Phantom Codewalker
Tablet III - Blue Blood
by Ajora Fravashi

*Disclaimer - I don't own Digimon. Toei does.
*Violence and gore warning, with a nice healthy dose of Ryo angst on the side.


For what seemed to be the hundredth time in the last twenty-four hours, a young man brushed back a lock of hair that had sprung forth and resumed its place upon his forehead. The night had been an emotional hell for him, and the day was not turning out to be much better. He was waiting now to be chastised for stealing technology from another world to aid in the healing of perhaps the one friend he ever really had. Oh, Taichi was great for all of the few months he knew the boy, but once Taichi had returned to Earth, they never spoke again beyond a few pleasantries in passing. But Ken... Ken was so sorely in need of someone who actually cared enough that he had reached out to the little boy and never let go.

Until he sold himself to the Powers That Be in exchange for the power to save Ken from death and prevent the Dark Seed from blooming. Since then Zhuqiaomon, one of the Four Holy Beasts of the Digital World, insisted that he avoid contact with his friend and Jogress partner in all ways possible. It was with a heavy heart that he watched the Kaiser's rise and fall, knowing that he could do nothing but observe.

Zhuqiaomon emerged, revealing itself in all its fiery splendor. It glared down at him in disapproval as its multiple wings fluttered in an almost lazy manner. "You have broken one of our laws, Tamer. Technology from other worlds should not be exposed to or used on the denizens of another. Do you have an explanation with which to defend yourself?"

"It's my job to watch over the Destined Children to the best of my abilities," the Tamer stated patiently despite his annoyance with the firebird's lack of concern for any of the children who were chosen to protect the Digital World. The Holy Beasts never actually cared for the chosen ones, but he was uncertain as to whether they were genuinely unconcerned or if it was out of ignorance of the fact that humans do not regenerate like digimon do. "The one I have used the nanotechnology on is one whose survival is imperative to the plans of you and your colleagues. Neither he or his friend are aware of what I used and once the bots are done, they'll simply break down to basic chains of proteins and dissolve in his bloodstream. There will be no trace of the technology."

A grunt of grudging acknowledgment from the firebird rose at this. "Very well. See to it that he returns to action once his wounds are fully healed. We would also like to take this time to notify you that a rogue codewalker has recently arisen. Eliminate it before it becomes aware of who it was and what it is."

Swallowing uncomfortably at the thought of another codewalker in the Digital World, the young man nodded. "I shall see to that immediately. Is there anything else?"

The firebird paused in the motions that would take it back the way it came. "You are not to break the laws set by us ever again. Is that understood, Akiyama Ryo?"

"Perfectly understood," the young man muttered bitterly. It was so rare when any of the Four Holy Beasts uttered his name that he was certain until now that they had forgotten it. He waited until Zhuqiaomon disappeared into the clouds before retreating from the mountains in kind.

Oh, in the begining the prospect of becoming a Tamer was such a refreshing difference from what he would have gotten on Earth that he had begged for it. Tamers were rare in that they were Destined Children who never really bonded with a single digimon for long. He had been training Kageko and Ken for the job in hopes that they would join him, but that they both bonded with their own digimon partners presented a rather unpleasant knot in those plans. Then, once things started getting nasty in the Digital World, he found that being a Tamer could be even more difficult than being a regular Destined Child: as the last true Tamer his existance was brought to the attention of the Four Holy Beasts and they shackled him with the job of keeping watch over the Destined Children. He was required to act in the shadows and help the Destined Children only by uttering hints and occassionally offering sanctuary. There had been times when he had to outright lie to them.

As it was, there had only ever been six genuine Tamers in the history of the Digital World, and all but one had been killed or retired. He would have stepped down as well if he wasn't bound by pact to the Four Holy Beasts that guarded the Digital World. And now he was far more than just a Tamer.

