Act II, Scene I
by Ajora Fravashi

*Disclaimer - I don't own Digimon. Toei/Bandai does.
*Erm, I think I should have given a slight-Joushiro warning ahead of time. Sorry. I also apologize in advance for the medical jargon ^_^. Can't you tell I'm a science fan first and foremost? Oh, and Daisuke has bad language in this, but it's to be expected given what he's found out.


Things tended to be quiet between them. It had to be, as neither were much for small-talk, and any discussion between them was usually restricted to theories and information. Koushiro liked it that way, and he liked it when the person he was talking to was capable of keeping up with him.

Jou sat on his bed, with Sakimoto Kageko's medical files scattered around him and several books stacked to one side that Koushiro had no interest in plowing through. Medicine was Jou's domain, not his, and he preferred to keep it that way. This did not prevent him from picking up bits of trivia when Jou explained something or another, however.

The taller of the two nudged his glasses back up his nose with shaky fingers as he closed the final folder. From everything he had researched and analyzed since Koushiro handed him the files, the situation looked to be very bleak. Personally, he wasn't all that surprised that the patient died in surgery. A pessimistic voice within him rattled on about how he really should tell them all to just give up, that Ichijouji couldn't be saved. There were too many things that could go wrong, and that idea alone was distressing enough. Yet no one who had ever thought of medicine as a career wanted to be the harbinger of a death sentence. It was very discouraging, but he would have to try. He may not have known Ken all that well, but it was someone he knew, and the thought of Ken dying on the operating table was enough to put him into the emotional state he was trying to hide from Koushiro.

Unfortunately, that wasn't working very well, since Koushiro glanced at his shaking hands and probably figured out what he was feeling anyway.

Koushiro needed to know just how bad the situation was, then perhaps the other boy would be able to find a way out of this particular hell.

"I'm not making any guarantees, and I doubt it'll even work," Jou paused to lick at lips that had gone dry with nervousness before continuing. Oh, how he hated being a pessimist. "But we can try. Tell Gennai that we'll need a myelogram, ECG, and X-rays taken before we can begin. The basics of what we would need to do is perform a laminectomy, which means we'll need the proper equipment. The laminectomy would get the bones that cover the medulla oblongata out of the way. Then it gets a lot more complex. From the looks of Sakimoto's files, I'm running on the assumption that while embedded in the cord, the Dark Seed takes a shape similar to an astrocytoma. It's a kind of tumor of the nervous cells."

Koushiro winced. So he may not have known much about surgery, but Jou's suggestions just sounded painful. "I take it we'll be dousing him in anaesthesia beforehand?"

"Only way to do it," the other offered with a dry, humorless smirk. He would just have to present the facts first, and address his feelings about the matter later. "The problem with the Dark Seed in Sakimoto was that its fibers were too deeply interwoven with those of her spinal cord. Also, by the time she was operated upon, the Dark Seed had converted the calcium in her vertebrae into a kind of shell and that the removal of the infected bone left her without the C1 and C2 vertebrae. I'm assuming it's done the same thing in Ichijouji, but I would like a few myelograms and so on just to be sure.

"So the situation is as follows: 1) If it's at all possible, new vertebrae would have to be carved from surgical coral beforehand to replace the infected bones. The problem with this is that Ichijouji's system might reject the coral. 2) As much as the Dark Seed may look and act like an astrocytoma, it's not one and will have to be removed in an entirely different manner. On a similar vein, the Dark Seed's fibers are too deeply interwoven into the immediate area on the spinal cord. 3) Even if, by some miracle, it would be possible to yank the thing out, the nervous tissue would scar, and that kind of tissue scarring hampers the healing process and would probably leave him paralyzed. And that's if we're lucky. I probably haven't touched on all the bases, but that should give you an idea of just how bad the situation is."

A grunt of annoyance rose from the red-haired hacker as he crossed his arms before him and peeled his eyes from Jou to glance at his computer screen. Akiyama had entrusted him with a puzzle to solve. He was not going to back down until that puzzle was answered and the Dark Seed gone for good. His vision blurred a bit as he withdrew into his own mind. There had to be an answer, somewhere. But how...

