Act III, Scene III
by Ajora Fravashi

*Disclaimer - I don't own Digimon. Toei/Bandai does. Enix owns DragonQuest, and Square owns Final Fantasy VIII and the gunblades that came from that.


Koushiro watched them from the bar that separated the kitchen from the medical room. The abandoned house had been kept unusually sterile considering how long it had been without occupants. Jou and the Swiss kids were preparing the area for the long list of medical procedures they would have to do. Koushiro had not asked where Akiyama managed to get the laminectomy table, the surgical instruments, or that strange device that was said to be able to transfer measured amounts of energy from one person to the other. Off to the side, soaking in a vat of saline solution, were the two replacement vertebrae and intervertebral discs. He assumed that what Akiyama had done to get these things was probably illegal, so he did not ask about it.

There was a sudden noise as the front door flew open and Akiyama trotted in with an unconscious Ichijouji, followed closely by a very distressed Takeru and the rest of the second group of Chosen who were in turn followed by their digimon partners. Jou started as Akiyama burst into the operation area and was soon overwhelmed by his assistants.

Frantic at the fact that this was going far faster than he liked, Jou tried to get things under control to the best of his abilities. "But we need to get a X-ray, and an ECG, and-"

"We don't have time," interjected the Tamer as he laid the unconscious boy face-down on the laminectomy table. "I gave you the files from Kageko's operation. Use what information you learned from there."

Jou sighed as he watched the Swiss kids prepare the intravenous units and anesthesia, then turned to Akiyama. Adelheid, the mousy blonde girl, was to be primarily in charge of the IVs and anesthesia. Marti, the black-haired boy with glasses thicker than his own, was to handle minor incisions and suture once he was done with the main laminectomy. This of course left him in charge of actually pulling out the lamina, remove the Dark Seed, and replace the infected vertebrae. Hopefully he would be able to pull it off.

After Akiyama settled into the alien device, Jou stood by the Tamer's side and hooked up what looked to be electrodes on various parts of Akiyama's body. The action was repeated by Adelheid on Ichijouji, and the wires were all connected to the strange device that was required to transfer energy from one patient to the other. There would be no point in asking whether or not the Tamer was sure he wanted to do this. He hoped that nothing would go wrong.

With both Akiyama and Ichijouji hooked up to the alien device, Jou returned to the laminectomy table to watch as Marti dampened Ichijouji's hair with a saline solution to get it out of the way, and they draped a towel over the boy's head in case any strands should get in their way while they worked.

As Marti swabbed the back of Ichijouji's neck with disinfectant, Jou fought to subdue his rising sense of panic. This would be the first time he would ever operate on a living human. Sure, there had been the rats in various anatomy classes, but this was substantially different. Marti's scalpel parted the skin easily, exposing living flesh to his view. Tissue was then separated from the work area by several retractors and left the infected bones for him to remove.

Jou sighed miserably behind his mask as he glanced down at the vertebrae that had been warped by the Dark Seed. Normal laminectomy procedures were fairly simple, all things considered. But then, normal laminectomy procedures never took into account that the lamina would fuse with the rest of that particular vertebra. The bones didn't even look like normal healthy bones did, they were yellow with what he assumed was calculus... although why calculus would build up on the spine of all places was beyond him.

The infected vertebrae were too far gone and quite brittle now. Removing what should have been the lamina was now a process of chipping gingerly away at the bone and calcium salt concretion with the use of a suction tube and sterile saline liquid to rinse it out. The process was tedious, and more than once he had to step back to stretch out cramped muscles. But eventually he managed to bare the spinal cord and the Dark Seed that wove into it.

Now that the Dark Seed was in its advance stage, it no longer looked like an astrocytoma. The majority of its roots had withdrawn and wrapped around itself in a kind of cocoon. Its tone was dark grey, a much darker color than the spinal cord in which it had dwelt, and it throbbed sluggishly in time with Ichijouji's heart. If Ichijouji had not been put under the knife as immediately as he had been, there would be no hope left.

Jou called out for the ring and Moria forceps and soon found one pressed into each palm by Marti and Adelheid. With the ring forceps he held the Dark Seed above the spinal cord so he could pull out each tiny strand that was still buried in the nervous tissue. This was proving to be just as tedious as it was to remove what should have been the lamina. Each strand had to be pulled out gently with the delicate Moria forceps. If he used too much force the tendrils might break, and he did not want to leave any trace of this thing in the Ichijouji boy.

