Episode 4: Spirits of the Wind
by Ajora Fravashi
Disclaimer - See the one on episode 1. I don't have time to retype it.
It had been at least two weeks since Takeru's life had turned upside
down once again. Two weeks since he had gone from the life of a
nomadic hunter to acting as an informant for Ichijouji Ken in his
quest to find his parents. Every entry in Kai's journal tantalized him
with ethereal suggestions of their location, and every contact of
Kai's that talked to him gave him more to work with. While he didn't
particularly like being Ken's informant, the job seemed perfectly
suited to guide him further towards his goal.
The thing that struck him as weird, however, was Daisuke's willingness
to go along with him regardless of the potential risk. He just didn't
get it. Sure Ken offered them a place to call home in exchange for the
service, but couldn't Daisuke just find some other job at the base?
Why would Daisuke want to accompany him on his personal quest? Daisuke
said that it was because Takeru had been nice to him and that he had
more of a sense of purpose than most people nowadays. It still didn't
make much sense to Takeru, but maybe that was just the kind of person
Daisuke was. At least they got along reasonably well.
A sigh escaped Takeru's lips as he rotated their supper over the fire.
It was a rather large salmon that Patamon had wrestled out of the
nearby river in a manner that would have been reminiscent of bears had
Patamon been larger. But Patamon was proud of himself, and the praise
that followed was well-deserved. Daisuke voiced minor complaints about
having to cover up the rover with branches, but Takeru didn't pay them
too much attention. His mind was on other things.
There were an awful lot of people wanting to change the world. Takato
did so by making himself a hero and inspiring others to follow in his
footsteps, and Takeru had little doubt that Takato would return to his
chosen vocation the moment he healed. Ken planned to do so when "the
time is right," whenever that was, and he could introduce order to the
world again. Ruki, in her own way, was doing her part by giving former
school nerds room to grow intellectually and work out the mysterious
technology of the old world. Yamato's dream was to bring back music,
and he was quite successful at it. Even further back, there had been
the Ainu tribes that brought themselves back from the edge of
extinction to introduce ways of hunting and growing food that didn't
need a gun or electricity.
There were so many powers at work, great and small, that Takeru
wondered where his place in the big picture was. Was he simply another
of Ken's pawns, one that wouldn't even be a footnote in the history
books? Not that it mattered much, since all he really wanted was to
find his parents again. Obscurity wasn't all that bad if he had his
parents with him.
He looked up when Daisuke had thrown down the last handful of branches
in mock disgust. The shorter man sat and eyed the salmon
appreciatively. "That's a really nice catch there. Should go great
with the rice."
"Rice is in that pot," Takeru said as he gestured to the pot that had
been set aside to cool. "Nice thing about working for Ken..."
Daisuke grinned as he began shovelling rice onto his plate. "Military-
issue mess kit, food, a land rover and gas for it, and nice soft
mattresses waiting of us between missions. Man, we practically live
"Isn't it funny? When I was a kid, I'd call this 'roughing it' and
whine to Yamato about wanting to go home. Now, well..." Takeru felt it
was better to leave the rest of the sentence unspoken, but he wasn't
too surprised when Daisuke decided to follow up on it regardless.
"Now we know we had it good." Daisuke paused to add flakes of dried
seaweed to his rice. "This is a damn sight better than having to
scavenge for canned food and finding some hole to curl up in for the
Takeru nodded silently as he removed the fish from the spit for
slicing into bite-sized chunks. He didn't want to mention that he had
been lucky enough to run into the Ainu early on and was taught to hunt
when he reached his tenth year. From what he could tell of Daisuke's
behaviors at times and the occasional hints dropped, his friend hadn't
been so fortunate. Maybe once Ken trusted them enough to let Daisuke
meet and bond with a digimon, he could teach Daisuke how to hunt.
Having to scavenge was no way to live.
Once Patamon returned with some freshly cleaned green onions, the trio
ate in companionable silence. Their personal nightly rituals followed
soon afterwards, and sleep came when conversations wound down. It was
a familiar pattern of late, and none of them expected any different.
In the small hours of the morning, the inattentiveness would be
rewarded with a theft. Shadows hid the figure well, and the light of
the moon and stars were just enough for the figure to recognize what
it needed. It slipped to the rover's side with the grace of a master
of the art of theft. There was little more than the creaking of hinges
as the figure opened the gas tank's lid and carefully lowered a hose
into the tank. With just a bit of encouragement by way of a hand pump,
gasoline was siphoned from the tank to the glass jar the figure
brought along. And, had Daisuke not been awoken by a nightmare, the
figure would have gotten away with the theft.
The only reason Daisuke knew to check on the rover was because he
heard liquid being poured into something. He moved with the silence of
one well-practiced in sneaking around others, and the thief was so
fixated on stealing their gasoline that she didn't notice Daisuke
until it was too late. When Daisuke tackled the thief, she let out a
startled yelp and tried to struggle away from him. Though he was the
stronger of the two, he was caught off guard when he finally caught a
view of her face. Something struck him as familiar about her, but he
couldn't quite put a finger on why she was familiar. His hold
slackened enough for the woman to break away and run. Puzzled, Daisuke
could only stare after her.
The day was slightly overcast in the suburbs of the once-great city of
Nagoya, but spirits seemed to be high in the residents. Mention of an
upcoming festival kept being tossed about by the locals. Daisuke was
thrilled by the prospect, and this was because they were both sorely
in need of a good party and Iwakuni wasn't exactly the most exciting
place to be. And, while the gasoline theft put a damper on Takeru's
own mood, he had a good reason to look forward to meeting the next
contact on Kai's list. Patamon, when he was told whom they were going
to meet, crowed in joy and insisted on coming along this time. He
didn't even mind being stuffed in a backpack.