The clatter of hard plastic jewelcases snapped him back to reality, and he glanced back to the other Chosen Child who had inadvertently knocked over a pile of CDs sent to him from a pen-pal in the Americas. Jou was really far too distressed about this for his own good, and Koushiro thought it would be time soon enough to try and calm his friend down. Jou picked up one of them with hands that were still shaking and stared at its cover in curiosity.

"This is a bizarre picture," Jou stated as he studied it with more care, distracted for the time being by the sheer abnormality of it. "There's a hairless lab mouse with a human ear growing out of its back."

Koushiro blinked at him, momentarily unsettled at the oddity of the CD booklet Jou was showing to him. The CD itself was unimpressive, it was just by some band that Wallace seemed to think he would like for some reason or another. But that image of the mouse was somehow familiar...

Then, as if struck by divine inspiration, Koushiro's face lit up as he remembered just why the mouse was familiar. There was an answer after all, and it had only recently been revealed by the Vacanti brothers in the United States. He still had the news articles somewhere, and was certain he could dig up more detailed reports on the internet.

With a pleasant grin at his friend, the Child of Knowledge waved Jou over to the desk to look at his screen. "I do believe you've found our solution."

Still a bit out of sorts, Jou joined his friend at the computer desk and glanced at the screen in hopes of seeing something that would solve all their problems. What there was, however, were several windows in the process of loading a few news articles. Medical news articles, and what interested him most was how one of the brothers listed discovered primitive cells much like fetal stem cells but much more capable of surviving for long periods of time. These were nicknamed "spore-like" cells and were capable of growing into whatever was required.

Sighing in relief, Jou settled on the chair Koushiro abandoned and took a closer look at them. Given time, he could grow new vertebrae to replace those that had been infected, and if they were implanted with a batch of autologous spore-like cells, there would be no danger of Ken's body rejecting the new parts.

Deceptively slender yet strong fingers began to knead the tense muscles in his shoulders and neck, and he looked up quizzically at the red-haired hacker standing over him. The smile Koushiro gave him was soft, almost concerned.

"Feel better?"

Jou closed his eyes as he returned the smile. "Yes, thank you."


He was always secondary, no matter where he was there was always someone more important. He wanted to be important and had hoped things would change in his favor in the Digital World. As if intending to prove him wrong, no one even payed attention to him in the Digital World. He was always "Ryo's friend" and immediately told of how Ryo saved the Digital World before. And then it happened again after the group affectionately called the "Tag Tamers" defeated Milleniumon. Even then, he was still a sidekick to the illustrious hero who saved the Digital World not once, but twice. It wouldn't have bugged him so much if Piccolomon and everyone else would stop rubbing his nose into it. The only person who didn't was Ryo, and Ryo had been oblivious to the flattery.

These thoughts stayed with him even now, as he and Wormmon strode down the halls of some place or another that didn't seem terribly interesting when he had been told about it. When he first voiced those worries, Ryo had simply told him to ignore it. After all, he was very important to Ryo and Wormmon, and that was all that mattered. Supposedly. He shouldn't have been so ungrateful for all the kindness his friend showed him, but he was entitled to a little selfishness. Right?

Ken paused as he noticed Ryo and V-mon running towards them. That was unusual. His Jogress partner stopped before him, taking a moment to catch a breath before proceeding.

"Hey, remember when we defeated Millenniumon," the Tamer asked, then reached up to brush back a stray lock of brown hair that had fallen over his forehead. At Ken's nod, he continued. "I thought we sealed and neutralized him, but he's back and we have to go see Akira now to see what he has to say about it."

Something rubbed against his leg, and it took Ken a moment to notice that it was Wormmon. This attempt to soothe him was something he was used to, but the idea that Moon=Millenniumon was back was very unnerving.

He allowed himself to be dragged elsewhere with Wormmon in tow. They eventually met up with Akira, or Gennai as the Tamer was known as while under the disguise of an old man, at some place called Sanctuary Lake. Pleasantries were exchanged, but something struck him as wrong. Wasn't Akira supposed to be retired now?

When he asked the other Tamer, Akira's disguise was deactivated and he was stunned by how haggard the Tamer looked. Akira stretched out his wrist, revealing a silver ring inscribed with the runes of the Digital World. "They won't let me go," the goggle-wearing Tamer stated with a mix of despair and acceptance. "Not until it is gone."