Eventually, after having pulled out what he could be certain was at least fifty tiny tendrils, Jou sighed in relief as he called out for the jar of formaldehyde and, once it was brought to his side, dropped the Dark Seed into it. The jar was closed and put to the side as the operation continued.

Removing the infected vertebrae and their fibrous discs was still a delicate procedure, but remove them he did. With them out of the way, one of the Swiss kids brought him the vat that contained the nanotech-built parts. Soon enough he had the originals removed so that they could be replaced. The process was slow, delicate so that he would not inadvertently damage the spinal cord. Eventually, however, it was done and everything set in place. Jou once again irrigated the area with a sterile saline solution and suctioned away the liquid only to squirt in a small syringe full of the spore-like cells and wet-form nanobots Akiyama said were needed to repair the gaps left by the removal of the Dark Seed's tendrils. Now that everything was done, Jou left the suturing to Marti.

Once he scrubbed down and removed the operation garments, Jou made his way to the waiting area outside that doubled as a living room. Koushiro was soon by his side.

"Good job, doctor," the red-haired boy stated, patting Jou's back as he did so. "I don't think anyone could have done better."

Blinking in mild surprise at the gentle tone in Koushiro's voice, Jou glanced at his friend. "There are plenty of people with far more experience who could have done a better job."

"Nonsense. Now Jou, you did very well. Don't worry about it anymore." The shorter of the two guided his friend to a couch that was soon abandoned by Gomamon and Tentomon. Jou merely gazed curiously at him as he wandered off to the kitchen to retrieve a couple of glasses of oolong tea that he hoped would settle Jou's nerves.

"Don't you ever drink anything besides oolong tea," Jou asked before he allowed himself a sip of the offered tea. He soon let Gomamon bounce into his lap once he was certain the action wouldn't spill the liquid and make him end up having to clean up the mess.

Koushiro grunted a neutral answer as he downed his own glass of tea and went back for more.


All things considered, Daisuke was in pretty high spirits. The Swiss kids eventually came out and said (in what Iori called "heavily German-accented English") that Ken and that Gennai guy were both stable, and from the looks of things the operation went without a hitch. Demon was gone for good. Takeru had been a nervous wreck, but the others hovered over the blond and offered what support they could. Their digimon partners were all playing amongst themselves save for the tsukaimon and Wormmon, and those two were united in their agitation over the two humans in the medical room. But everything went better than anyone expected.

Daisuke hummed an old folksong as he added seasoning to the pot of boiling water and ramen noodles. Some time ago he had noticed that he actually liked fixing ramen and other noodle-based dishes. They were fairly simple and cooking was a useful skill. He very much liked to be considered useful, so the moment everyone was settled he decided to take it upon himself to fix a decent meal.

Once he had fixed enough food for everyone, nineteen in all since Ken and Gennai were both asleep and would be that way for several hours, Daisuke dug around for clean bowls. There were just enough soup bowls for the humans, but the digimon would have to deal with plates. Oh well, he was sure they wouldn't mind. As he filled the bowls and plates with ramen noodles, Miyako came in to check on her cupcakes. He hadn't exactly been the only one making use of the kitchen.

"So, how's Takeru holding up?"

Miyako looked up from the oven window and pushed her glasses back up the bridge of her nose. "Well, he's still worried sick, but Hikari and Iori think he'll be fine once Ken wakes up."

"That's good at least," Daisuke stated as he added thin white slices of fishrolls to each plate or bowl of ramen. "I don't think I've ever seen him that distressed before."

"Yeah... I have to admit, I'm starting to feel what Hikari's been going through," the girl stated as she leaned back against the counter and watched him chop up a batch of slender green onions.

Daisuke paused mid-slice as he tried to figure out what Miyako was implying. Then, thinking to himself that women were completely unreadable anyway, he continued his work. "So, what's that?"

"She's envious of them. It makes sense, y'know. Takeru's her best friend and he's suddenly got himself a boyfriend and hasn't been thinking about her at all. Meanwhile, she's never had someone she's cared about with that kind of intensity and she's wondering if she'll ever find someone who could draw that kind of emotions from her. I think." Miyako's brow furrowed slightly. It had taken a bit of work to get Hikari to admit to feeling envy. She liked Hikari as a friend, but it was so frustrating when her friend closed up as often as Hikari did. "I don't blame her, really. Not after that oh so romantic image we ran into the moment we barged in Demon's lair."

