Salva Nos
Episode 5: A Night In Gethsemane
by Ajora Fravashi

Disclaimer - See the one on episode 1. I don't have time to retype it.


When push came to shove, Daisuke was a very forgiving person. Once he got the whole story out of Takeru and why his friend reacted the way he did, Daisuke didn't give the incident another thought. With a good deal of the world emotionally scarred in much the same way and no one professionally trained to help anyone else deal with it all, there was little else to do but forgive and forget. The other option, obsessing over it and festering, didn't suit Daisuke at all.

Part of him wanted to go back immediately to Iwakuni after the Nagoya trip because he thought it would be better if Sora (the closest thing to a counselor anyone in the new world could come to) had a long talk with Takeru and helped his friend get over the guilt. Then, when they were ready to hit the road, Ken radioed in and decided to send them out on a rescue mission. Apparently there was some really bad crap going down in Gifu and one of the outside informants got herself caught by a cult leader who occupied at the old 10th Army Division Camp. While that had worried him, what alarmed him more was the name of the informant: Inoue Momoe. Any reservations he may have had soon dissipated. Izumi had a head start on them and probably would have been caught too in the effort to deliver the sisters' message.

So, despite the misgivings brought about by the vague nature of Ken's request, they headed north, into the island's interior. As an extra precaution, they parked further outside of town than usual to hide the land rover and gave Patamon his share of rations in case they were kept for long, and walked into an eerily deserted settlement. The place felt like it had been abandoned for only a year, suggesting that everyone had moved out. Then where was Momoe supposed to be? What were they going to do?

The unspoken question was soon answered while they were poking around the small greenhouse that Ken said used to belong to Momoe. While there were recent signs of occupation, there were even more recent signs of a struggle. Several pots laid shattered on the greenhouse floor, their contents strewn about underfoot and a few tomato plants trampled by heavy military boots. Daisuke noticed the tension in Takeru's jaw as they took in the damage and wisely said nothing. They stepped around the damaged plants to see if they could find any other clues, something to pinpoint who was behind this.

It didn't take too long to find that out, for at least a dozen people marched into the greenhouse behind the two. The volatile nature of the situation was all that kept Daisuke from rolling his eyes in disgust. Of course it was a trap. He and Takeru turned slowly, hands up in surrender, to see a tanned man with the build of a brawler step up from the troop.

"Welcome to Gifu. I'm Genki, and I'll be your host," the man announced with what Daisuke suspected was the world's smarmiest smirk. Maybe it was just him, but people who sneaked up and pointed guns at him were really, incredibly annoying.

Daisuke didn't have much time to dwell on the subject, even if he was inclined to do so. They were "escorted" outside and down several roads for over an hour. Genki, apparently the cult leader responsible for Momoe's disappearance, kept trying to pry out the Rocky Country's real name from them. He and Takeru remained silent the entire way.


Takeru couldn't remember where he heard it, but an old Western saying came to mind. Walking a mile in someone else's shoes, or something along those lines. Was this how Kai had felt in his final day? Angry, helpless, but willing to die to retain his secret? He may not have liked the isolationist attitudes of most of Iwakuni's population, but their leader wasn't crazy and didn't ring the sort of alarm bells in his head that Genki did. Ken didn't have prisoners rounded up and stuffed into gyms or whatever this holding area was.

A quick survey of the area suggested that it was an indoor training place of some sort, like a gymnasium but without the trappings of school-age sports teams. There was a set of bleachers set against the far wall, and a fold-out table and chairs set from which armed men made sure no one could escape. People huddled together upon and around the bleachers, some of whom hadn't washed up for weeks, and there was no other option but to join them.

With a grunt of frustration, Takeru settled on a clear space on the lower rows of the bleachers to go over his options. The only way out was through the guards, and they had guns. He could reveal Iwakuni's real name and location to save himself, but to give their captors a bigger arsenal would probably prove fatal to a lot of people. Since no agreeable choices were available at the moment, he would wait.

While he was busy going over his lack of options, Daisuke had gone and found Izumi and a bespectacled girl that Takeru suspected was Momoe. The three talked in hushed tones over in a quiet corner and were apparently oblivious to the fact that a guard was eyeing them warily. Upon closer inspection, they looked fairly happy to see each other. Must've been Daisuke's doing.