Bewildered, Ken looked up at Ryo for anything that might decode Akira's cryptic response. Ryo's expression was carefully shielded, however, which meant that he was going to have to ask for an explanation later.

"Millenniumon seems to be quite taken with you, Akiyama," Akira began, suddenly grinning like a maniac when he had been sullen only moments before. "He keeps coming back for your head. How many times will he have to return before he finally gets it?"

Ryo's grip on his hand tightened, and he gave it a reassuring squeeze. Some people had recurring inner demons to deal with, Millenniumon had become a very real demon that tormented his friend's dreams in the darkest nights. "This will be the last time, hopefully. What's the situation?"

Akira led them to a room that had a map of the Digital World laid out, then pointed at the broad expanse of desert close to the cottage Ryo built a while ago. "Piccolomon's identified Moon=Millenniumon in this area. The Holy Beasts wants you to take care of him before he presents a serious threat to their power over the Digital World. The Holy Beasts are 'They Who Must Be Obeyed', after all. Fail to obey, and..." the Tamer extended his arm before them, wriggling it a bit so they would take notice of just how tight the ring was. "Well, no one fails to obey once they stick one of these on you."

Ken stared at the ring in fascination. It looked like a holy ring in form, but it was made of the wrong material and looked to be made only for humans. Was it possible to make something like that, but for digimon? What did it do anyway?

Before his thoughts could proceed any further, Ryo bade farewell to Akira and dragged him out of the room.

They stayed at Sanctuary Lake that night, and he didn't think any more about that strange ring. In the morning they were off to the desert, their digimon partners bouncing with joy at the prospect of going into battle once again. On the way, Ryo told him everything about the Holy Beasts, explaining that they were the hegemony whose influence spread across the extent of the Digital World. They were the ones who brought Chosen Children and Tamers to this world. They also couldn't care less what happened to their humans since every Chosen Child could be replaced. They were the ones who ordered the humans around to fight battles they refused to dirty their own hands with.

Something within him wanted to rebel against this, against the way the Holy Beasts used his kind at their whim. The night he and Ryo won the battle with Moon=Millenniumon, he scribbled out a note to himself in hopes that it would help him remember once the Holy Beasts had his memories locked away. This note was to be given to Wormmon with the order that Wormmon was going to give it to him when he returned to the Digital World.

On this note he scribbled out the words from Ryo that had become a mantra to him, then under those lines...

"If there are lapses in my memory, They are responsible. Some day a rebel will rise up against Their reign." Just before he sealed the note completely, he recalled Akira's appearance, and opened the note again to add something else: "I refuse to become Their slave as They have done to others of my kind."


Retribution. While he was the Kaiser, his game of conquest had been an unconscious act of retribution against the Holy Beasts. While he was the Kaiser, he couldn't remember why he wanted retribution or who They were, but somehow his mind had associated Them with the native population of the Digital World. They were likely to enslave him if he did not enslave Them first. That was his act of rebellion.

Stupid of him to have written that note so cryptically. Sighing, Ken opened his eyes to a room that was only illuminated by the soft glow of a single nightlight. Takeru slept curled up besides him, lips slightly parted and moving ever so minutely with each breath. He reached out to brush away the strands of golden hair that fell over Takeru's cheek. The Child of Hope was really quite adorable and looked so innocent in slumber. He liked that, perhaps more than he should.

Ken withdrew his hand as his thoughts wandered someplace he had been trying to avoid since the incident in the desert. What the manifestation of the Kaiser did to him suggested that he was certainly capable of such violence. Of course, it also suggested something else. He had never been attracted to the opposite sex, and never really found them all that interesting to begin with. Nevertheless, he was still young and perhaps that would change in time. But somehow he doubted that. Was he actually gay? Somehow that neither surprised or worried him. He had spent too much of his life trying to be someone he wasn't, and he was sick of hiding from himself. If he was what he suspected he was, so be it and screw anyone who wanted him to be otherwise. By some miracle or another, Takeru liked him enough to want to kiss him; and once he ground out his phobias for the moment, he enjoyed the kisses that followed afterwards.