Things should have been different. He should be living with Kageko and Ken in their little cottage out in an area of the Digital World that very few visited. That was why he had built that cottage in the first place, to offer Ken a normal family life the boy never had and make his best friend happy. But things went horribly wrong and he could do nothing as he watched his friend's life shatter over and over again.

Perhaps that was why the situation grated on his nerves. Last night's first batch of investigative nanobots had revealed that Ken had been brutally raped, though by whom the bots couldn't tell. There was something bizarre about the semen sample that prevented them from successfully figuring out the basic genetic print. Couldn't be from a digimon, however... as far as he knew, digimon do not breed. Needless to say, what he had learned from the bots was both depressing and infuriating. He should have kept a closer eye on Ken. Should have been a better friend than he was.

As he entered the mechanorimon that he used as transport, his thoughts returned to the conversation with Zhuqiaomon. Maybe this recent appearance of a codewalker was related to Ken's rape? Codewalkers were even more rare than Tamers, they were the spirits of humans who died in the Digital World. Like ghosts, they could materialize and disappear at will, and when they became aware they either infected the heart of the Digital World or roamed around like lost children. It was difficult for anyone to actually track one down and neutralize it, as they followed the nature of their namesake and could flit from host to host and occupy inanimate objects without anyone noticing. And if the codewalker was in any way related to the ziggurat out in the desert that now was nothing but broken stone, he was going to have to reveal himself to the boy far sooner than he wanted to.

Sighing in despair, the Tamer launched his mechanorimon and left it on autopilot for the long flight home. Maybe he should wait until the boy recovered first before dropping such a large emotional bombshell. Yes, that would be the most prudent approach, and he honestly didn't think either he or Ken could deal with the stress of a full encounter at this point.

This, however, left him with the dilemma of time. Whether the Four Holy Beasts liked it or not, Ken was going to need time to heal and right now the Digital World was in danger with Black Wargreymon on the prowl. He'd hate to do it, but he would need to command the nanobots within Ken to speed up their work.

Far too much stress. Really, there were times he wished that he hadn't given up a normal life on Earth with normal parents and spending all his time chatting online with normal people whose only idea of a Digital World was the World Wide Web. This was one of those times.

Once he had the mechanorimon land, the Tamer hopped out and entered his cottage. Takeru was sitting in what would have been Ken's chair in front of the fireplace, with Patamon curled up in the boy's lap. It had been a while since he saw the boy, and it was rather disconcerting to see such strength of will in what used to be a sensitive little boy who cried easily and clung to his brother. But when he had seen Takeru last, it was while he was in a different form entirely. Taking a sake bottle from the pantry in the kitchen, the Tamer returned to the living room and poured himself a cup.

"He's asleep," Takeru stated in a tone that betrayed nothing of what the boy was thinking. Faintly perturbed by this, the Tamer settled in his own comfortable chair and gave a grin that was as false as the old man visage he once used.

"That's great! Sleep is good for recovery. I trust you've fed him that powder," the Tamer asked as he drained the tiny cup and filled it up again with more of the warm rice wine.

Takeru frowned to himself, recognizing the facade for what it was. The man was really much too familiar for Takeru's peace of mind, although some theories were begining to take shape and present themselves to him. "Yes, I did. Who are you, Tamer?"

The Tamer swept back the lock of hair that had fallen once again over his forehead, not liking the question one bit and liking the timing even less. "I am one person that is many."

"I want the truth and I want details. Who are you," Takeru queried yet again. He wasn't really enjoying having to pry anything out of anyone, but he swore he was going to get his answers regardless of the method used.

"Truth is relative. But if you insist... I am a teenaged boy, a young man, an eccentric old geezer. My job allows for me to take as many different forms as is required for the task. Ken needed a friend, I allowed myself to be natural around him. You and your group needed a mentor, I projected myself as a weird grandfather figure," the Tamer murmured in distress. He really wasn't liking this day at all and he hated having to reveal himself to Takeru so soon. "I'm a chameleon, I can switch personalities as is necessary."