The trio made their way to what was once a bar that offered such
Western-style entertainment as darts and billiards. The sign had since
been painted over, so whatever it was called before, they didn't know.
People socialized around billiard tables, dart boards, and roulettes
with drinks in hand. And, oddly enough, both barkeepers were familiar
The blonde barkeeper he remembered from Osaba, and he couldn't imagine
why she was here instead of the Osaba bar. He had only spoken to her
in passing and never once thought she'd have any connection to this
place's owner. The owner himself was a childhood friend, and Takeru
recognized that shock of spiky red hair anywhere.
"Koushiro! How's it going?"
Izumi Koushiro blinked up at Takeru from a battered old paper notebook
and dropped his pencil in surprise when he recognized who was calling
out to him. He waved his old childhood friend over to the bar.
It was when he got a good look at the bar itself that Takeru's jaw
dropped. Spread out behind the bar, where liquor bottles were normally
displayed, was a huge map of Japan glued onto a cork board that had
been nailed to the shelves. Perhaps hundreds of tiny pins stuck strips
of paper to the map, and on each strip was a name and date. He had no
idea Koushiro had something like this.
"Like it?" Koushiro looked particularly proud of his map. "So many
people started coming in when I staked this place out that I decided
to start it up. This place was a nexus of information once you got
truth out of the rumors people spread. Since there are no phones
anymore, this helps me keep people in touch with each other or help
them find someone they're looking for. Primitive version of the
Internet, but it works. One can of food gets you a pin on the map for
half a year; a CD-Rom, DVD, or ten thousand yen gets you a year. Bring
me a computer or fifty thousand yen and you get five years."
"But dude, what do you need those for? Money's useless and you need
electricity to run a computer," Daisuke blurted out. As awesome as the
map was, he didn't understand why this guy Takeru knew would want
things no one could use anymore.
Koushiro eyed Daisuke curiously before returning his attention to
Takeru. "Friend of yours?"
"Yeah. He knows about our... er... special friends." Takeru mentally
kicked himself for the poor attempt at being subtle. "Special
friends," indeed. He should probably change the subject. "Say, where
are our old club members, anyway?"
Koushiro's dark eyes twinkled in amusement at the subject change and
dug out a lecture pointer. Once it was extended, he tapped it once on
each location as he explained. "Well, most of us wander a lot, but the
Yagamis usually settle down in Suzu in the winters and Jou tends to
stick to that cabin of his outside Osaka when he's tired of house
calls. Mimi lives in the Niigata region, and I hear she settled down
because she has a kid now. No one knows who the father is and she
won't tell us. When Yamato's not touring, he spends his time in
Yokohama. I don't know exactly where Sora is, but I have ways of
contacting her. But you, Takeru, you've been a problem."
It took a moment for it all to sink in. Mimi had a kid? She never
seemed the type to be interested in breeding. Takeru wondered faintly
who had knocked her up, but if Koushiro didn't know, it probably
wasn't anyone in their group. And he wanted to bring up where he could
be reached from now on, but he would need privacy. "Hey, is there a
quiet place we can talk around here?"
The hall's owner gave a brief nod and called out to his companion, who
was pointedly acting as if she wasn't listening in on them. She tucked
away a perfectly clean beer mug and washcloth before giving her
employer an innocent look.
"Orimoto, can you keep an eye on business for a bit," Koushiro asked.
"My friend and I need to get reacquainted."
"Volentieri, Izumi." The woman grinned as Daisuke's eyes widened and
darted from her to Koushiro.
"What the... But..."
"Oh, excuse my manners." Koushiro gave a formal bow, but it was clear
he enjoyed the confusion as much as the blonde woman seemed to. "I'm
Izumi Koushiro, and this is Orimoto Izumi. It seems your friend knows
Orimoto personally, Takeru."
"We met in Osaba, but I never picked up her name," Takeru admitted
with a slightly sheepish tone. "Daisuke stuck around longer than I
"And he was much better company." Orimoto Izumi's grin took on a
decidedly impish aspect. "Now hurry along. I can take care of things
for the time being."
Izumi Koushiro mouthed a silent "thank you" to her before escorting
Takeru to a door that led to a flight of stairs. Daisuke, though he
was torn between curiosity and wanting to ask Orimoto Izumi why she
was here, opted for the path of least annoyance for everyone: he
stayed with the woman as Takeru and Koushiro went upstairs.
An apartment had been built above the bar and gaming hall. The door
was locked, but Koushiro seemed to have procured the keys from what
was probably the previous owner's pockets. When opened, the door
revealed a common room littered with computer systems, wires, and some
odd device connected to car batteries that Takeru suspected Koushiro
got his electricity from. Once they were in the safety of the living
room and the door was locked again behind them, Takeru set down the
backpack carefully to let out Patamon. Patamon cheered happily and
began flapping in circles around their heads until he ran out of air
and settled on his usual perch.
"Koushiro! It's been so long! How are you and Tentomon? Where is
Koushiro couldn't help but chuckle at Patamon's exuberance. Some
things never changed. "He's probably napping in the bedroom. And we're
"You're doing fine," a familiar voice seemed to buzz from the kitchen.
Tentomon flew out and into the living room. When he spoke again, his
tone was dry, almost teasing. "I'm the one who has to be hooked up to
the batteries every morning."