Telling his parents would probably have to wait until he moved out, but he rarely conversed about his personal life to them anyway. The other children were likely to find out on their own if he wasn't careful, though that hardly worried him. Miyako had probably read enough shoujo manga and most likely wouldn't be surprised. Iori he wasn't sure about, but that much was to be expected. Hikari probably wouldn't care since it didn't involve her. He was unsure of Daisuke, but the goggle-boy was hardly the type to shun him just because of his orientation. Daisuke held friendship in too high a regard to drop him because of something like that. Knowing the other boy, Daisuke would probably even fully support him. It was so nice finally having friends like that.

Before his thoughts could continue, he was interrupted by a sharp pang of hunger. Certain that he hadn't eaten for a while and would have to amend that, Ken rose from the futon he shared with Takeru and padded past their sleeping digimon partners to exit the room. The oriental architecture hinted that he was in the house under Sanctuary Lake. Just wonderful, he had fainted again. Ken still remembered bits and pieces of the layout and wasn't long in finding the kitchen. A coffeemaker was active in keeping a half-empty pot warm, which probably meant that Ryo was pulling an all-nighter. Ignoring it for the moment, the boy dug into the pantry and drew out several rice cakes. They would do for the moment.

Ken took a moment to pour an extra cup of coffee in case Ryo needed it and strode off to the den that many Tamers before Ryo had used. Studies, dens, libraries, and fireplaces, what was it about those that made them absolutely required in the building of any structure used by a Tamer? No Tamer dwelling he had ever been in was without at least one of those, though he had heard that Oshiro's original house in a snowy section of the Digital World held all three plus a fireplace that made the others green with envy. Sanctuary Lake was Gennai's home and had been passed down since Gennai's death from one Tamer to another and was always used to harbor Chosen Children that were in danger or needed a place to hide.

Ryo had been trying so hard to train him as a Tamer, going so far as to introduce him into their oddball culture and introducing him to all of those that were still around. But Ryo had been oblivious to the pitying glances and condescending words they offered, though Ken was made too aware that they did so because they knew he couldn't be one of them. Years afterwards that nagged at the back of his mind, taunting him with the fact that, if it wasn't for Wormmon's presence, he would have been a genuine Tamer. That was eventually warped by the Dark Seed and Oikawa's manipulations into resentment towards Wormmon. The closest real Tamers got to a bond was the temporary bonds they shared with at least two digimon over their lifespan, and even then it was a rarity when those bonds reached the depth that the Chosen had with their digimon partners.

He was tired of feeling the need to be something he wasn't. Why couldn't he ever be satisfied with who he was?

The den was already open, and partially muted death metal music made a feeble attempt to pound as it would were the volume any higher. The current song was something in very bad English, by that band Ryo liked because the group tended to do everything from neo-classical symphonies to death metal to angsty romantic ballads. Ryo was also fond of it because the band members tended to have their hair dyed outrageous colors and one of them was a male crossdresser who had no problem passing himself off as a woman. Of course, that last bit could probably describe any number of other Japanese rock bands who had never escaped the '80s.

The Tamer himself was seated at a computer and typing away on it, and it wasn't until Ken cleared his throat that Ryo looked up and noticed him. Ryo grinned tiredly at him, looking as if nothing had ever happened to upset the Tamer.

"You're up now, good. Koushiro and Jou want to know if you're allergic to anything."

Ken blinked in mild surprise at that question. "Not to my knowledge. What's this about?"

"They've figured a way to get that Dark Seed out of you, but need to know what allergies you have so they can find some suitable anaesthetics for the operation." Ryo rubbed at his bleary eyes before taking a brief moment to send Ken's answer to Koushiro. He did so hate all-nighters. "Surgery's the only way to go, apparently, but you'll be out the whole time so you shouldn't be feeling much of anything."

Mixed feelings began to well up within the Child of Kindness at this revelation. There was hope after all, but there were always risks that came with surgery too. Knowing what he did about his own recurring streak of bad luck, it was more likely than naught that things would end up turning for the worse once he was put under the scalpel. Tack on the fact that he had never been operated on before, he wasn't quite sure what to think about all this. "Surgery? I've never..."

