Knight of Swords
Chapter 7: The Wheel (Reverse)
by Ajora Fravashi

Disclaimer: Toei and Bandai own my wallet, but I don't own Digimon. Not a fair trade, if you ask me.


Consider the Digital World: a dimension of spirits finally given form by the ushering of the digital age. Born of the activation of the Atanasoff-Berry Computer and the ENIAC in the 1940's, this new dimension became populated by the spirits that inhabited planes of existence previously inaccessible by humanity. Human cultures have many names for them, and many names for those spirits that aligned themselves with humans. The Aztecs called them nahual, the Persians called them fravashis, some of those who worshipped Yahweh mistakenly called them guardian angels or Watchers, and others still called them fairies. But recently they recreated themselves as what are now called digimon and were separated into types: vaccines, datas, virals. Few remembered their collective past before the occupation of the new Digital World due to constant reformatting, but some things always remained the same. Virals were the most passionate, driven not for high ideals but for their own welfare. They were also the most likely to turn feral should the human they aligned themselves to fall into danger. While not inherently evil, they were the type most likely to turn this way. Data-types tended to be mellower than virii and vaccines, often ending up as mediators between the two and offering balance. Vaccines had a tendency towards higher ideals and the good of the many over the welfare of one. There were exceptions among all types of course, and there were those who could evolve to different data types, but the Lord Regent and his followers cared more for cutting a diseased flower as a bud than waiting for it to bloom.

And so it began. On the first night, a nearby pagumon village was easily crushed and its denizens deleted. The nearest Village of Beginnings was seized soon afterwards and the data from the deleted pagumon population was rejected. With no place to go, the data remained in limbo. Then came a colony of gazimon. They had been brave, fighting beyond the limits of their abilities and with all the cunning they could manage, but the clan of unimon and shima unimon were more powerful and, after a few hours, the colony fell. As that particular battle raged, another took place on a nondescript beach town populated by families of gizamon, betamon, gekomon, and otamamon. It too fell, defenseless against the airdramon/snimon squadrons that dropped loads of explosives and shrapnel. Their attempts to flee to the sea had been blocked by a group of rukamon and ebidramon, who soon slaughtered them. Few were those of the Three-Edged Sword that questioned their duty. After all, it was for the greater good. Those who might not have done as they were requested were swayed by the honeyed words of the Lord Regent. None challenged the authority of one who spoke with the command inflections used only by those of the Gennai Order.

However, as they were wont to, rumors of the Cleansing spread beyond the battlefields. They rode the winds on wings of desperation and fear. And, of course, sooner or later information has a way of getting around.


"Hi! You've reached Mimi Tachikawa's place! Sorry I'm not in right now, but leave me a message and I'll get right back to you! Sankyuu!"

Jou blinked blankly as Mimi's answering machine gave a slight ping and awaited his message. Her English was very good now, but why had she felt the need to append "thank you" in a far heavier Japanese accent? Shrugging to himself, Jou began. "Good morning, Mimi. There's something going on right now in the Digital World and I might as well be the one to inform you. Please call back as soon as-"

He was cut off as the answering machine stopped recording and someone picked up the phone.

"Jou? Hi! It's been so long since you've called!" Mimi's voice, so happily energetic in its innocence towards the current situation, was a welcoming balm on Jou's nerves. For the moment at least. "So, what's up? How are you? And the others?"

Sighing, Jou took off his glasses to rub briefly at the grooves the nosepieces were pressing into the sides of his nose. He was certainly not going to like this. Maybe it would be a good idea to go gently into the matter. "I'm a stressed out bundle of nerves. As usual. How about you? Any boyfriends yet?"

Mimi gave a huff that would have sounded offended but for the subtle teasing note in her voice. "What, you don't count?" She grinned at the stammering that followed soon afterwards. Jou was such fun to tease.

With a cough, he shoved his glasses back on and responded. "I think Koushiro would argue with you about that."

"Eheh. It was fun though, wasn't it? Getting people to think we were together for a while?"

"Yeah," Jou began. It had been when he was about sixteen that Mimi had started covering for him and Koushiro when his father was starting to ask too many uncomfortable questions. Her willingness and ability to play along with the boyfriend/girlfriend act was a godsend. "Can you imagine how much we would have annoyed each other if it had been real?"

Giggling lightly, Mimi responded. "Yeah. No offense, but you two aren't really the type I look for, romance-wise. We make great friends though, right?"