Time passed sluggishly. Having nothing to do meant that there were no distractions from his own personal demons. His mind touched upon the events of the morning before and shied away for a moment, only to return to the subject a few seconds later. The memories waited patiently as he flitted around them. The men of fire deserved to burn in the flames that had killed so many people before, yet part of him struggled with this attempt at justification. They were known to burn entire settlements warred with all life is fragile and precious, which then conflicted with some sacrifices have to be made for the greater good. What was he supposed to do?

Patamon had tugged at his shirt in an attempt to draw his attention away from the men of fire and out of his rage, but he was too far gone. The visages of those men of fire behind their protective faceplates only barely registered when he was focused on taking revenge for Takato and all those settlements, but now that he had time to think back with a clear head, he wondered why their appearances didn't make him think twice.

One of them had grey hair.

Not for the first time, Takeru was forced to re-evaluate what he believed was true. Everyone he came into contact with believed that all the adults in the world had died in the Apocalypse. However, more and more signs started piling up suggesting that this belief wasn't entirely true. Iwakuni Base tried and failed to keep out the virus, but perhaps other strongholds succeeded. What he had learned from Takato and Koushiro suggested that the men of fire were most likely from Amaterasu's Cave, so if there was a man over thirty in their lot, then the virus must not have hit there. Therefore, he concluded that if his parents were there, they had to be alive. But why were the people of Amaterasu's Cave waiting so long to come out of hiding? Did they even plan to do so? What would be their intentions?

Vaguely he was aware of Genki's thugs stomping into the gym, but he paid them little attention until he heard the screams of people being yanked from the crowd and shoved outside. One of the thugs came up to grab the front of his shirt and pulled him to his feet. With the wrong end of a semi-automatic rifle digging into his spine once he steadied himself, there was nothing to do but follow the five other prisoners as they were all marched to a fenced-in courtyard. The prisoners were lined up in a neat little row for the firing squad to target, but instead of being placed amongst them, he was sent to the side. His felt slightly ill when he realized that he would be witness to pointless executions.

Off to the side, where Takeru was sent to watch from, was a woman with fairly plain features. Her dark hair was pulled back from face with little diamond-encrusted barrettes that had little worth anymore. Shadows haunted her equally dark eyes, as if she had been witness to many previous executions. Her bejewelled, almost old world appearance suggested that she was probably the mistress of the man in charge, which implied that she may have some sway over Genki. It was worth a try.

"Can't you stop this," Takeru hissed at the woman. Of all the people he had seen in charge here so far, she seemed to be the only one with a heart.

The mistress turned despondent black eyes to him. They looked a little too bright, as if she was ready to cry. "If I could, we wouldn't be here now. What Genki wishes is law here. Please don't fight him."

As much as he would like to snap at her for being spineless, Takeru held his tongue. The woman probably had good reason to be scared.

The man in question practically swaggered into the courtyard, pausing every now and then to give a friendly nod to whomever he passed. It gave Takeru only a tiny sliver of satisfaction when Genki had to tilt his head up to look Takeru in the eye.

"Hey there, how are you," Genki began in just the sort of tone of voice one used for small talk. Takeru was sorely tempted to smack that self-satisfied grin off the man's face.

It took every ounce of control Takeru had to keep his voice as neutral as he could. "Could be better."

"I'll see about making arrangements." The man gestured at one of his thugs, who stepped forward to shove Takeru behind the fence and lock the gate. Once he was secured, Genki strode in front of the firing line and grinned as if they were all just there for an afternoon snack.

"Now then, here at Gifu, we do things a little bit differently. Play by the rules and no one gets hurt." Genki stopped in front of the first person in the line, a woman who looked worse for wear that Takeru didn't recognize. "I'm Genki, and I'm going to ask each of you a question. Ma'am, do you believe in God?"

The woman sneered at that. "I don't believe in gods. No god would let all our parents die."

A dip of the hand from Genki and a crack rent the air. The first woman collapsed to the ground as her fellow prisoners cried out in horror. Appalled, Takeru was unable to do anything more than cry out with them. Despite all his efforts, the chainlink fence would not let him break through.

Genki moved on to the second, an underfed man, and smiled. "Sir, do you believe in God?" The wide-eyed man nodded with a fervor born of fear. "Then pray to Him. Pray that He will save you from this mess."

Takeru's stomach felt like it was doing its best to tie itself into knots. No words could come to his mind to fully fathom how incredibly wrong this was. From the look on Genki's face, it looked like the bastard was actually enjoying watching that underfed little man stammer his prayer. Then-

"Wait, repeat that last bit," commanded Genki. Any enjoyment on his face had been replaced by annoyance.