Leaning back into the soft padding of the chair, Takeru closed his eyes. Well, that was one theory verified... Though just what it meant about what he believed was true disturbed him. "Then your name isn't really Ge-"

"No. No, it's Akiyama Ryo. *He* was just a shell program that was needed for a job," Ryo offered as he poured himself another cup and drained it just as quickly. Maybe if he was lucky he could get himself drunk and forget this whole thing ever happened.

"Well then, *Akiyama*, how much of what you told us was a lie? What is this place?"

"The lies and truths of what I have told your group cannot be verified yet... not until the Dragon rises. Then I am sure he'll be willing to let you all know. And this place..."

Rising from his chair and leaving the sake bottle on the coffee table, Ryo strode forward to stare pointedly at the painting. "Kindness, Truth, Loyalty," the Tamer pointed to the rosebud, the sword, and the shield as he listed the crests. "We wanted to be a family. Ken was horribly neglected at home, you see, so Kageko and I thought it would be a great idea to set up a home in the Digital World where we could give Ken the attention he deserved."

Silence was all that followed for awhile. Takeru swallowed rather uncomfortably at this new revelation. He had known nothing about Ken's past, but then Ken never really talked about it. How would Ken respond to this? Hell, it wasn't like he was taking the discovery of Akiyama's alias very well anyway. It was akin to being told that everything he believed in as a child was a lie. It wasn't until Akiyama returned to the chair that Takeru asked his next question. "Ken's never said anything about you. Why's that?"

"He probably hates me," Ryo offered with a humorless half-smile as he picked the sake bottle back up and cradled it in an almost comforting gesture. "Not that I blame him. His brother and Kageko had recently died, and soon afterwards he and I had to go into battle. For awhile this was all we would focus on. Something... horrible happened to him after that battle, it made him ill for weeks. I pulled strings at my own expense to get the power to heal him, and once he was stable, the Powers That Be of the Digital World started using me as they saw fit. I'm certain that he thinks I abandoned him. Does that answer all your questions, Takeru?"

A slight frown crossed the blond's face as he absently stroked his partner's wings. Akiyama looked to be rather tired now... although whether it was due to agitation over his questions, the rice wine, or both, he couldn't guess. "Two things... One, would you rather I not tell Ken about you at the moment? And what happened last night when you locked me out? I may not know as much as you do about him, but I do know that there are few things that can reduce a person like him to crying."

The Tamer sighed once again. "Yes, I'd appreciate it if you don't tell him at the moment... I doubt either of us could handle the stress right now. And as for the second question," Akiyama paused to set the sake bottle aside and fold his hands together over his midriff as he leaned back into the chair's cushions. "I used some rather sensitive technology that would look for any internal injuries. What the devices found was a couple of fractured ribs, a torn ligament and... lacerations where there shouldn't be unless he had been raped. Nothing else I can think of would cause that kind of damage, and there was other evidence to verify that conclusion."

Takeru could only stare in absolute shock as the Tamer's words registered in his mind. Who would possibly... out here... why? Well, it did explain Ken's recent behavior. But... but... who could do something that evil to someone so young? He stared blankly at his partner while his mind raced. While he was certain the other kids might be worrying about them by now, he figured it wouldn't be a good idea to let them in on where he and Ken were. Not while Ken was still hurt and likely to hate him for letting others see Ken like that. And after what he learned, he very much doubted the raven-haired boy wanted to see anyone for a very long time.

"I... I'm going to camp out in his room again tonight just in case he needs anything," Takeru whispered as he moved to rise from the chair. Patamon fluttered out of the way only to resume his usual position on Takeru's head.

With a grunt of disgust at himself, the Tamer settled the sake bottle on the coffee table and pinned the boy under a sharp gaze. "If he looks to be suffering from a nightmare, let me know before you wake him. There's something out there that did this to him, and I think it may still be around."