"You said it just tickled." When Tentomon said nothing and was then
distracted by Patamon tackling him, Koushiro returned his attention to
Takeru. "You're in deep, aren't you?"
Takeru blinked blankly at that. "What do you mean?"
"You could have told me that you were fully nomadic and left it at
that, but if you want to talk in private, you're living someplace you
can't or don't want to reveal to the world. Chances are that you don't
want to be found and I can't stick you on the map."
Trust Koushiro to figure it out before he even said anything. "I'm
living in the same place as Sora. Can't give away more than that
unless you want to come back with us and join up. I wasn't told to
recruit anyone yet, but Sora and I can probably talk our boss into
letting you in," he ended on a cautiously optimistic note. Though
Takeru hadn't really thought about what he said, in retrospect it
seemed like a good idea. Iwakuni Base could probably do well with
Koushiro's skills, and it would be nice to have another member of the
old group there.
Dark, calculating eyes studied Takeru carefully for a minute. When it
seemed that Koushiro was satisfied with his examination, he responded.
"Normally I'd say I would need more information before coming to a
decision, but I have a place here. Who will take care of my map when
I'm gone and keep the system running? Izumi would be a logical choice,
but she'll pack up and leave when she gets bored. The moment I'm gone,
some brute would probably lay claims on this place and throw out all
my work. Sorry, Takeru, but I can't. Every pin on that map is someone
who came by here trying to find siblings and friends."
"Understood. Well, if you can contact with Sora, she'll be able to get
word to me."
A hint of a smile tugged at Koushiro's lips. "It's harder than it
should be, actually. We used to just send our digimon to pass on
messages, but about seven years ago we had to resort to timed meetings
and only Piyomon could pass messages. Something about new security
Takeru suspected that was around when Jianliang became chief of
security. He'd never met someone so uptight and paranoid. Maybe
Jianliang acted differently off duty, but Takeru couldn't remember
ever seeing the head of security off duty. "I think I know why,
"But you can't tell," Koushiro said in that tone that suggested he
knew more than he was letting on. "Sora said the same thing. Was there
anything else you wanted to talk about in private?"
"Yeah. Have a place to sit down? This could take awhile."
Koushiro gave him a questioning look, but then escorted him from the
digimon playing around the computer systems to a small dining area
connected to the kitchen. There were only two chairs around a small
table, but it was enough for Takeru's purpose. He pulled out Kai's
journal once he was settled into a chair and flipped to the page
mentioning Izumi's Gaming & Intelligence Center. "I was asked
to follow my predecessor's footsteps, so I'll be asking the same
questions. He mentioned here that you had information about the 'men
of fire' which may be linked to Amaterasu's Cave. Can you elaborate?"
It was interesting to see any emotions shown on Koushiro's face,
especially since the older man was never much for expressing himself
that way to begin with, but the anxiety made Takeru wonder about the
subject. "How much do you know of them?"
"Not much," Takeru admitted. "Just bits and pieces of rumors."
The older man sighed and settled into the other chair before
explaining. "They come in the night, usually in clusters of five, and
lay waste to entire settlements. Adults, children, or livestock, it
doesn't matter to them. Some people think they're just gangs out to
cause trouble, like those pureblood groups. But then I started
studying their patterns of movement. The major sightings have been in
Tokyo, Fukuoka, Sapporo, Aomori, and Fukushima. However, they don't
seem to target the cities themselves. It's the settlements they burn.
The reports I get suggest that their strikes are within days or even
hours of each other. That's the clincher."
"Yes." Though there was a frown on Koushiro's face as he spoke, there
was also a glimmer of morbid fascination in his eyes. "The rumors and
reports don't take related accounts into consideration, but look at
them from a distance. Look at the big picture. Their attacks were
well-coordinated even though they happened within a very close
timeframe of each other. Take, for example, the winter burning of
Aomori, Tokyo, and Fukuoka. They all happened within several hours of
each other, despite such vast distances. This suggests that they
either had radio to contact each other, or planes. I'd wager on radio,
Takeru's mind tried to wrap itself around the suggestion. Radio meant
military power like Iwakuni's. But why would someone with that kind of
power want to burn the cities? Cities were useless nowadays. You
couldn't grow crops in them or feed livestock on cement, and the few
who did remain in cities usually claimed the parks for themselves. The
settlements on the outskirts of cities were hardly a threat to anyone,
especially if that someone had the military might of Iwakuni Base. "Do
you have any idea why? Or what they look like?"
"Have you heard the rumors that the government is trying to come
"Yeah, but I never paid them much attention. It's up there with the
rumors of the dead coming back for their kids, and with about as much
evidence," Takeru muttered. He always figured they were all just
wishes for stability to return.
"In every rumor there's a seed of truth." Much to Takeru's
displeasure, Koushiro's voice dropped into lecture mode. "People are
ultimately selfish, Takeru, especially if they're politicians.
Politicians are typically a patient lot, and if they have to wait a
decade or two to come back into power, they will. What I believe is
that they're holed up somewhere, just waiting for the right time to
draw out of their hiding places and restore the old world. I also
believe that these men of fire are agents for them. I'm still working
out a hypothesis about why they're burning settlements,
however. I suspect that it's related to the virus that killed the
"How did you come to that conclusion?"
"Well, diseases don't really die. They can remain dormant for years
and spring up again. They can mutate to better suit themselves. That's
why there will never be a cure for the common cold. The best we could
have hoped for was a vaccine, but everyone died too quickly back then.
Now then, I know that remembering the past is painful, but do you
remember when the virus turned into an epidemic?"