"Don't worry, we'll take care of it," the Tamer began nonchalantly as he popped open the CD player and replaced the music disc with something more soothing. Once done, he returned his attention to his Jogress partner and eyed the steaming mug appreciatively. "Mind sharing that coffee?"

Murmuring a quick thanks as Ken handed him the cup of coffee, Ryo took a few sips before going into length about Jou and Koushiro's ideas, detailing everything he could as he went along. While he didn't understand half of the medical babble Jou messaged him with, he did have an impeccable memory and recited it all without once referring to his logs. At one point during his recitation, Ken settled on a clear area on the desk and nibbled on one of the rice cakes. The questions came the moment he finished.

"Vertebrae will take a while to build even if you do have a structure on which the cells will grow. How do you plan to accelerate the growth process?"

"Simple," a mischievous smirk quirked at his lips as Ryo said this. He reached into one of the large pockets in his cargo pants and pulled out several phials of a viscous fluid, reddish-brown in color. Then he dragged out a clear plastic bag containing fine beige powder. "The red stuff is wet-form nanotechnology. The dry beige stuff acts as a sort of catalyst for them and the speed at which the red stuff works is dependent on how much beige stuff is available. I've used these before and they worked pretty well the first time."

It took more than a couple of seconds for Ken to regain his wits. Nanotechnology was possible, and he'd read a few articles on it in the past, but to think that examples of it actually existed and were shown to him was astounding, to say the least. "How... where did you get that?"

"Now now, if I told you the Holy Beasts would be breathing down my neck again. I'll already be in more than enough trouble once all this is over with. You're clever enough to figure it out on your own."

Ken grimaced. Trust Ryo to be infuriatingly cryptic when the Tamer felt the need to. But Earth's technology just wasn't that advanced, Ryo must have gotten it from elsewhere. Given that he had witnessed evidence of other dimensions during the BelialVandemon battle, this didn't surprise him. "I think I already have."

Grinning at this, Ryo set the phials and bag in an empty box to the side. "Knew you would. I'll be heading out to take care of Jou's shopping list, would you like to contact anyone in the real world while I'm out?"

"Contact? Isn't that a bit dangerous?"

"Nah," Ryo reached over and pointed to something on the laptop's monitor. It was just a simple little icon of what looked to be a mirror. "To anyone trying to trace this connection, it'll look to be originating from over a hundred different areas of the Digital World. One would have to be very patient to find the real one. Not even Etemon or MugenDramon were able to track it down with their impressive networks. The computer has a microphone and speakers, so you can simulate a phone call if you like. There's also a digital camera that you can hook up to the computer and use to create a hologram if you feel like it. Anything else?"

Ken simply shook his head, more bemused than bewildered by the sheer amount of technology at the Tamer's disposal. He watched as his former Jogress partner rose from the chair and dragged along the coffee mug.

"Oh, one last thing. Savali's out spying for me. When he comes back he'll likely be in a bad mood and will be more than happy to take it out on you. Just ignore him and he sometimes gets bored and goes away." With that said, Ryo waved goodnight to him and slipped out of the room.

The boy wasted no time once Ryo was out to use the computer to his advantage. The others were probably worried about him, and he hated it when people worried over someone like him. The first number he had the computer dial was the one to the Ichijouji apartment, and he spent the next few minutes reassuring his parents that he was safe and that they shouldn't concern themselves over him too much. Once that was taken care of to the best of his abilities, Ken dialed up a second number.

Much to his surprise, Daisuke jumped on the phone the moment the first ring finished. Ken barely said one word of greeting before the goggle-boy began frantically ranting at him.

"Man, Ken, where've you been?! We've been looking all over for you! And we can't find Takeru either. Hikari and Iori's worried sick about him, and I think Miyako's roped that Takenouchi chick into scouring Tokyo with her for both of you right now."

"Daisuke, listen, Takeru and I are safe. We're probably in the safest place we can be that still has a breathable atmosph-"

"That's nice," Daisuke cut in, obviously impatient. "But dude, where are you so I can see that for myself?"