The man gave a pitiful whimper and did his best to comply. "'Save m- me, Buddha.'"

Another dip of Genki's raised hand and a thug fired again. Two of the prisoners, clearly twins who couldn't have been much more than toddlers at the time of the Apocalypse, clung together in renewed fear. Genki smiled kindly at them, making the teenagers shiver. "Boy, do you believe in God?"

The teenaged boy gave a single, nervous "Yes."

"Pray to Him."

With a shudder, the teenaged boy fell to his knees and shut his eyes. "Please help me and Ai get out of here, God. Please save us, Genki."

Now Takeru's stomach lurched and threatened to toss out his breakfast as he watched a beatific smile spread across Genki's tanned features. Genki's hand rose again, but instead of dropping to signal another shot, he placed his palm on the boy's forehead.

"Then you are Saved, my son. You will work for the Clans, aid them in their tasks, and spread the word that Genki is merciful to those who believe in Him." One of the thugs stepped up to the boy's side. "Now rise and go with my servant."

The teenaged boy's attempt to rise was awkward at best and his knees threatened to give out, weakened as they were from the stress the boy was going through. His eyes darted to his sister, who gave him a nod so slight that Takeru had only barely caught it. A wave of relief swept over the boy and he allowed himself to be escorted to the side. Genki moved on to the boy's sister.

"Ai, is it? Do you believe in God?"

Ai swallowed for a moment and bowed her head in what appeared to be reverence to anyone who might not have noticed that silent something that passed between her and her brother. "Yes, I do."

"Pray to Him."

The girl's voice wavered deceptively as she spoke, giving her words the illusion of growing faith. "I pray to you, Lord Genki, to show me mercy and allow me to join Mako. I'll do whatever you wish."

Genki beamed and placed his palm on Ai's forehead. Apparently he was completely taken in by her act. "Then you shall join your brother and share his sentence."

With a parting bow, Ai went with her escort and the twins were taken away from the holding area. As much a relief it was that they got away unscathed, Takeru couldn't help but be sickened by the whole affair. There was still one prisoner on the firing line left.

When Genki turned his attention to the remaining prisoner, a rugged- looking man with a beard that suggested pure Ainu lineage, the man didn't wait for Genki to ask before he spurted out, "Lord Genki, I pray-"

Genki's hand rose again, silencing the man, and he turned his attention to Takeru. "Where is the Rocky Country? I tried asking that Inoue girl, but as it turned out, she just didn't know enough to be of any help."

Takeru clenched his teeth in anger at the question. Of course that was what this demonstration was all about. He wasn't willing to let this psychopath have such valuable information, and his defiance was clear on his face.

Genki gave an exaggerated sigh and returned his attention to the Ainu man. "Well, sorry about that. Sometimes God just doesn't answer every prayer. I'm sure you'll understand."

The hand dropped again, and a third shot rent through the air.


Daisuke flinched again as he heard the last shot. He would have been crawling up the walls with his anxiety, but Momoe and Izumi reminded him firmly that it was best for his health if he stayed put. In the nest of a crazy man, there was no telling what he could do. Frankly, he hated it.

During their discussion, Momoe told him everything. How she had become an outside informer to the Rocky Country (she didn't know its real name and Daisuke thought it best not to tell her) and that she usually met with Jun to pass along information. How she had found out about Genki's rise to power and why few people went against him. Genki had the firepower to force the Clans (really just a fancy name for the raider groups) to recognize his strength and agree to his leadership. They all thought he was crazy, but so long as he had the muscle, no one was going to challenge him. How they had eventually caught her and tried to beat out information she didn't have from her hide. Oh yes, and there was no way out.

It rather felt like a lead ball was being dropped into his gut each time he heard a gun go off, leaving him to wonder if Takeru had been the unfortunate recipient. His companions offered no reassurance, as they too knew that to do so was pointless in the face of such uncertainty. Tensions were high as they waited.

Eventually Takeru was escorted into the holding area and he slumped against the wall behind the bleachers, then slid down slowly until he was seated on the floor with his knees drawn up and arms folded over them. His eyes took on that distant, almost blank look again. Daisuke's brow furrowed slightly in concern as he settled next to his friend and travel companion. Izumi and Momoe, sensing that the men needed some space, settled together nearby.