Takeru winced at the unpleasant imagery that invoked. He remembered
the news reports. "They started burning dead bodies to keep the
infection contained until there were too many bodies and not enough
adults to move them." But it didn't work. The incubation period was
nearly impossible to detect, and when the signs finally appeared, the
victim was dead within a day or two. We never had a chance.
"I think that's why these men of fire are out there now. One of the
guys I talked to drew up a sketch of what they looked like: men in
silver suits and cowls with clear plastic faceplates. They carried
flamethrowers on their backs. When my informant drew up the symbol
they had on their attire, I... there are times when I hate being
right. The symbol is the one used to warn people about biological
hazards. The conclusion I came to is that either the virus is back but
moves slowly because few people have quick modes of transportation
anymore, or someone well-connected made a vaccine and screwed it up.
However, because of the lack of facts, I'll have to reserve opinion
until something more concrete comes along. That was what I told Kai."
There was little else Takeru could do but remain silent as he mulled
over Koushiro's revelations. The implications alone would have been
enough to floor him a few weeks ago, but now he had to wonder: how
much more didn't he know of what was going on in the world? How many
other details had he ignored in his quest? But then again, Koushiro
had always been the logical one and picking out patterns where others
only saw chaos was his specialty. That was somewhat reassuring.
The discussions that followed afterwards were of far less importance.
They caught up on what had happened to them in the years following the
Apocalypse, and recounted memories of the Digital World. During this,
Koushiro brought up his own theories about the Digital World's current
state. It would have been all too easy for someone to take over in the
ensuing chaos, but they weren't entirely sure that there was much to
take over anymore. Even with Koushiro's numerous attempts to contact
Gennai (all ending in failure), there wasn't much information to work
with. The only conclusion they could come to was that whatever had
happened to the Digital World wasn't drastic enough to affect the real
world as it had during the events of 1999. Nevertheless, there was
nothing more they could do but wait.
Takeru had gotten very good at waiting.
All things considered, Daisuke could think of much less pleasant
people to be around. Orimoto Izumi was friendly (if just a bit
guarded about more personal matters), cute, and she definitely had a
way with mixing drinks. She also had the neatest stories of Italy and
didn't seem to mind telling them to him. The only problem with any
fanciful thoughts he may have harbored was that she liked being
nomadic and didn't enjoy staying in one place for long. She came by
this place every few months or so to gather news and help Koushiro
with his bar during festival season, but ultimately there was little
rhyme or reason to her visitations. Ah well, she'd make a good friend.
Amazingly enough, there was a lot of common ground to cover between
them, due in part to their lifestyles. Oh, you were there for Rieko's
violin concert too? Wasn't it great? How about the Teenage Wolves?
Yeah, Yamato really has gotten odd lately but his music is better. Oh!
remember when the Ainu had that festival up near Aomori? Wasn't the
food just perfect? Sorry, I didn't get as far as Okinawa, but is it
true that the Okinawans are raising sugarcane crops again...
They were interrupted every now and then by someone ordering a beer or
two, but it wasn't until Daisuke was midway through his tale of
wandering in the Ainu territories (Izumi had never been to the Ainu
heartland!) that someone came up for business of another kind. Daisuke
returned to his long-forgotten drink as he let Izumi take care of
"My sister and I would like to be taken off the map, please," the
bespectacled woman with short, strawberry-blonde hair said with all
the airs of someone who would really rather be elsewhere. "We're going
on a very long trip and it's likely that we won't return for at least
Izumi pulled out what was apparently the logbook and a pencil.
"Inoue Miyako and Chizuru," the other, probably the younger sister,
muttered as her eyes kept darting around the bar. Daisuke wondered at
that behavior, but what nagged at him more was that she was somehow
familiar. Where had he seen the long purple hair and glasses that were
too large for her face?
Izumi turned briefly to take down their pin before scribbling a
notation in the logbook. When that was complete, she flipped through a
few pages to read some lines. "It says here you have another sister
living out near Gifu. Would you like a message sent to her?"
The older sister looked cautiously hopeful. "If it's no trouble."
"None at all." Izumi looked up from the logbook to give them a quick
smile. "Gifu's an old haunt of mine. Since I'll be leaving after the
festival, I can deliver it myself."
There was rustling as Izumi dug out a yellowing old stationary set,
and a few clacks when she placed an inkwell, brush, stamp, and sealing
wax on the bar. The older sister thanked her and began the task of
writing out a letter. Daisuke didn't pay this too much attention,
puzzled as he was by the younger sister. She didn't look comfortable
at all with being there, as if...
As if she was guilty of something.
Rather than make a scene about it, Daisuke grabbed her arm and
proceeded to yank her over to a lonely corner. He would have, anyway,
if she hadn't-
The first things that registered in his mind was a loud smack and the
hot sting on his cheek. So much for trying not to make a scene. "Let
go of me, you pervert!"
"Hey listen, lady," he hissed as he released her arm to tenderly touch
his cheek and make sure she hadn't broken skin or anything. "I've seen
The woman's brown eyes narrowed suspiciously at him. "I'm not
Daisuke blinked blankly for a bit before he finally connected the
dots. She was the thief? Well, okay, that made sense considering her
discomfort with being here, but still... "I don't care about the gas."
It was her turn to watch him quizzically. "Then what the hell is this
"I remember you," Daisuke began with some apprehension over the
upcoming subject matter. "From before the... before then. Did you ever
live in Odaiba?"
"Yeah, my family owned a convenience store there-"
"Ai-mart. My sister used to go there sometimes to visit her friend.