A genuinely warm smile quirked at Jou's lips. "Right. Thanks for going out on a limb for us."

"I'd do it again if you two needed me to. Anything for my friends. But alas, boyfriends aren't in my future." Jou could just imagine the carefree grin on her face at that. "Oh, Michael's been trying, but I think fate was trying to tell me something when the one boy I've ever asked out on a date got blown up soon afterwards."

On the other side of the room, Koushiro perked up from the screen of his computer. The phone call had been put on speakers for his benefit, but it hadn't caught his attention from his programming until now. Mimi remembered the D-1 Tournament? How curious. He'd have to ask her how much she did recall later, once more urgent issues were set on the metaphorical table.

Jou sighed as Koushiro began gesturing at him to get to the point. Great. "Anyway, Mimi, I'm not sure if you heard, but there have been some developments of late that you should know about-"

"-In the Digital World," Mimi cut in as her pseudo-frivolous airs were dropped in favor of a far more serious tone of voice. "That was what you were calling me about. So what's up?"

"Well, we first noticed something was wrong when Daisuke was retrieved from the Digital World and put in the hospital. He had been trampled by a unimon, of all things."

Almost half a world away, Mimi frowned and sat cross-legged on her bed. Something told her that she was not going to like this. The news started off bad and it was likely to end worse. That was just the way things were. "Any idea why?"

"None yet. However, Miyako and Iori said that Ken and Takeru have gone missing. They're completely incommunicado and no one has been able to find them yet." Jou cleared his throat then. What was to follow would be unpleasant, to say the least. "Not to go pointing fingers, but Taichi thinks we should do a bit of investigating on that matter."

A slight frown crossed Mimi's pretty features at the unvoiced implication. She had been one of the first to accept Ken without question out of her willingness to see the good in all things. He wouldn't revert to his old self, right? "You think Ichijouji is involved in this, I assume."

"We don't know that yet. We don't know much of anything yet," Jou countered. He paused for a moment to glance at Koushiro in hopes that the other might have a clue. Koushiro simply shrugged and urged him to continue. "What we do know is this: Several villages have been destroyed over the past two days by an organized force-"

Mimi let out a small gasp. "Oh no! Jou, that's awful! Do you know who's responsible?"

"Not yet. All we're getting as far as information is concerned is that whoever is giving the orders carries the banner of a three-edged sword. I don't suppose that gives you any ideas, does it?" Jou ended that on a hopeful note. Mimi knew some the Chosen Children from North America pretty well, she might have heard something that Koushiro or Wallace had not. Maybe she might have heard of or encountered a child with a similar crest or digimental.

"A three-edged sword? That's bizarre." There was a short pause then as Mimi raked her mind for something, anything that would offer a clue. Unfortunately, it was not to be. "Sorry, wish I could help."

"Don't worry about it. We'll let you know when we find out more," Jou offered reassuringly. He was ready to end the conversation as well until Koushiro rose from the desk and offered a piece of paper to him. Curious, Jou glanced over it briefly before continuing. "Actually, Koushiro requests that you ask the American kids to keep an eye out and protect what you can as far as your jurisdiction will allow. It seems that the only victims so far have been concentrations of viral populations and anyone trying to protect them."

"It can't be Ichijouji then," Mimi stated with absolute conviction. "Ichijouji's digimon partner is a virus. Why would he have an army attack only virii? It wouldn't make sense. It has to be someone else."

Koushiro nodded with just the tiniest hint of pride in his dark eyes at the idea of someone else agreeing with his theories. Someone else that didn't answer to "Jou", of course. As if sensing that thought, Jou gave him a brief smile and continued.

"Yes, we've thought of that. Regardless, it would help immensely if we could find the two. Maybe they might know something."

"I'll start organizing things with Michael after class and see what we can manage." Mimi's voice once again took on a positive tone. "Which I should be going to soon."

Jou blinked in surprise. So soon? Phone conversations with Mimi tended to stretch on for hours. Not only that, the cheerfulness in her voice sounded somewhat forced. He briefly wondered why, but sooner or later Mimi would tell them anyway, so he did not press on the matter. After all, it would have been rude. "Right. Koushiro will e-mail you the details in a bit. Later, Mimi."

"Oh, give Koushiro a kiss for me! Bye now!" With a short giggle, Mimi hung up.