"Hey Takeru? What happened out there?" He kept his voice low to prevent catching the attention of the guards. When Takeru didn't answer, Daisuke mulled over the options. He could try a bad joke, but somehow this felt much worse than the events of the previous day. And what could he rile Takeru up with when he had no idea what went on to put him into this state? Well, shit. Daisuke hated waiting, but he did so anyway. There really wasn't any other option.

Evening approached, and with it came supper. The captives lined up at a foldable table, where bowls of soup and rice were passed to each. When Takeru didn't budge and Momoe chose to stay behind and watch him, Daisuke and Izumi opted to fetch food for them. The two joined the queue with the expectation that their friends would be fine for the moment. Daisuke decided that he really should stop expecting things.

A scream from Momoe, unusual in itself because she was a quiet woman, caught their attention. They snapped back to see a big bear of a man grab her by the arm and drag her bodily from the bench on which she had been sitting. Takeru reacted faster than they did. He leapt from where he had been sitting and rammed all his weight into the man's midriff. Undoubtedly surprised at the sudden reaction, the man toppled to the floor. Daisuke and Izumi could do little more than stare in astonishment as Takeru straddled the man and began slamming his fists into the man's face. The man's arms flailed helplessly.

Dammit dammit dammit!

Daisuke raced to the scene with Izumi close behind. He really didn't want to do this, but any more of that and the bear-like man would probably suffer severe brain damage or something. He steeled himself and lashed out to deflect Takeru's fist. It fell hard on the floor, and Takeru's gasp of pain made him wince. He didn't give Takeru another chance to react, taking advantage of the moment to pull his friend off the bear-like man and onto his feet. The moment Takeru's weight was off of him, the bear-like man hurried away.

Takeru shrugged Daisuke off the moment he came to his senses, and Daisuke was more than willing to let him go once that distant look disappeared. Without a word, he went back to his spot and paid no attention when Izumi sneaked up to Momoe's side.

"Dude, what happened out there," Daisuke felt the need to ask again. He settled cross-legged in front of his friend and waited for an explanation. "You're gonna have to talk sometime."

It took several moments for Takeru to finally gather his thoughts enough to talk. "Crazy guy with a god complex. Killed two people for not praying to him. Released some twins when they prayed to him for salvation. Asked me for the location again and shot a third when I wouldn't answer. Told me to think about it after they cleared away the bodies."

Daisuke winced. He'd never been a religious person, and it was kinda hard to be one when he watched his own parents die before his eyes, but some things were just plain wrong. What Takeru said was just on so many levels of wrongness that he doubted there was a word to encompass the notion. "Sorry, man. Seriously."

Takeru said nothing to that. There just wasn't anything to say. Despite his admittedly unwarranted attack on the bear-like man, hushed conversations resumed as if nothing had happened.

"So," Daisuke began when the tension became a bit too heavy for him, "what's the plan?"

Several long moments passed as Takeru mulled over his options. His knife had been taken and he couldn't get to the hunting gear he left with the rover, so there was no way he could go up against armed guards. Guards were rotated at regular intervals. There was no way out except through the guards. "I can't come up with one."

A brief frown of frustration passed over Daisuke's face at that, but he refrained from mentioning his disappointment. He had counted too much on Takeru to find a way out where he couldn't, and that was more his fault than Takeru's. "So, I guess we just wait? See if an opportunity comes up?"

"Might as well."

They didn't have much waiting to do. When night had come and they were all attempting to sleep, a group of thugs marched into the holding area and prodded them none too gently with rifle barrels. Takeru glared up at them.

"Genki wants to see you. Both of you," one of the thugs growled, and Daisuke could almost hear Takeru bristling nearby. He briefly contemplated yanking the gun away and trying to go back to sleep, but that wouldn't have been the best thing to do. So, he followed Takeru's example and dragged himself up off the floor. He worried briefly about leaving Izumi and Momoe behind, but they seemed to be able to hold their own well enough.

The two nomads were marched outside and across the compound's courtyard. Daisuke wasn't all that familiar with places like this, but he was pretty sure one of the buildings with lots of windows was the barracks, and that other building with no windows and broad doors was probably a warehouse or something. They paused briefly at a well- guarded building that was probably the apartment building for commanding officers, then allowed entrance by the posted guards. While he paid little attention to the hallways they were being escorted through, he did notice that Takeru's eyes kept darting around. Probably trying to find an escape route. It was a futile effort, however, because there were too many armed thugs and only two of them.