Blinking, Daisuke glanced back at Miyako. "What romantic image?"

Miyako winked at him and wagged her index finger under his nose. "Why, the one of the shining knight on a noble horse, with the beautiful maiden in his arms, of course."

"Oh, of course." Daisuke turned back to sprinkling the chopped onions over his dishes, rolling his eyes once his back was turned to Miyako. "Whatever you say."

After quickly sticking her tongue out at Daisuke in response to the condescending tone in his voice, Miyako walked over to the kitchen's exit. "You don't have a romantic bone in your body, do you?"

"Proud of it too!"

Grinning, Miyako reached out to tousle his hair. "At least you admit to it. Need any help taking the food out?"

Daisuke grumbled under his breath as he reached up to straighten out the spikes of his hair. "Yeah. Oh, Miyako, thanks for bringing all the food on such short notice."

"Well, someone has to feed these people," quipped the purple-haired girl as she picked up a couple of bowls before heading out. "And I needed to get a new roll of film for Hikari's camera. She wasn't too happy when I abducted it to get a picture of that adorably romantic scene."

Sighing, Daisuke simply picked up two filled dishes and followed Miyako's lead. He really did not understand chicks.


Despite Daisuke's growing expertise in the realm of culinary arts, Takeru simply hadn't felt like eating anything. Even Miyako's lemon cream cupcakes failed to entice him. All he cared about right now was whether or not Ken would wake up and be able to recover. Jou and the Swiss kids had reassured him that there was nothing to worry about, but he still worried constantly over Ken and maintained a bedside vigil.

Ken and Akiyama were no longer hooked up to the alien device, yet they shared the same bed and Ken still had several IV tubes poking into his flesh. Savali, after being snuggled up against by Wormmon, perched himself on the Tamer's stomach and glared acidly at the other digimon. Wormmon, who had attempted to make friends with the other virus, ended up being clawed and was now sulking at Ken's side. Patamon simply curled up in Takeru's lap, faintly worried about his own partner's attachment to Ken.

Thoughts swirled like leaves in a wind-stirred pond as recent events played over and over again in Takeru's mind. It had hurt so much to see Ken taken away like that, and then during the operation he had been a frayed bundle of nerves ready to go off at any minute. He had gotten so attached to the other boy that he needed Ken around as much as possible. Akiyama had failed to protect Ken, and look what had happened. Takeru felt that, if no one else was going to do a decent job of keeping Ken safe from harm, he would have to try the best he could. This should not be allowed to happen again.

Never, ever again.

Something moved then, derailing his train of thought. Looking up, he noticed that Akiyama had awakened and the tsukaimon fluttered off to allow the Tamer to rise. The energy transfer hadn't gone without impact, and there was now a streak of white amidst the Tamer's mop of wild brown hair. On someone who looked to be in his teens, the effect was quite unnerving.

"Everything went well, I trust," Akiyama asked, glancing down at Ken in obvious concern.

"Yeah, Jou and the others said that the operation went without problems. They just want to keep Ken around here until they remove the stitches. You're free to come and go if you want, though."

Ryo sighed as he attempted to straighten out his robes. He'd have to get a new robe before going in to face the Holy Beasts' judgement. "Well, at least it's all over now. Take good care of Ken for me, will ya?"

Everyone in the room except for the tsukaimon stared at him for a few moments, unwilling to take his words for what they were. Finally, Takeru spoke once again.

"Wait, you're not coming back?"

"Takeru, I've breached far too many of my employers' laws and I know far too much about the Digital World. I'm not going to be able to get out of this without severe punishment of some type or another. That's why you'll just have to take care of Ken for me." Ryo paused as he glanced at Wormmon. "And that means both of you."

With that, the Tamer and his digimon bade them farewell and left the room.


The majority of the kids at Youji's left once Ken returned to consciousness and they had all managed to wish him a speedy recovery. The only people that stayed behind were Jou, Koushiro, Takeru, and their digimon partners. At least, that was the report Takeru had been so kind as to send him.

Ryo's mechanorimon sped through the air. It had been a surprisingly loyal thing, always doing as it was asked and always returning to him whenever he left it behind. It was sentient but had a very simple mentality. He would miss it.