Silently Jou turned off the phone speaker and hung up as well. He'd have to ask about Mimi's behavior later. This was odd even for her. He then looked to see Koushiro eyeing him expectantly with a slight, mischievous smirk.

"So, about that kiss?"


The monitor room was as cool and dark as always. Oh, there was the occasional puff of hot air as one of the machines cooled itself with a fan if it got too hot and the monitors did provide a modicum of light, but overall it was just dark and cool. Machines worked best in cooler temperatures, after all, and machine-type digimon thought more clearly in such an atmosphere.

A kokuwamon and kapurimon held a small conversation at one end of the room as they idly watched the monitors, but it was over subjects that did not interest the hagurumon at the moment. He had his own problems to think about.

Okay, so maybe their Tamer was often hard to get ahold of. It was Ryo, after all, and he had a habit of disappearing at times. But he would never leave when things were so bad, right? Not willingly anyway. Hagurumon was really worried. He had tried talking to Lynxmon, but even he was starting to act funny. It was hardly noticeable really, but Hagurumon liked to consider Lynxmon a friend and friends don't usually brush you aside so coldly when there were more important things to do. Any other time he would have dismissed it, but with the racial war raging as it was, he had reason to be suspicious. It was rather rude to question someone's loyalties, but...

There was a thin clink as what passed as Hagurumon's forehead met with the metal wall. Conversation between the others stilled as they stared at him in surprise and silence reigned once again. Then, just as one of the vents let out another puff of hot air, one of then began speaking.

"We can't reach Ryo," the kapurimon muttered, her hushed tones sounding unnaturally loud in the silent chamber. "Should we contact the Chosen Children? If things continue the way they have been, too many lives will be lost and-"

"And when there's so much fragmented data like the type that the army of the Three-Edged Sword has been generating, it won't just be the virii that are in trouble," the kokuwamon stated. "It would be prudent to remember what happened the last time there was so much fragmentation."

Hagurumon frowned at that. "It was a dark time then. If the Chosen Children hadn't been there..."

"Nevertheless, who should we contact? One of them is behind the genocide, after all, and who can we trust," the kokuwamon asked, voice weighed with understated despair.

There was the silence once again as the three machine digimon thought over the question. None of them knew the Chosen Children personally, none knew quite what to anticipate if they did seek out the Chosen. Then there was Ken, whom Ryo had been unable to get ahold of before their Tamer's disappearance. But if Ryo could not contact Ken, their own chances of doing so would be even less. They could try contacting-

"Let's try to reach Savali then."

Hagurumon and the kokuwamon stared at the kapurimon. "But little one," began the kokuwamon with just a touch of condescension in her voice, "he is with our Tamer. If we can't contact Ryo, then what makes you think we can contact Savali?"

"Because he's so resourceful and clever. Surely we can try contacting Ryo again this time but aim for Savali. He's so cool, I'm sure he'll know that we need his help and will meet us halfway!"

The two older digimon stared blankly at the younger, unsure as to just how their conversation had derailed into this. Were it possible, she would have been visibly radiating mindless fangirl worship. Hagurumon then glanced back at the kokuwamon. As illogical as the outburst of fangirlism was, the younger might be on to something.

"It's worth a try," Hagurumon conceded. He gave the kokuwamon a long-suffering glance as she stared at him in surprise. "We don't have very many options."

Sighing, the kokuwamon turned to the kapurimon. "Please understand that the likelihood of any of us contacting Savali is very slim. We don't want you to be disappointed if we don't."

"I understand," she replied meekly, despite the big grin that took up most of her face.

Hagurumon watched silently as the kokuwamon went back to watch the monitors and the small kapurimon began typing up the message with nothing but her tail. Something was nagging at the back of his mind, whether it was a sense of foreboding or something else, he couldn't tell. Nevertheless...

"Hey, let's not mention this to anyone else. Okay?"

The kapurimon stared at him in pure incomprehension, but the kokuwamon gave a gesture of acceptance and understanding. He'd have to talk to the kapurimon later. With the situation the way it was, it was best to be cautious. You just couldn't be sure who to trust anymore.


There was music playing in the background in a language that was not native to Japan. When no one else was around, this was what she listened to. It helped set her mind in the right frame to translate shipment permits and inventory from Russian to Japanese and back again if necessary. While she had left the Soviet Union for more than just political reasons, at least a couple of her brothers had kept in touch if no one else did and often sent CDs she might be interested in. It was nice to get back to one's roots at times.