They stopped before another guarded door and were once again let in after a brief pause. Some of the thugs remained behind, while the other three told them to wait in the living room and went on ahead. It was a very well-furnished living room, with gilded mirrors and paintings, plush armchairs and exquisitely carved tables. This was Genki's apartment.

Something moved then, startling Daisuke to the point of nearly jumping out of his skin. With all the shiny, glittery crap around, he had easily overlooked the woman sitting in one of the armchairs. All her jewelry, make-up, and the elaborate kimono could have passed her off as an oversized doll. Dolls don't move on their own, and they certainly don't rise out of chairs to bow.

Takeru spoke first, as if he had met the woman before. "You're-"

"Noriko. I know who you are. Both of you." A humorless smirk crossed her face. "Genki's rival has a price on your heads."

It took Daisuke a moment for him to realize what she was saying. The only person in considerable power they had pissed off (so far) was Ruki, and Genki seemed to want the same thing Ruki wanted from them. Oh, just great. Before he could open his mouth to verify his thought, Takeru decided to talk again.

"You didn't look like you enjoyed watching that display earlier," Takeru stated, as if there was no question about it. When Noriko's breath caught in her throat, Daisuke realized that she must have seen the executions too. "Why do you stay with him when you know it's only encouraging his actions?"

"He wasn't always like this," the mistress said in a voice so firm that it was clear she was withholding more than she planned to reveal. "Genki was different when he was younger. Years ago, I had collapsed on a mountainside, almost dead from starvation. He found me and took care of my needs."

Daisuke couldn't stop himself. "So you're with him because you owe him?" If it was true, it wouldn't be unusual.

A brief smile ghosted across Noriko's face. "Not at first. He'd always felt he was meant for something greater than himself. He organized some of the warring Clans and got them to work together. He got this place up and running. It takes a great man to do that kind of thing." She ignored Takeru's snort of disgust and continued. "But then... It had been building up over time. All the praise and power got to his head, and when he saw a priestess holding congregation one day, everything clicked. He wanted the kind of power she had over her flock, but he went about it his own way."

A glance at Takeru's face surprised Daisuke, but he refrained from putting his foot in his mouth by asking about the glower. Yeah, he knew this whole thing was sick, but scowling about it wasn't going to help. "But this," Daisuke paused to gesture vaguely around him, "you don't believe in?"

"I have power, jewels, comfort, basic human necessities. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy having them. But no, I don't believe in his current methods."

Tense silence followed her statement. Daisuke really couldn't fault her for wanting to keep her privileges, even if his friend was simmering nearby. He just didn't understand why Takeru was being so touchy today. That was probably something he'd have to ask Sora when they went back, because he had a feeling that Takeru wouldn't tell him anything. Go figure.

Genki sauntered in then, followed by his well-armed thugs. He carried with him a strange box with switches and unlit LEDs, never letting it go even when he settled onto the couch near Noriko's chair. Daisuke could distinctly feel the hairs on the back of his neck raise in nervousness as the thugs stomped up behind him and Takeru.

"Now, we have a problem here." Genki gave his mistress a quick, quite assured smirk. When she answered with a faint half-smile of her own, he returned his attention to the nomads and continued. "How about a deal? You tell me where the Rocky Country is, I'll tell you anything you want to know about the other factions out there. The Army For A Pure Japan, the Niigata Shogunate, the Empire of the Sun, the Ainu, Osaba, Amaterasu's-"

Takeru visibly straightened at the mention of his quest's subject, but before he could say anything, Genki spoke again.

"Heard of them, have you?" Genki looked downright pleased with himself. "A few years ago they were active, but something stopped them. No idea why. Then they started coming out again. We thought they were going to target us for a while, but by some miracle, they turned their eyes elsewhere. Just as well. My spies say they want to bring back the old world, but no one knows for sure. Your turn."

It took every ounce of willpower Daisuke had to keep from squirming in discomfort. If it was just him, he wouldn't have given away anything about Iwakuni. He wasn't so sure about Takeru. Takeru's obsession with his quest was unhealthy, and with that kind of temptation dangling before him... Bah. Daisuke reminded himself that Takeru knew better that to give in, because no matter what Genki may have been like years ago, the man was a psychopath now and Takeru wouldn't unleash that kind of evil on their base.

Takeru's voice was strong, and as clear as if there was no question about where his loyalties lie. "Sorry. No."