The silent trio eventually approached the mountains from which the Holy Beasts deigned to meet with him. Savali had said nothing since he woke up, making Ryo wonder if there was something seriously wrong with the tsukaimon. Savali simply never went a day without teasing him about something or another. If he were to survive this, he would have to ask Savali about that and risk being clawed up as a result.

Eventually he dropped off at the outcrop of rock on which he awaited the Holy Beasts' arrival. The wait was boring, and he almost wished that he hadn't asked Savali to take the mechanorimon out to a more secluded area. Time passed by with the sluggishness of flowing syrup, making him wish he had at least brought a Gameboy to fidget with.

And then the mists parted as all four Holy Beasts convened in the valley beyond his outcrop. Qinglongmon the blue dragon, Zhuqiaomon the red bird, Xuanwumon the serpent-tortoise, and Baihumon the white tiger. All in one place. Shit, he was in deeper trouble than he thought.

He sighed and sat down to await whatever sentence they would give him. Well, it couldn't be too bad, could it? They must at least still remember all the times he did what they asked of him. That counted for something didn't it?

At long last, after what seemed like an eternity, the Holy Beasts retreated, leaving only Qinglongmon to deal with him. The huge blue dragon soon went to rise up before him.

"Akiyama Ryo, for the crimes of technological theft, exposing the technology of one world to the denizens of another, and the destruction of a prominent member of the government system, you are hereby sentenced to exile from the Digital World for an indefinite period of time. You are given six hours to gather any personal belongings and leave."

Exile... the word echoed in Ryo's mind, dredging up several depressing emotions he didn't think he would feel. But he was relieved that the sentence wasn't nearly as severe as it could have been. There was something that bothered him, however, and he had to ask. "Qinglongmon? I'd hate to jinx myself, but this was a lot lighter than I expected."

The holy dragon paused, as if thinking about whether or not to tell him. Before Ryo considered giving up and going off to pack, Qinglongmon answered. "There had been a minor debate over whether or to let you get away with your crimes or whether to kill you off to protect our secrets. Exile was the one decision we could all support."

"Oh. Thanks," the Tamer muttered somewhat sheepishly. Qinglongmon must have been the only one willing to let him get away with breaking so many laws, and to show such support for him even after what he had done was likely to diffuse the rest of the Holy Beasts' respect for the dragon. "One last question?"

"Feel free to ask, Tamer."

With another sigh, Ryo brushed back the stray lock of hair in anxiety. "Why punish me for taking out Demon?"

"It is simply a matter of politics. Demon was all that controlled the more chaotic of the evil digimon. Without him to lord over them, there is no way to keep them in check." The dragon then paused to give him time to absorb this. "You do understand, don't you?"

"Demon was planning to eliminate you and the other Holy Beasts, what else could I have done," asked Ryo, half in annoyance and half out of honest curiosity.

The dragon looked down upon him in an almost fatherly manner, which was quite odd considering who it came from. "It does not matter now. Take this opportunity to go back home and rebuild old relationships. I understand you were looking forward to a vacation someday, correct?"

"A vacation is one thing, but my parents would never accept me back into the house, I look too old to be their son now."

"Have you looked into a mirror recently, Tamer," Qinglongmon asked with the tiniest shadow of amusement in his voice. "If not, I suggest you do so before you leave."

As Ryo mulled over the dragon's words, Qinglongmon began to disappear into the clouds. He hadn't actually looked into a mirror since before his capture by Demon, he simply didn't have enough time for grooming. Maybe he should do as Qinglongmon suggested and see if he could figure out why the Chosen Children had been staring at him oddly since then.

Oh well, time to pack and see what he would do with the rest of his life.


Man this was a boring wait, Daisuke thought to himself as he peered once again at the area that should have been occupied by a cottage of some sort. Ken gave him the coordinates and everything, but there just didn't look to be anything there. But there was indeed something there, and running headlong into it ended up giving him a sore face. When he got out his D-terminal and e-mailed Ken, he was told to wait for Ryo to return. Whoever Ryo was.

V-mon looked to be just as bored as he was, and he wondered if he shouldn't just go back and tell Ken to fetch whatever the boy needed himself. Hell, he could just leave the old yellow bag here anyway, this place was so remote that no one would steal it.

However, the noise of machinery soon disturbed the stifling silence and attracted Daisuke's attention. It was Gennai's mechanorimon. Hey, maybe Gennai would let him in to get what Ken wanted and he could go back and say everything was taken care of. Perfect!