Thus, it was when the CD stopped that she actually heard the soft pings emitting from Ryo's computer. Mrs. Akiyama glanced suspiciously at it. She didn't trust technology all that much and that was really Ryo's area of interest anyway, so she rarely bothered with his machines. But Ryo had taken off yet again to who knew where, that little purple pest of his was in a deep slumber, and the pinging was starting to get annoying. With a grunt of disgust, she rose from her desk to cross the short distance to Ryo's little work-area near the window. It was a shared study, but Ryo had a habit of carting his laptop to wherever he felt comfortable working at for the moment. Sometimes he'd leave it on the kitchen table, sometimes in his room, but usually here. Why he didn't turn it off when he left, she couldn't guess, but it was on right now and the pinging was starting to get on her nerves.

A tap on the touchpad deactivated the blackness that acted as a screensaver and brought up the desktop with a little purple dragon icon walking in place at the top left corner of the toolbar. Curious, she moved the cursor to it and clicked on it, only to be greeted with a dialog box requesting a password. She was tempted to leave it alone, but the pinging just wouldn't stop. Maybe Savali might know.

It was a short walk from the study to Ryo's room, both of which occupied the second floor. The door was open and Savali had made a nice little nest of the pillow. She was sorely tempted not to wake him, but the likelihood of getting the pinging to stop was slim unless she unplugged the computer and even then it would be a few hours before the battery ran out.

"Savali," Mrs. Akiyama barked out sharply from her place at the room's doorway, "Do you know Ryo's password?"

The purple and white ball pressed his wings tighter to his body and tried to bury himself into the pillow. With a grunt of disgust, she allowed ten seconds to pass before she repeated her demand. An eyelid cracked open then and the baleful yellow eye glared at her for interrupting his sleep.

"For which program," the cranky tsukaimon ground out.

"Something that has a little purple dragon picture. Its beeping is annoying and I have a stack of invoices to translate today."

Savali grunted and closed his eyes. "'Osamu'. No special characters or kanji, just type it out in hiragana."

"Thank you," Mrs. Akiyama said as she turned to leave the tsukaimon alone now that she had what she needed. She pointedly ignored the acidic response.

It wasn't long before she had the password typed in and the mail began downloading. Satisfied that the pinging had stopped for the moment, she returned to her work. This occupied her time for a few minutes, but curiosity nagged at her. She never asked what her son did with his computer, for she was brought up under the strict rule that one did not ask too many questions. In the Soviet Union such curiosity was trouble and could get a long talk with the KGB. And, somehow or another, she had instilled that into her son as well. Up until he was eleven, he rarely expressed curiosity and only did so when something woke him up. She was told later, much later, that it had been the Digital World that taught him that questioning things wasn't so bad, to an extent. She didn't know everything that happened to him in the Digital World and at times thought it was just as well. Maybe some things were better left unanswered.

The flood of e-mail had finished downloading and the listing window brought up on the screen. She scanned it absently and was ready to leave it be until her eyes caught on the "URGENT!" title of one of the e-mails. She gave in to the nagging curiosity after a moment and opened the e-mail. To her surprise, it was addressed to Savali and written in some language font set that looked like none of Earth's writing systems. It had the angularity of Germanic or Saxon runes, but looked completely unrelated.

Once again Savali was woken, much to his irritation. He was tempted to lash out with acid words at the woman, but the mix of curiosity and urgency on her face stilled his tongue and he went along silently. Besides, it was something to do and life was downright boring lately. He wasn't above flying lazily to aggravate her for waking him, though.

The e-mail written in a series of glyphs that had stumped the translator had originated from the Digital World. Savali had never been much for letters, preferring spoken communication and body language to series of codes, but his first Tamer had insisted he learn enough to read. As he read the field report and plea for help from one of many in the Furekim, his scowl deepened. Why the hell did Ryo have to take off when he was needed most?

With a grunt of disgust, the tsukaimon settled on the desk and folded his wings against his body to ponder what the best action would be. Ryo had stormed off because one of his barbs hit a nerve, and thus left any communication devices behind. It wasn't like Ryo to be gone this long and Savali was worried. Damned if he'd let it show. He looked over the various subject headers, wondering which of them might be from a Chosen Child he could trust. Well, inasmuch as he was capable of considering his own suspicious nature. After so many attempts to get through to Ken and failing, there was no choice but to write the boy off as missing. There were several other messages of lesser importance from the rest of the Furekim, but he could pry into those later. However, that Izumi kid sounded promising...