Momo? Momoko? Midori?"
"Momoe." The woman's gaze was somewhat distant as she fought to
remember the years so many others had forgotten. "She didn't have a
lot of friends, but her best friend was this one girl... I forgot her
name though. She had a little brother around my age, but I only saw
him once or twice in passing."
Daisuke couldn't help but grin at that. "You know how older sisters
are. You'd think dragging their kid siblings around was worse than
having the parents show potential boyfriends their baby pictures."
"Like we could make them look any more dorky." The woman giggled for a
moment. When it tapered off, she cleared her throat and stuck her
right hand out to him. "Since we've never been formally introduced:
Hi, I'm Miyako."
He took the hand with gusto and shook it a few times. As much as he
disliked remembering the past, some things weren't so bad. "Hey there,
Miyako. Most people call me Daisuke, but my sister sometimes likes to
call me a pain in the ass."
Miyako smiled slightly at that as she withdrew her hand. "Yeah, my
sisters call me that too. Say, since it's my last day in town, want a
guide to the festival? Chizuru and I would appreciate the company."
Well then, who was Daisuke to turn down any such offer?
As the night settled in, Takeru wandered around the festival crowd. He
wasn't altogether surprised that Daisuke had left a message with Izumi
saying that they'd probably have to meet up at the place they hid the
rover at dawn, so Takeru simply assumed that his traveling companion
would probably find somewhere to sleep and chose to bunk down at
Koushiro's for the night. If nothing else, Patamon loved being with a
fellow digimon he'd known for so long and Koushiro's offer of supper
and a spare futon couldn't be refused.
He didn't want to get into Koushiro's hair too much when the evening
brought about a sizeable influx of patrons to the bar and kept both
Izumis busy, so he opted to explore for a bit in the hope that high
spirits would loosen some tongues and give him more information to
work with. Well, maybe if he were lucky.
At one street corner was a preacher. While Takeru missed a few words
due to the background noise, he could understand the gist of what the
preacher was trying to say. Something about how the gods had been
involved in a great war with demons and humanity had been the toll.
But they haven't abandoned us, the preacher insisted, they were just
weakened by the war and needed the surviving humans to remain strong
so as to give them power. Rather disgusted with it all, Takeru turned
away to pluck some free odangos from a merchant's stall (festival-time
always meant free food) and went to what was once a suburban park to
watch the dancing.
Long ago, these dancers would have been trained in the traditional
arts. But, without proper training, they had adopted what they could
from memories of the old world. The result was a dance that mixed
elements of traditional geisha dances, Ainu ceremonial dances, kabuki
theater, and whatever they could remember from the Western influences
on television. The music too was a conglomeration of the cultures that
had once occupied Japan in such dramatic segregation. It was rather
depressing to realize that it took the downfall of the old world to
finally get the people to mingle. Even then it wasn't perfect.
As Takeru watched this display by members of a new culture that rose
from the old, he was too entranced to notice that he was being watched
The festival, in and of itself, had been fun for awhile until Chizuru
said she wanted to go back home and rest. Daisuke would have waved
them off and wished them well, but then they did something odd and
offered to show Daisuke something that no one else in Japan would ever
see if he was willing to go with them. With his curiosity piqued, he
went along. What harm could it do?
When Miyako said she lived a bit far from the Nagoya settlement, she
meant it. While the settlement was mostly clustered around the parks
near Nagoya Castle and along the river, Miyako and her sister laid
claims on Nagoya International Airport. Since no one was trained to
fly, most people ignored the airports and left others like the Inoue
sisters with a relatively quiet place in which to settle down. It
could be easily defended if necessary.
They passed the terminal completely and walked out to tarmac, where a
number of jets sat uselessly, rendered decrepit by the passage of time
and lack of maintenance. But, hidden behind the larger air buses and
commercial passenger planes was a smaller and well cared-for private
"Yeah, it's not the best thing ever, but it's home," Miyako said as
she and her sister passed by him to tug at the hatch. It opened out
and allowed them to climb in. "Meet our baby, the Raytheon Hawker
1000. We call him Horus."
Daisuke paused in surprise as he noticed the crates of gasoline tanks
stacked together and strapped along the sides of the jet's interior
for a third of its length. The stacks began after the tiny beds bolted
where there would normally be passenger seats and ended at the door to
the lavatory. "So that's why you took the gas."
"Bingo. It's not aviation quality and we've had to add some other
materials so the engines can process it, but it'll serve its purpose.
And no, we're still not giving it back."
He gave a shrug at that. It really wasn't his gas and the only
repercussions to be had would come from Jianliang. He had faced worse
than Iwakuni's head of security before. "Doesn't matter. The way I see
it, everything we have was taken from the remains of the old world. We
don't really own any of it and it's not right to pretend we do."
"That's an interesting view to have. Refreshingly honest too," Chizuru
said as she stepped into the cockpit. "Miyako, would you be a dear and
explain to our guest what we're planning?"
"Sure." Miyako took a seat on one of the meticulously-made beds and
gestured for Daisuke to do the same. Once he followed suit, she began
in earnest. "Before all the adults died, my siblings and I were in
Nagoya to visit with our aunt and uncle. This jet was theirs, by the
way. When they and Mantarou died, we stayed together with the jet for
awhile. Couldn't fend off all the scavengers who were hunting down
fuel, but we discouraged most of them. Chizuru and Momoe went to work
in the rice fields for awhile when I said I wanted to learn how to fly
the Hawker, so I spent all my time with flight manuals and books while
they brought home the food."