All Takeru could offer was a curious stare as the Tamer rose and retreated to another room. Far too many mysteries abound for his tastes.


The stench of blood was almost overpowering, it rotted in the sultry climate and permeated every object within the city's limits. In the distance there sounded the beat of a ceremonial drum accompanied by flutes and rattles, and every now and then the brown people draped in loincloths or skirts would look at him in curiosity and grin before dancing away. Most of them wore anklets and bracelets decorated with bells and bits of shells that rattled with each motion; and when some of them smiled, their teeth flashed with unnatural color due to the gemstones embedded in them. If it wasn't for the coppery stink of blood, he would almost have enjoyed what looked like a celebration.

And if it wasn't for the warriors guiding him to the temple, he would have followed his first instinct and fled. Oh, there was no doubt in his mind of the occupations of the men with black body paint and fearsome jaguar masks, who carried at their side the wooden swords rimmed with obsidian shards that were so unique to their culture. A rather unpleasant conclusion finally presented itself when he saw his reflection in a nobleman's texcacuitlapilli. Blue paint had been slathered on his body, which was clothed only in a simply embroidered loincloth and feathered cloak. So he was to be the last sacrifice of the season, but why? This wasn't his place, these weren't his people.

The entourage entered the temple's courtyard at last, leading him up to the altar. The warriors forced him to kneel before a ruler whose back was turned to him and was talking to a priest who wore a suit of skin that had been peeled from another human sacrifice. The priest noticed his attention and gave a jade-toothed grin that clashed sharply against brown eyes and auburn hair... His hand darted to cover his mouth in an attempt to hold back the rising bile as he recognized Daisuke clothed in the skin of Ryo. No, it couldn't be Daisuke, but-

One of the warriors pulled a mask off for a brief moment, and he experienced a sinking sense of dismay as he recognized Iori. Feeling horribly ill, his eyes darted around only to see Miyako and Hikari among the dancing temple maidens, and Takeru who was so fixated on playing the flute that the blond couldn't have been paying attention to anything other than the music. Among the bodies of those already sacrificed he recognized Osamu and Kageko, along with his parents. It had to be a nightmare, but it was just too real. Nightmares just weren't this vivid.

The ruler finally turned, splendidly draped in gold and jade and a feathered gold crown. Paint the color of blood had been brushed on in elaborate designs, and the ruler wore a cape that sported iridescent black and red feathers. The ruler's canine teeth had been filed to sharp points, but he recognized his doppelganger far too well. The Kaiser smiled pleasantly as he stepped away from the chacmool and motioned for the four warriors to drag him onto the sacrificial altar.

"You didn't think you could get rid of me that easily, did you," the Kaiser queried as the warriors laid him out on the chacmool's offering plate. His doppelganger ran bloodied fingers through his hair in an almost affectionate gesture before moving away. "I'll always haunt you, of that you can be certain."

Daisuke stepped forward with a stone knife in hand, wearing the determined look in his face that he sported every now and then. The boy stopped, however, when the Kaiser placed a hand on the boy's shoulder and plucked the knife away. Obediently, Daisuke said nothing and stepped back to observe. Now armed with the sacrificial knife, the Kaiser struck with a downwards blow. It plowed through skin and cracked ribs apart to leave an opening large enough for a hand to reach into. With a sadistic grin, the Kaiser plunged his free hand into the opening and ripped out the still-beating heart. The Kaiser held his heart up high for all to see, eliciting from the crowds a lusty cheer that was inhuman in its volume and tone.


Takeru jumped when he heard a scream coming from the general direction of Ken's bed. He was on the bed and shaking the raven-haired boy awake within seconds, not relenting until he felt Ken grasping his arms in a gesture to stop. He would have woken Ken up much sooner, but Akiyama needed time to gather whatever information was necessary to track down the codewalker. Takeru had no real idea what the device Akiyama used or what it did, all he cared about was getting back at whatever did this to his friend. When Ken began to shudder, Takeru pulled the boy into his arms and stroked his friend's hair reassuringly, all the while gazing sternly at the figure of an old man that looked to be typing something out on a laptop.