Mrs. Akiyama went back to her work. As intrigued as she was by the tsukaimon's sudden silence and his typing something up several minutes later, she had work to do and whatever it was that Savali was doing did not concern her.

The time passed slowly. Savali, when he was done pecking away at the keyboard, curled back up in his usual nap stance. His thoughts were too hectic for sleep though, and he instead stared absently into space with half-lidded eyes while he sorted through his thoughts. The genocide was getting worse, and several members of the Furekim had expressed concerns. Every digimon had a chance of being reborn, but too much fragmented data of the type the armies of the Three Edged Sword were generating had severe repercussions. Every time there had been too much death, there was too much damaged data floating around. This in turn would usher Apocalymon, and his coming was Ragnarock itself. When Apocalymon appeared it usually meant that a complete wipe and reformatting of the Digital World was at hand. It was unpleasant, but necessary for the Digital World to repair itself. Demon hadn't been stupid enough to pull it off and the Kaiser had never come close. The Dark Masters, having been around for a far shorter time than Demon, had either been unaware of the ancient legends that told of Apocalymon or ignored them. The Chosen had defeated Apocalymon the last time, but would they be able to now without the powers of the Crests?

The ring of a phone disturbed the prominent silence. Savali glared at it acidly before closing his eyes and attempting to return to his train of thought. Ryo's mother picked it up after the second ring and the tsukaimon resigned himself to listening in on the conversation since he wasn't going to get any sleep now anyway.

"Hello, is this the Akiyama residence?"

Mrs. Akiyama blinked in surprise at the youthful light tenor. It had to be someone in their teens at least, but people that young rarely called the house. It might be one of Ryo's friends, but they usually e-mailed him instead. "Yes. Akiyama Kumi speaking."

"Nice to meet you. My name is Izumi Koushiro, I'm an associate of Ryo's. He's been missing since his train arrived in Odaiba, but I hadn't known he was coming until Savali contacted me a few minutes ago," the boy said. His voice held a fairly remote tone that was not entirely due to physical distance. It wasn't cold, per se, but implied that Izumi was more given to facts and clinical detachment than dramatic emotions. Before the woman could say anything, he continued. "I called because I've been told you were more comfortable with less complicated technology."

Savali smirked as he stretched out a wing and settled back in, well aware of the cold glare Kumi was shooting at him. It was nice to gain the upper hand.

"Whatever. What's this about?"

"Have you noticed any suspicious activity over the past few months that might be relevant to the search? Any unusual phone calls or other indications that someone might have shown interest in Ryo?"

It took time to think that over. She had never poked her nose into Ryo's business. He was a good kid and did nothing that would warrant such surveillance. But then... "There was a woman who tried to call him constantly a few weeks after he returned from that world, but she stopped after about three months. Ryo said her name was Yoshinaga or something like that. Yoshinara?"

Koushiro gave a thoughtful hum, and she heard the faint tapping on a keyboard. Shortly after, the boy spoke again. "Might be Yoshinaka. She's one of several parents who had filed a missing persons report for an offspring around 1996. Give me a moment to load the webpage."

There was a hissing intake of breath shortly afterwards. Kumi cocked an eyebrow at that but said nothing. Whatever the boy found, he would tell her if it was important.

"Yoshinaka Oshiro was listed as a missing person in August of 1996, but investigations pointed to a run-away case and dismissed it. His hair is lighter and doesn't have the same auburn tint, his jaw is more square-ish, and his eyes a lighter shade of blue, but he looks enough like Ryo to make anyone do a double-take."

"Did he disappear the same way Ryo did," Kumi asked. She was intrigued now.

Koushiro's voice was softer now, lost in thought. "Most likely. This is the Gennai we saw in the winter of 2002. Or, at least, an aspect of Gennai..."

"You're not making sense."

"Oh, sorry," Koushiro murmured apologetically. "In the Digital World, one can sometimes project a mental image of themselves. Ken, during his time as the Kaiser, was so caught up in the memory of his brother that he had taken on Osamu's voice, speech patterns and hair-style while he was in that world. There's an organization called the Gennai Order, they use similar means for their disguises. The old man visage is a shell program, but I never realized that the younger Gennai was a projection too."