Chizuru returned from whatever it was she did in the cockpit to pull
out a bottle of clear water from the galley's refrigerator. "We
figured that if anyone had a chance to learn how to work it, Miyako
did. She always was good with machines. So, we wouldn't let her have
supper until she could tell us something new she learned from them."
She gave her sister a puckish grin. "It worked well."
"But why would you want to learn how to fly a plane," Daisuke asked.
It was a really impressive feat to learn on one's own, but there
wasn't much use for them nowadays.
"That's simple." Miyako's warm brown eyes lit up with passion for the
subject. "We want to find out whether or not the death toll was more
or less severe in other countries than it was here. What if other
countries got back on their feet faster? What would it be like on the
other side of the Pacific, or even in Britain? Do they wonder about us
the way we wonder about them?"
Chizuru offered both of them a glass of water, and Daisuke was struck
by how cool and refreshing it tasted. Wow, he hadn't had anything from
a working refrigerator for ages. "Miyako and I kept wondering about
that for ages. I took to learning English, Spanish, and navigation
while Miyako stuck to the technicalities so that hopefully we'd be
able to contact and talk to people. It's a pity Momoe didn't want to
go on with it after awhile."
Miyako took a sip of water before responding in a rather sympathetic
tone of voice. "She's in love with Japan. The rest of the world
doesn't interest her. She would have been miserable on the trip and
she knew it."
There was a slight frown on Chizuru's face, as if it had been a
subject of long contention. "Well, I hope she's happy in Gifu. Anyway,
when we scavenged all the aviation fuel we could from the other
planes, we didn't have enough for the trip we planned, so Miyako took
"Borrowing," the younger woman interjected.
"Right. She took to 'borrowing' gas from others. I am sorry that you
were caught up in it, but we need enough to make it to the American
continent and back again. The last batch Miyako got topped off the
last of the reserve tanks and we're ready to go at dawn."
Daisuke's glance shifted from one sister to the other. "Wait, don't
you need practice or something?"
"You've been at Izumi's, right?" Before Daisuke could respond, Miyako
continued with a sort of twinkle in her eye that he couldn't quite
define. "Have you ever wondered why he asks for computer parts no one
has any use for?"
His memory passed briefly over his encounter with the red-haired
barkeeper. "Well, yeah, but Takeru changed the subject before Koushiro
could answer me. I thought maybe he was just one of those conspiracy
theorists who think the government's coming back and he just wants a
leg up in case it does."
"Oh, that's why he wants the money, but not the computer parts. I'd
ask you to promise not to tell anyone what I've told you, but I don't
think that would be an issue. Your blond friend has one too. I saw it
when I paid your rover a visit." Now he could define the twinkle:
"One what?" Daisuke wondered at that. Could she mean-
"Digimon. Koushiro's digimon is Tentomon, an insect type that seems to
be able to generate electrical power. When I told Koushiro my theory
about why he was collecting things that had no use to anyone without
electricity anymore, we exchanged secrets. Our plan to fly to America
for how he got his electricity." Miyako smiled then, and he couldn't
help but notice that she was rather pretty when she smiled. He firmly
shoved that thought to the back of his mind as she continued her
story. "Then he did the best thing any outsider had done for us: he
let me use his computers each night and collected flight simulators
for me. I know flying for real will be very different from a
simulator, but it helped a lot. Chizuru took some time to train on
them too so she could be the co-pilot."
The elder sister's smile echoed the younger's. "And he even went so
far as to come by for a few nights to help us program the autopilot's
Interesting as this all was, Daisuke couldn't help but wonder why they
brought him here. There were certain signs one made nowadays that
illustrated sexual intent, but none of them were used so the sisters
didn't seem to want that from him. He was being treated like a guest,
so they didn't seem to mean him any harm. He had to ask. "Well, this
is cool and all, but why did you want to bring me?"
"That's simple," Chizuru stated as she picked up their empty glasses
and returned them to the nearby galley. "We want a witness and
Koushiro was just too involved. We were going to choose someone from
the festival, but figured that you would probably serve that purpose
best since you look like the type to travel a lot. When we saw you in
the bar talking to Izumi, it just clicked that you'd be perfect. That
Miyako had stolen gas from you was sheer coincidence."
He wondered vaguely when the sisters had talked about this behind his
back, but figured they had their own ways of silent communication that
were alien to anyone else. Siblings often had that sort of thing going
on. He just never did because he and Jun were more for telling each
other things outright than doing anything that could be
misinterpreted. It was all too easy to misinterpret things that were
In the end, he agreed to be their witness and share their story with
as many people as he could. It was a good story, and better than the
wild rumors barflies usually spun because it was true.
The late-night partying that usually followed festivals didn't end
until well into the small hours of the morning. Takeru and the Izumis
turned in around midnight, with Tentomon taking up guard duty in case
any of the drunks managed to break past the bar's locked doors.
Patamon took advantage of the opportunity to be with his own kind and
joined Tentomon so they could talk about things only other digimon
could really understand. Orimoto laid claims on Koushiro's guestroom,
so Takeru was stuck with sleeping in the fold-out futon/couch that
occupied the common room. He didn't mind it too much, and it did feel
very nice compared to the nights he'd slept with only a sleeping bag
between himself and the hard ground. He was out like a light as soon
as he settled in.
He dreamt of a world where no one really died and everyone was reborn.
He dreamt of a brightly-colored and cushioned ground, of Elecmon and
Patamon tending to the babies in their cribs. He was eight years old
again, and building a castle out of painted blocks that came in
various shapes was the most interesting thing in the world to him.