Gennai, as Akiyama prefered to be called in his old geezer form, only granted him a slight nod. "I caught the tail end of an electrical signature, but the codewalker fled when you woke him up. It's just enough for me to know what to look for, however."

Satisfied with the answer if just for the moment, Takeru returned his attention to the boy quaking in his arms, unaware when 'Gennai' picked up the computer and left the room.

When he was certain he wouldn't be discovered, Ryo deactivated the shell program and went outside to gaze up at the stars. He hated this, hated having to use his only real friend as bait to catch the codewalker. Hated himself for being unable to figure out another way to pull off the hunt. And sooner or later Ken was going to figure out who he was under the shell program, then what?

Before his thoughts could go any further, a bundle of purple and white fur barreled into his chest and nearly knocked him backwards. Picking up the little virus-type digimon, the Tamer pulled it out at arm's length and looked at it critically. The creature only gave him an innocent grin, an effect that was ruined by the mischief in its golden eyes.

"Been keeping an eye on Black Wargreymon," Ryo asked of the creature that squirmed out of his grasp and fluttered lazily before him. This had been one of the few digimon he trained that had yet to bond to any Destined Child or developed into any considerable trouble as most viruses did. Savali, as the tsukaimon liked to be called, seemed to be somewhat loyal to him... when it suited the virus's needs.

"We've had to move the last Holy Stone again, he was getting too close," the tsukaimon quipped, a vague look of consternation crossing its face at the seriousness of the news. "It's only a matter of time before he finds it."

"I know," Ryo sighed at that particularly daunting prospect as Savali flew up to perch on a branch in a nearby tree. Savali, like Kageko's digimon Libra, detested the fact that all digimon ended up with 'mon' tacked on the ends of their names and had chosen to take another in protest. "Ken's healing fast, although I don't think I can say the same about his psychological wounds. But at least Takeru's there for him, which is more than I can say about myself."

Savali cocked his head and folded his wings back against his body. He had heard of Ryo's past, from what little the Tamer would tell him, and he knew better than to accept Ryo's whining. "Stop talking like that. You've done all you could within your limits. And I really suggest telling him soon before he finds out on his own."

Trust the tsukaimon to smack him out of his moods, either physically or verbally. "That's probably the wisest path. Planning to stay out here tonight?"

"Not if that was an invitation for free food and lodging," the little digimon crowed, expanding his wings before diving into Ryo's arms. He grinned cutely at the Tamer. "I promise to behave."

"Yeah, right," Ryo muttered... Savali behaving like a good little digimon for more than a few minutes was unheard of. He smiled slightly as the ball of fluff curled up in his arms. Well, at least he had someone on his side and someone to cheer him up a little before he had to prepare for the morning's hunt.


Ajora: Apologies for the one term that doesn't really have an exact translation. A texcacuitlapilli is a polished hematite mirror tied to the back of a nobleman's belt, often believed by archaeologists to be used merely for decorative purposes. However, there are certain tribes in North America that wear similar ornaments for ceremonial attire.

And the Ryo = Gennai theory... Well, consider that Young Gennai has spiked-back brown hair, blue eyes, and no one knows whether he's human or Digimon; and Ryo has spiked-back brown hair, blue eyes, and no one knows what happened to him after the Milleniumon battle or why he never sticks to one digimon at a time. It's just something that makes some amount of sense to me ^^;. About Ryo being able to access other worlds, that idea developed from my learning about a new Wonderswan game in the works starring Ryo and Takato called 'Network Tamers'. Man Ryo-kun gets around.

There should be one last part to this, and I hope to get it out next week (heh, four is the number of death in Japanese superstition, how fitting). Well, if the Kaiser doesn't whap me upside the head with yet another stroke of inspiration, anyway.


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