Mrs. Akiyama, who liked to consider herself a fairly sharp person, was completely and utterly lost. "So what does this have to do with Ryo?"

"It's a motive. Ryo had been projecting himself as Oshiro while he worked as Gennai. I'm not sure, but it was probably unintentional. Mrs. Yoshinaka probably saw this and had the resources available to stage an abduction."

"So, do you think you can find my son?" There was nothing quite like getting right to the point.

Once again there was the faint tapping noise at the other end of the line. "I can try, but I won't guarantee anything. From what I can find so far, she has had trouble finding stable work. That's not too surprising considering the economy over the last few years, but her lack of steady employment is probably due to psychological issues. We're not quite dealing with a very sane person here. I'll let you know if I find more."

Impressive, the woman thought, though she wondered just how this Izumi boy found what he did. And, since the boy's aptitude at discovering such things was starting to infringe on the paranoia that was second nature to her, it would be best to inquire about it. "How did you find what you did?"

"The internet," Koushiro started with just a hint of smugness in his voice, "can be a powerful tool for those who know just how to use it. Nevertheless, finding Mrs. Yoshinaka's current location will take a little more work. Do you have a cell phone I can reach you at?"

"Yes, but I don't use it often." She then rattled off a series of numbers. An idea struck her then. Why not head down to Tokyo and search herself? "Though I should take it with me when I join the hunt."

There was silence at the other end of the line. Mrs. Akiyama wondered faintly if she had said something offensive, but brushed that thought off once Koushiro responded. "Very well then. Do you need any help booking a flight?"

With a sigh, the woman refused Koushiro's offer. She'd rather call the airport than rely on a kid she didn't even know, but didn't exactly want to say so outright. The conversation didn't last long after that and she was soon left in silence with her thoughts.

Ryo's mother was never a very trusting person. A paranoid pessimist by nature, she always had reason to regard anything she wasn't used to with suspicion. Teenaged kids who could find anyone's personal information with just a few keystrokes and a modem were not to be blindly trusted. But he was all she had to help find her son and she didn't even know where else to go to. And what was she going to do when she found him anyway? If the Yoshinaka woman was as unstable as she suspected, would she be able to defend herself?

An idea flitted to the forefront of her mind and it didn't take long before she realized that she did have someone to turn to, for minor aid if nothing else. There was no hesitation as she picked up the phone again and punched in a series of numbers with such vehemence that it startled the tsukaimon that was watching close by.

Mrs. Akiyama fidgeted impatiently as the phone went through its fourth ring. Calling to Moscow was expensive, but she had no other choice. Then, when she was ready to give up...

"Allo. Rosoboronexport," a prim, almost snooty male voice pronounced. His voice held the thin quality that one heard only on a long-distance call, and the connection crackled at random intervals.

"Pazavite, pazhalsta Dmitri Ilyich Zakharov? Eta Khynika Svetlana Zakharov."

"Da, pazhalsta. Minutku."

And so she waited with a cold mix of anticipation and dread that settled in the pit of her stomach. First Ryo had gone off and disappeared again, and now she was going to beg a favor of a family she had left behind for well over twenty years. She had kept in touch with two of her brothers, but no one else besides them. The company employed more than a few of her relatives though, and the man who had answered her call could just as easily contact her father instead of the brother she wanted to seek out. But then-

"Allo Khynika! I am surprised to hear you after so long," exclaimed a voice that carried with it all the memories of hiking through Siberia's tundra for the sake of it, of warmth even in cold that was not just due to the environment. Dmitri's Japanese was grammatically horrible and his accent was painfully obvious, but he was trying. "What makes you call, dear sister?"

"I need you to do a very big favor for me."


The silvery tones of a single flute wafted to the ears of those close enough to hear it. The tune brought forth the imagery of a gypsy girl dancing sensuously in a smoke filled room, a girl dressed in whites, purples and reds whose motions were admired by all.

Ken recognized it as a solo adaption of Maurice Ravel's Bolero with a tweaking that he hadn't heard in ages. Curious as to who would play that particular rendition of the song, he peeked cautiously out the door of the apartment he shared with Takeru. The knightmon guard had nodded off and there didn't seem to be any patrols at this time.