Daisuke waited until Gennai dismounted from the mechanorimon before approaching. "Hey Gennai, Ken wants me to pick some things up for him. Oh, and-" Daisuke paused as he held up an old yellow bag. "He wants me to give this to Ryo."

The Tamer blinked both at the unexpected intrusion and the odd nature of Daisuke's words. "Oh, he didn't tell you that I'm Ryo, did he?"

"Oh dude, really? I didn't know that," Daisuke exclaimed. Why didn't people tell him these things?! Did they think he could read minds or something? Geesh! "So, um, here's your bag. Ken wants me to grab a couple of books and some other stuff if that's okay with you."

Ryo plucked the bag from Daisuke's hands, momentarily thrown off by the boy's energy. Something inside it sloshed around as if in a jar, and he'd have to look at it later. "Oh, yeah. His room is the first one next to the stairs on the second floor. Don't take too long." With that, the Tamer pulled out a ring that had more keychains than actual keys and flipped through the random bits of metal and plastic until he found the rectangle of black plastic that served to decloak and unlock the cottage. With a push of a tiny button, the illusion of nothingness fell away.

"Whoa, you're a gamer too," the goggle boy asked as he watched the Tamer put the keychains back in order and moved to return them to a pocket. Most normal people did not have gunblades or Dragon Quest slimes as keychains. "Hey, have you played the latest DQ yet?"

"Haven't had the time," Ryo muttered as he opened the door and deactivated the cottage's defenses. The gaming fanboy part of him wanted to brag about how easy the game was and how the older games were better, the more practical part reminded him that he only had a few hours left before he would become homeless.

Leaving Daisuke to fend for himself and the two digimon to raid the kitchen, Ryo trotted up to the laundry room that had a decent-sized table set aside for minor handiwork. He pulled out the jar of formaldehyde and opened its lid to take out the floating Dark Seed with a pair of tongs dredged up from a dusty toolbox. This was going to be quite satisfactory.

Once he found an old rag and a X-acto knife that was still quite sharp, Ryo set the rag on his worktable and placed the Dark Seed in the middle. The knife sliced cleanly through its cocoon, dissecting it down the middle. Then he quartered it, and halved those quarters, repeating the process until the Dark Seed was nothing but globs of matter as small as he could make them. With that done he emptied the contents of the rag into a beaker and settled that onto a metal frame. And the moment he found a match, lit it, and tossed it into the beaker, he took the time to relax and let the happy little glow finally wash over him. It was over. Sure this seed may have caused his exile from the Digital World, but it was now all over.

As his eyes roamed the room, he realized that he would actually miss this place. He had built it thinking he would be here forever, and now he had to leave. Such a pity. He hoped, at least, that Ken would take care of it now that he would no longer be able to do so.

Then his eyes caught on a mirror that had been put up for some odd reason long ago... he couldn't quite remember why unless he had been using it to show Ken a few science experiments. Oddly enough, the person gazing back at him was no longer in his mid-twenties as he thought he was. He was the age he would have been back on Earth now, roughly seventeen or so.

Oshiro, the teacher he looked so similar to that the other Tamers used to joke about how he was really Oshiro's long-lost son, told him once that the crests served another purpose for those humans who dwelt in the Digital World for over a couple of years. The crests could, if kept free of even the slightest corruption, be able to synchronize its owner's biological clock with Earthtime instead of the time in the Digital World. If corrupted this aspect of the crest's power simply would not come into play and the crest's owner would age in time with the Digital World.

All the Tamers' crests had eventually been corrupted by something or another, though it was hardly their fault since they were all human and prone to the vices that all humans had. But usually when this happened their crests would never shine again. He had merely been the exception to the rule, he supposed. As far as he knew, his willingness to die for Ken's sake was what reversed the corruption and allowed the crest's hidden power to kick in.

The image of a teenaged boy who had aged far beyond his years, with only a streak of white hair to show for it, gazed back at him. He still had some ugly bruises and a scar on his cheek, yes, but... But he could finally go back home.


Ajora: The tea thing comes from the movie Bokura no Wargame. Koushiro seemed to have quite the addiction for oolong tea ^^. Also, the game Daisuke was playing before Jun pulled the plug on him in one episode is indeed a Dragon Quest game (sadly, I recognize the DQ mainstay slimes anywhere, even in a split second before Daisuke's TV screen goes blank).


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