Triangle goes on top of the cylinder to make a tower. This was his
world, and he was content.
Another little boy came up to him when he was setting the rectangle
blocks sideways to make castle walls. The boy, an unfamiliar figure
with dark hair and violet eyes, sat to watch him build. Then, with a
bit of encouragement, the boy picked up a cube and placed it inside
his castle walls. They built the castle together, in a kind of harmony
that didn't need words. It was peaceful and quiet until-
"Once upon a time there was a goddess," the other boy began, picking
up a yellow crayon to hold it upright. "She was very beautiful. She
was the sun, Amaterasu. One day, she got so tired of Susanowo's
noisemaking that she retreated to a cave and sealed herself away." The
boy placed his yellow crayon inside the castle's keep. "Without the
sun, the world was sad and everything started wilting." Crayons of
different colors were set up outside the castle, leaning up against
the rectangle blocks so that the boy's hands were free. "So the other
gods tried to get her to come out. They sang good stuff about her, but
she wouldn't listen. They tried to give her presents, but she wouldn't
take them. Then they got an idea. Why not show her that they were
happy without her?" A white crayon was taken out this time, but the
boy kept it in his hand and held it before the keep. "One of them
started to dance and the others laughed. The laughing got Amaterasu's
attention, and she poked her head out in curiosity." The boy took the
yellow crayon out of the keep and held it to the white crayon. "The
gods dragged her out and made her join them again." Then the yellow
and white crayons were placed with the others outside the castle.
Takeru blinked curiously at the other boy. He opened his mouth to say
something, but the other boy started talking again. "But what if
Amaterasu didn't want to come out of her cave? You can't force someone
to do something they don't like and not get them to hate you. Couldn't
the other gods just make another sun? There are plants and animals
that live in total darkness."
"But we need the sun," Takeru found himself saying. "Lots of things
would die without it."
"Lots of things did die without it, Takeru, but life manages. Even
when it all seems hopeless, life goes on." The boy rose to his feet
and turned to walk away. "Just keep in mind that you shouldn't force
anyone out of hiding. Forcing things like that leads to explosive
results. Very explosive."
Takeru called out after the boy in an effort to get him to come back
and explain, but the boy and the little green digimon that joined him
soon disappeared from view. With a sigh, Takeru too rose to his feet.
When he looked down for a last look at their castle, he found that it
had collapsed upon itself. How-
"Takeru! Wake up!"
Someone was shaking his shoulder urgently. He cracked open an eye to
take in his surroundings and attempt to figure out why he was being
awoken. Moonlight that only faintly illuminated the sharp outlines of
inorganic machines suggested that he wasn't in his usual environment.
He could just barely make out Koushiro's features in the dark. The
thinly-veiled fear in his friend's face was enough to set off a few
alarm bells in his head and he forced himself to wake completely.
"I'm not a very good shot," Koushiro said as Takeru started pulling
himself out of bed and threw on some clothes. "So when you're ready, I
want you to take my rifle as a precaution."
Once Takeru had his clothes on, he found a semi-automatic rifle
pressed into his hands. "Er, what's going on?"
"Tentomon and Patamon saw a group of five people break in and sneaked
up to warn me. They would have attacked, but-" Koushiro paused to take
a deep breath and calm himself. "They're the men of fire, Takeru. One
badly aimed Petite Thunder and this place would go up in flames.
There's a fire escape accessible the kitchen, we can take that to get
out of the building and lure them to a place where Tentomon and
Patamon can attack. Orimoto's on her way down."
No more encouragement was necessary for Takeru. He and Koushiro ran to
the kitchen and out the sliding doors that led to a small landing and
stairs. Orimoto waved at them from the alley between buildings, with
Tentomon and Patamon in her company. She had her own sidearm from the
looks of it, and the moment they reached her, she released the safety
lock. "Buon giorno," she whispered, her green eyes alight with the
thrill of the chase. "Hope you're all ready to go."
"Lead them to the airport." Koushiro's voice was so soft that it was
just barely understandable. "Nothing grows out on the tarmac and the
only people who live there are just far enough away north that nothing
they have will catch fire. I'll stay just long enough to make sure the
map is okay and follow you. Tentomon, go with them."
They all gave slight nods in agreement and rushed out in front of the
bar. Orimoto fired off a shot that was angled to merely nick the brick
wall, but the noise was enough to grab the invaders' attention. They
waited long enough for the invaders to catch view of them, then ran
with Orimoto in the lead, Tentomon guarding the rear, and Patamon
clinging to Takeru's hair and shirt. Somewhere in the back of his
mind, he considered it a miracle that he didn't have any bald spots.
Something nagged at the back of Takeru's mind as they raced to the
airport. Why were these men of fire targeting Koushiro's bar? Didn't
they target entire settlements instead of one person? There had to be
"Never tell." The memory of Takato's voice came, unbidden,
while he was toying with the subject and following Orimoto's lead.
"The men of fire will come to get us."
Takato must have known about them. Koushiro did know about them. But
perhaps neither were a threat to whatever powers were behind them.
Most people thought Takato was crazy, and Koushiro wasn't likely to
spread information about them until he had all the facts. But if they
did perceive Takeru as a threat, what had he done? What did they think
he would do?
They came upon the decrepit airport as the sky began lightening with
the yet-unseen rays of the rising sun. Shelter was found behind the
landing gears of a decaying old air bus, and they waited.
"Our orders said nothing about chasing kids," a rough-hewn voice
groused through some sort of air filter in his suit. "This is stupid."