Ken sighed and began to massage his temples. He wanted to tell his friend, but there was so much at stake right now. "I can't tell you yet, there's someone who wants something I have and will go through any lengths to get it. That's why I'm in hiding."

There was a pause at the other end of the line that lasted longer than he liked. Soon enough, however, he finally got a response out of Daisuke. "Shit, it's that jerk Demon, isn't it? Man, I knew we should have gone to hunt him down right after BelialVandemon. Why won't these fuckers just leave you alone?"

He simply gave a noncommittal grunt at this and let Daisuke blow off steam for the moment. Once the goggle-boy's temper wound down, Daisuke asked how he was and if things were going alright. He didn't want to burden the other boy with his fears about the Dark Seed blooming, so he said nothing about it. He knew that his "I'm okay" was hardly something Daisuke would accept, but Daisuke did not press on the matter. Nevertheless, there was something else he wanted out of the way.

"Daisuke? What would you think if I said I was... um... different than most other boys?"

There was another pause, this one shorter. When Daisuke answered, the boy's voice was calmer, more serious than usual. "You're my best friend, Ken, I don't think that would matter to me. What's this about?"

Suppressing the urge to fidget, Ken steeled himself and continued. "I think I'm gay."

Once again to Ken's surprise, he heard a short laugh at the other end of the connection. "Oh man, is that all? I thought you were gonna say you like to dress in skirts or something. Then I'd have to turn you over to Miyako and Mimi."

"Um, no. I'm not that different," the raven-haired boy muttered dourly. Miyako mentioned once how cute he would look in a dress and if he would mind if she and Mimi dolled him up, and he had yet to forgive her for that. He really didn't think he was that effeminate. Was he?

"Thought not," Daisuke responded, chuckling lightly as he did so. "I'm thinking you figured this out because you like someone like that. So, who's the lucky guy?"

The urge to fidget became overwhelming, and Ken began tapping on the desk's surface as his nervousness increased. "Promise me you won't laugh?"

"I promise. I'd do that pinky-swear thing too, but it's kinda hard doing that over the phone, y'know?"

The words that followed were rushed. "It's Takeru. He likes me too, so we've kinda gotten together now."

"Takeru," the goggle-boy's voice held a note of... what was it, satisfaction? Before Ken could ask about it, Daisuke continued. "How did I know this was coming? Man, I wish Miyako was here right now."

"Why's that?"

Daisuke's voice now sounded smug. "We had a running bet on how long it'd take you two to get together and start dating. I win!"

Ken merely stared blankly at the computer's screen, too stunned to think much of anything coherent. Had the mutual attraction between him and Takeru really been that obvious? He was still fishing around for words when he heard something crash at the other end of the line. The panicked voices of Daisuke's family soon followed, and he could hear Jun yelling something about monsters.

"Listen, I've gotta go and get XV-mon into action," his friend began frantically before he could so much as ask what was going on. "Been nice talking, but I'm getting a serious sense of deja vu with that MarineDevimon flailing around outside the apartment building. No matter what happens, don't come out of hiding. We'll take care of it."

With that, Daisuke hung up.

Moments after Ken heard the dialtone, he finally broke the connection. Why was a digimon, probably from the Demon Corps, attacking Odaiba when the Demon Corps was said to have something capable of hunting him down? There might be a possibility that they were hunting for hostages to draw him out, but the other Chosen would put up too much of a fight to place themselves in a position to be captured. Wouldn't they?

Sighing, the Child of Kindness slumped back against the chair. The feeling of helplessness weighed heavily on him, and despair began to well up to drown him. He should be out in Odaiba helping Daisuke with the monsters, but it was too dangerous. Demon wanted the Dark Seed and probably knew that making an attack near where his friends lived might draw him out to surrender, but even if he were to surrender, he didn't have the energy anymore to walk around without needing to rest after an hour. He was so tired nowadays, so very tired.

There are always casualties in war, sacrifices always had to be made. So be it. He was so damn tired. Soon it would be time to sleep.


Ajora: Um, the Millenniumon thing... You have to feel sorry for Ryo, really, as Millenniumon is the final boss in every game Ryo's been in so far ^^;, and he outright taunts Ryo in the first few minutes of Tag Tamers. Poor boy, he has his own Devimon to haunt him.


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