoping to ask you about it."

"What did you want to know, Takeru?"

"This place. The things that it shows...would it ever show something that wasn't real? Or something that didn't happen?"

The Kaizer regarded him in silence for a long time, before finally looking away. He pulled his cape tighter around himself.

"It might show you things that didn't happen. But it always, always shows the truth."

Takeru sucked in a breath, but did not step away from the boy. He wasn't sure what to do. There was only one question he had to ask, but instead, somehow, he wound up asking something else.

"How long have you been here? In this place, all alone?"

The Kaizer raised his head sharply, caught Takeru's glance and shook his head, vigorously. Either because he didn't like the question or because he didn't like the answer.

"I don't know. I can't remember." The words were terse and clipped, but something around their edges trembled. Takeru winced internally.

"Can't, or won't?"

"No, Takeru. I don't know. I can't remember anything anymore. I'm losing things," he hunched his shoulders, drawing farther and farther into himself, "I'm losing things I used to take for granted. I don't know how long its been. Days, months, years? A whole lifetime--" he broke off, turned himself bodily away from Takeru, and in a moment of intense humanity he buried his face in his hands. He leaned against the glass and and his shoulders shuddered.

"Wait a second." Takeru placed his hands on the other boy's shoulders. The Kaizer flinched away, but Takeru persisted and he finally allowed himself to be turned, slowly, to face the blonde boy. His eyes remained downcast, staring at the floor. "Maybe it isn't too late. Maybe you can still remember some things--" You have to remember, damn you! I need to know! "Maybe I can help you."

"How can you help me?" There was an edge of scorn in his tone, but Takeru couldn't tell if it was directed at him, or at the Kaizer's own mind. He shook his head.

"I don't know. Really, I don't, but...but maybe just being alone for so long--"

The Kaizer looked up sharply.

"Maybe just being alone made it hard to remember. Maybe I can help you...somehow."

"It's over, Takeru," the boy whispered, "Why can't you see that? For me, it's over. Go home. You can can still--"

Takeru tightened his grip on the boy's shoulders.

"What's your name?" he said.

The Kaizer opened his mouth, stared, and shut it again. He bit his lip and tried to pull away from Takeru.

"What is it?" he persisted. "What's your name? What was it before you came to this place? Tell me!"

He pulled.



"I don't...I don't...I can't...." He ceased trying to pull away and covered his face with his hands. He seemed to collapse inward, his shoulders hunching and his body drooping. Takeru reached up, tried to pull the hands away.

"You don't know, do you?"

Wordlessly the boy shook his head. And his shoulders started to shake. Takeru swallowed, then did the only thing he could think of. The only thing. He drew the frail thin body towards himself and wrapped his arms around it, around the other boy, around the monster. He let the Kaizer come to rest against him and gently stroked his hair.

"Shh," he whispered, age-old words of meaningless comfort. He squeezed him tighter. "Shh. Shh. It's all right. Don't worry about it. It doesn't matter. Don't worry...." He held the shuddering body for a long time, until he began to become aware of the other boy's warmth, creeping through his clothes, and the soft smell of his hair, his skin, his closeness. Takeru swallowed.

"Hey," he tried, stirring the boy gently and pushing him away a little, "Look at me."

The Kaizer's eyes were devastated, and Takeru felt something twist inside when he looked at the other boy's face. I did that. He reached up and carefully unhooked the glasses from his face, holding them away so he could look at the boy.

"I'm sorry," he said.

The Kaizer's lips parted, and trembled slightly. Something was very wrong. Something Takeru had was it possible to upset another person this badly? To cause so much disturbance, so much pain?

"I'm sorry," he said again.

The dark boy dropped his eyes. "I'm tired, Takeru," he said.

Takeru reached up to touch his face. He didn't know why. Only there was something there that he had caused, and he wanted to take it back. Into himself. Through his fingers, to absorb the pain into his body and free the other boy from whatever burden he had given him. The reaction to the touch was wholly unexpected. The Kaizer closed his eyes and leaned slightly, into the touch, and his lips parted. As though he was reaching. For Takeru.

It was the truth. That was what he was after. The truth. No matter what the cost.

He leaned forward, pressed harder against the boy's pale cheek, drew closer so that they touched softly and he stroked the other boy's face. The Kaizer raised his own hand and closed it over Takeru's, curled his fingers around his palm and squeezed.

So alone. So isolated. No human contact. No touch. No voice. Nothing.


He was so close now. So close. He could feel the other boy's breath, brushing against his own lips.

But the boy's eyes opened. And something was wrong.

"Takeru, I'm fading...."

He caught the Kaizer as he collapsed.

You love it. You hate it. You spit it out, the bitter pill. Oh.
I've been around, I've been your lover.
I let it go at Kill Devil Hill.
You're coming onto something so fast so numb that you can't even feel.

I've played this round, I've played your lover.
I've played it out to the hilt. Oh.
You're comin' on with something so fast, so numb that you can't even feel.
You played around, you played me lover.
I let it go at Kill Devil Hill.
You're moving so hard, so fast, so numb that you can't even feel.


*I can't remember if Kimeramon laughed in the American version, or just screamed, but he had the coolest laugh in the Japanese version. It gave me the creeps.

lyrics: R.E.M.
So Fast, So Numb
New Adventures in Hi-Fi


A/N: Shonen-ai, anyone?


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