"No one is supposed to know about us," said another as the group
passed by. This voice was female. "We eliminate those that do know
about us or render them incapable of sharing their information. Let's
just kill them and go home. They're just kids. Disposable."
Takeru glanced at Orimoto and Tentomon, who were hiding behind the
landing gear closest to the group. She glared back, as if what they
said had angered her. Then, as he thought about it, he realized that
they may have been more responsible for what happened to traumatize
Takato than he had previously suspected.
"We should've gotten rid of that one kid when we had the chance," a
third muttered dourly. "If he retained any information about the base,
being crazy wouldn't stop someone from taking him seriously. Want to
bet that virologist just let him go? Kids stick up for each other when
they have a good enough reason."
They were responsible for Takato. He recalled the terror
in Takato's eyes when he had asked about Amaterasu's Cave, and how
Yuuji once treated the man for taking on an alternative personality to
cope with whatever had happened there. He had little idea of what
really happened to Takato there, but that these men of fire might have
been responsible and had even said that people like Takato were
disposable... That kids were disposable...
There were times when Takeru could see nothing but red, when the world
fell away and he had to destroy a great evil so that no one else would
be hurt. This was one of those times.
"... One badly aimed Petite Thunder and this place would go up in
The invaders in their silver suits stopped and turned when they heard
the dulled clap of hiking boots on asphalt. They might have wondered
why there was a very strange creature pulling furtively at the young
man's shirt and why it was ignored, but that was wholly unimportant
when the young man was bearing upon them with a rifle. He stopped just
out of range of their flamethrowers and took aim.
For the first time in fifteen years, an aircraft began rolling out the
tarmac and bore down upon the runway. Daisuke cheerfully flailed his
arms in hopes that the Inoue sisters could see that he was there and
still watching. Horus began accelerating on his wheels, then almost
hopping as he caught enough speed to take off. With the first rays of
the rising sun, he took to the air. The ascent was as graceful as it
would have been under the hands of truly experienced pilots. Even
though Daisuke hadn't known the sisters too well, he was proud of
them. Not everyone could master old world technology with no teachers
but books and simulators.
It was when the engine noise faded into the distance that Daisuke
smelled something that most certainly was not jet exhaust. Something
was burning. Flesh. His good mood took a nose-dive as he looked around
to find the source of the smell. The oily black smoke that was far too
reminiscent of the last days of the Apocalypse rose from someplace to
the south, near the air buses. Whatever had happened, it must have
been while he was out near the runway and waving to the Inoues, and
the engine noise would have easily masked any explosion. Were there
any survivors, he would have to get there fast.
Daisuke had run out to the tarmac and followed the pillar of smoke
until the sight of burning bodies made him slow down. His pace slowed
to a tentative walk when he spied familiar figures near an air bus.
Orimoto Izumi had her eyes fixed on Takeru, as if she couldn't quite
tell what she was looking at. Izumi Koushiro was sitting next to a
huddled Takeru and whispering something that Daisuke was too far away
to hear. A giant insect (Tentomon?) and Patamon looked as if they were
trying to reassure Takeru. Takeru himself was staring into the fire.
"What the hell happened," Daisuke couldn't help but blurt out.
Really, he had been gone for a night and all hell had broken loose!
Orimoto Izumi looked up, and appeared almost grateful for the
intervention. She hesitated for a moment and glanced back at Koushiro,
who only gave a slight nod. Once she had taken a deep breath, she
turned her back to the burning bodies to talk to Daisuke. Her voice
was kept steady despite the visible strain on her face as she fought
to maintain that stability, and she told him about the events of the
night. She told him Koushiro's theory about the men of fire, the
break-in at the bar and the chase to the airport, then about how
Takeru had faced them, said that what he was doing was for Takato and
all the lives they'd taken, and aimed at the flamethrower tanks.
That was what stunned Daisuke. Couldn't Takeru just disable them or
something? A good shot to the arm would keep them from firing back,
but at least they'd still be alive. It was... Just... He never thought
Takeru had it in him. Maybe Takeru had acted without thinking? Daisuke
did that all the time, but at least he never hurt anyone in the
process and he certainly hadn't killed anyone.
Let alone five people.
With a sigh, Daisuke scrubbed his face with a palm as he tried to
figure out what to do. While he wasn't very good with people, he could
at least try. From the looks of it, Takeru hadn't really expected to
kill five people either. Maybe that was something he could work with.
"Hey Takeru?" Daisuke frowned when he realized that no response was
forthcoming. "Why?" Still no response, and Koushiro was giving him an
inquisitive look now. "I mean dude, if you wanted a barbecue, we could
have gotten an ox or something." Takeru's eyes looked as if they were
starting to regain focus or something. "No offense man, but barbecuing
people went out a long time ago." Now Takeru started glaring daggers
at him. Great! "I think that's because there's so much bad stuff in
humans that we taste horrible. Yeah, you're better off with an ox."
"Daisuke," the other man ground out from between clenched teeth, "shut
up. You're not being funny."
A quirky grin appeared on Daisuke's face, despite his attempt to
suppress it. "Well yeah, genius. I wasn't trying to be. I was trying
to get you out of 'woe is me' mode."
Takeru stared at him in an attempt to figure out what he was going on
about, then sighed and brought himself to his feet. "Good job on that,
"Great. Now can we get away from here? I have the coolest story to
tell you all, and it's better told somewhere with clean air and seats
that aren't so hard." Daisuke gave his friend a quick pat on the
shoulder and led the way away from the fire. He could talk to Takeru
later and learn what had really gone on, but now he just needed to get
away from here.