He had every reason to wonder about just what was going on in the castle. When he wanted to explore, he could only do so when Takeru was around and told outright. Then it seemed as if he were merely being directed away from whatever it was that was going on in one room and pointed elsewhere. It was getting on his nerves and he hadn't decided when best to confront Takeru about it. Then there was the issue of Wormmon and Nahualmon, neither had expressed any desire to leave the safety of the apartments since their last venture. From what his partner told him, there weren't any other virus type digimon to be seen in the castle, and that was highly unusual. When Patamon was around to be asked, the little bat-pig creature could offer nothing more than that Takeru was busy building something. And he was worried about Daisuke, but had yet to talk to Takeru about visiting his friend since he first heard about Daisuke's injuries.

But with his guard napping on the job, he could wander and there wasn't anyone around to redirect his walk. The peculiar solo rendition of Bolero nagged at something in his memory that was still clouded by years of disuse and he was bored enough to pursue it.

The crisp silver notes that oscillated between demure to brazen led him down several flights of stairs and through hallways mysteriously absent of the patrol that had turned him away before, and finally out into the courtyard.

It was more guarded in the courtyard than the palace proper and he had to dodge from the view of several bakumon every now and then. Fortunately, the guards were more focused on trying to keep anything from entering the palace than they were on anything that left it, and he found convenient cover in the hedges. He didn't even know why he was sneaking around, but if he did get caught he would be sent back with escort and he wasn't exactly pleased by that concept.

Eventually he found himself drawing near a greenhouse that looked for all the world like a giant glass canary's cage. The music was strongest within it, and he slipped close enough to peek into it.

Sitting on a bench and surrounded by the greenery of vegetation, with lips pursed, fingers dancing over the holes of a shimmering flute and eyes closed in concentration was a boy his own age. The sun highlighted the boy's hair and gave it an almost halo-like appearance, and it glinted off the silver rings of chain mail that the boy was wearing underneath a white overshirt. Ken hadn't realized he was holding his breath until he let it out. Takeru looked incredible at that moment and the Child of Kindness was uncomfortably aware of the increase of his own pulse. He wanted Takeru and at the moment he was less concerned about whatever circumstances had the majority of the castle's population sent away.

Takeru had been so lost in his reverie that he hadn't noticed Ken's approach until he had finished the tune that just come to him overnight. Then he had opened his eyes when Ken drew close. And that look on Ken's face, the one he had been waiting for, was worth every carefully laid plan he had conceived. With a grin of delight, Takeru set the flute aside and extended a hand to take Ken's in his.

Ken chuckled in amusement at the invitation to get a little closer. The bench was wide enough to accommodate three people, so there was enough space for him to settle at his boyfriend's side. He was curious as to just when Takeru learned how to play any woodwind instrument, let alone a tune that was familiar enough to tug suggestively at long-buried memories. As he felt Takeru's arm drape affectionately over his shoulders, the unfamiliar weight of the chain mail prompted him to address subjects that his hormones had nothing to do with. He'd rather confront Takeru later, but he had put things off long enough.

"Where did you learn that," he asked, then wondered faintly why he was hedging. Well, it was just as good a start as any.

Takeru glanced curiously back at him. Ken couldn't help but notice what he had overlooked before. His boyfriend's Caucasian blood was prominent with blond hair and blue eyes that weren't natural among the majority of Japan's population, but in recent days Takeru's hair and eyes seemed to have become paler. Hair the color of spun gold had lightened to a near-platinum blond with yellow tints, medium-blue eyes turned to the faint ice blue of arctic skies. Ken was more aware of the effects of psychologically projecting a desired image of oneself in the Digital World than many, but why was Takeru changing this way? It didn't make sense. Then there was that nagging feeling that implied that he should know why this was happening and what memory the situation was trying to evoke, but...

The boy in light armor was unsure of just how to answer that. For some reason it came naturally. "The song? It just came to me one night. Why?"

"It just reminded me of something, that's all." Ken paused for a moment, and in the silence he mulled over how best to frame his question. He could try and dig up that elusive memory later, but for now there was something else he had to confront Takeru about. "I've been meaning to talk, but it's been rather hard to get to you."

"That's because I've been busy. You know how construction is. What did you want to talk to me about," asked Takeru, though he already anticipated Ken's answer. Keeping his dear boyfriend in the shadows about his project was necessary for the moment.

Once he drew away only far enough to look Takeru in the eyes and observe what response the question would engender, Ken began. "Takeru, Wormmon and Nahualmon are very nervous about this place and I've noticed that there are no viral digimon whatsoever here. Why is that?"

There was a moment's silence again and a nearly undetectable mask drifted over Takeru's face to hide whatever it was that the boy was feeling. Ken had seen it before and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Takeru was hiding things from him. He didn't like this at all.

"Well," Takeru started carefully, unsure of just how much he wanted to reveal to Ken just yet. He was a Regent preparing a kingdom for his love, but the king-to-be would surely protest this early in development. "Virii are pests, Ken. They must be eliminated before they destroy the garden."

Icy fingers traced a chill down Ken's spine at Takeru's words and his eyes widened unconsciously in shock. It couldn't be possible. The last person he heard similar words from was dead. She had been dead for a very long time. "Where did you hear that?"

"Hear what?" Confused, Takeru could only blink blankly at the question and hope Ken could clarify. He knew his behavior was odd of late, but had wished that no one realized it quite so soon.

"That line. I remember someone saying something like that long ago."

"Oh. Well, the least I can do is be honest." Takeru sighed and pulled his arm from Ken's shoulders to lace his fingers together in thought. "I've been having these bizarre flashes of memories I know I never experienced, but they seem so real. It's like I'm recalling someone else's life.

It wasn't possible. It couldn't be. Kageko had died in the real world, so she couldn't have generated a codewalker in the Digital World that would have made this possible. There had to be something else, but that something eluded Ken and left him grasping at a dozen half-formed theories that just wouldn't have worked when held up to scrutiny. But he had to be sure. "Takeru, can you play something else on that flute? Maybe something a little more fast-paced?"

Takeru reached out and grabbed the flute without really thinking about it, then brought it up to his lips and began. He didn't know where Ken was going with this, but he might as well.

Ken leaned against the bench's wrought-iron back and closed his eyes. The tune was more familiar and unearthed things he had forgotten. Things he wished remained forgotten.

An albino girl dressed in red was out in her sun room that doubled as a greenhouse, sitting on a bench that Ryo had recently put together. Ryo was close by and Ken was curled up next to him on the second bench. They had stopped talking when Kageko wanted to practice and listened in despite her halfhearted protests.

The tune she played for them was fast in tempo and required a great deal of skill. Her fingers danced along the silvery instrument and in her concentration she ignored a small spider that had dropped down from the leaf of a tall plant to land on the flute's end.

When asked later, she said that it was called Tarantella and explained the story for them. The tarantella was an Italian folk dance believed to be a remedy for a spider's poisonous bite. When someone was bitten it was deemed wise to dance as fast as one could to drive out the spider's poison. It was superstition, but she said that the music was enjoyable to play. All things considered...

All things considered, they were in deep shit. Insect-typed digimon were attacking from what seemed to be all sides, and he and Daisuke could only stare at the pale, white-haired woman in red and purple who was playing a flute and ignoring their presence. Her eyes were hidden behind shades and she looked human enough, but one could never be too sure in the Digital World. And somehow she was controlling those insects with the flute alone.

Ken's eyes snapped open and he stared in horror at his boyfriend. Takeru was playing Tarantella, just as Kageko had long ago. His very pose was reminiscent of Kageko's and Arachnemon's. But it wasn't possible. It couldn't have been. Unless...

Oikawa had used Kageko's DNA to construct Arachnemon because she had already been to the Digital World, but said in all but the most private reports that he used his own. And Kageko was killed when he tried to physically remove the Dark Seed from her neck. Was it still around? If so, where was it? Was it possible...

Takeru stopped his song short and opened his eyes when Ken rose from the bench, unsure of what he had done to upset the other boy. Might as well ask. "Ken, are you okay?"

Ken turned to observe Takeru carefully. He liked Takeru, a lot, but right now he was beginning to see the ghost of someone long dead in him. Takeru was too pale, his hair too light, and Ken knew now that there was something else controlling his boyfriend's actions. With a despondent half-smile, he replied. "You could say that. I'm going back to our room to read, if you don't mind."

With a sigh, the Lord Regent watched his beloved step out of the greenhouse and down the path to the palace proper. While it was good that Ken had decided to leave the apartment while his troops were away to carry out the Cleansing, it was likely that the other boy could run into something he wasn't ready to reveal yet. He'd have to do something about that.


Ajora: Next card up: The Hanged Man.


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