A frown passed quickly over Genki's face, but it was soon chased away by an expression of outright apathy. "Oh, well then. Do you know what I'm doing here?"

"Killing people for your own sick pleasure," Daisuke blurted out. "I heard about your demonstration."

Genki gave him one of those tolerant, practically condescending smiles that made him want to smack the man. "That was simply to set an example.

"As a child, I knew I was capable of great things, but there were always other people in the way. I wanted them to go away. Then, miracles of miracles, they did. Every single one of them. I wondered why. So much death couldn't have been just because of me. So I came to the conclusion that the gods were dead and someone else must rise in their place."

Daisuke's jaw dropped in sheer disbelief. Was this guy really deluded enough to believe that he was a god? A chuckle escaped his lips before he could stop himself. "So, now you're God? I dunno, man. I always thought the gods could turn into animals and stuff, or had blue skin and multiple arms. Can you turn into an animal?"

The man's eyes narrowed at him, but that was all the indication he gave of his annoyance. "Not right now. Think of all the prophets that started out small. Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Zoroaster, Buddha. They spread their beliefs, created miracles, gathered followers. The only difference is this: I refuse to wait until I'm dead to be worshipped."

"And just how does slaughtering innocent people come into play," Takeru finally ground out.

"All throughout human history, the most effective method of converting people has been at the point of a sword. The Crusades, Jihads, Blood Libel and Holocausts. The deaths of heathens by expanding empires. Believe or die." The false prophet beamed at them then. "Which brings me to my next demonstration.

"This is an old Army base. Like any former U.S. military base it has munitions, guns, generators, gas. Something to know about the former United States of America: they liked to give their bombs funny names. The Little Boy, Fat Boy, Daisy Cutters, so on and so forth. Here, we have a hundred Tallboys. They're not nuclear, but still capable of taking a good chunk out of the ground." Genki turned to his mistress, unaware of the growing horror in her eyes. "Remember that problem we had with Ichinomiya? That town nearby? They just wouldn't convert. It's a shame, because I could use about five hundred new believers. Let's turn on the TV."

One of the thugs moved forward to press a button on the television placed before the couch, where everyone had a good view. It flickered on and gave them all a look at a sleeping town a kilometer or so from the camera. "I warned them that if thing just don't go well for me tonight, the Hand of God would smite them. Pity."

Any amusement Daisuke could have taken from the man's delusion was quickly shoved aside by shock. He was faintly aware of Takeru lunging forth in an attempt to grab the box, only to be caught by one of the thugs. Another came up behind him and pinned him before he could try repeating Takeru's stunt.

Genki hummed a little tune to himself as he flipped a switch. The TV's screen lit up like some nightmare of the old world as the bombs detonated. In the dark of the night, horrible orange and white flowers bloomed with the blood of half a thousand people. The false prophet revelled in the sight. "Just beautiful, isn't it?"


In the dark hours before dawn, a lone woman laid awake. Her eyes were fixed on a clean, speckled ceiling. Were it not for the turmoil in her soul, she would have felt perfectly peaceful.

Noriko had always thought of herself a clever girl. She was no genius, true, but she had enough wits about her to take advantage of the opportunities that came to her and sensed well enough when it was best to get out while she could. Of course, there were times when her wits were blinded by her emotions and she didn't know when to move until it was too late. She had clung to the memory of what Genki used to be like so tightly that she ignored what was really going on. Perhaps next time would be better and he would remember, and if that didn't happen, she assured herself that there was always next time.

Next time, she realized at last, would probably never come. How many more must die while she waited for next time?

The slow, steady breathing of her slumbering lover made her resolve crumble bit by bit. Part of her still wanted to believe that he would return to his old self again, but she could no longer count on that. She could assassinate him, but another would take his place. Only two Tallboys had been taken out of the armory, but there were still so many left. To leave those in another psychopath's hands was to let even more people die. She had to go through with it.

An hour later, Noriko flitted through the hallways with the grace and silence of a ghost. The black dress and too-long fur coat did well to hide her cargo from the bleary eyes of the guards. They let her pass, never suspecting her betrayal, and it wasn't long before she found the agents of the Rocky Country.

The blond one looked up warily at her when she approached. "What do you want?"

"Get everyone out of here," she whispered. Much to her dismay, his eyes searched hers with considerable suspicion. It was to be expected. She bowed her heard slightly in acknowledgement of his discomfort and opened her coat to reveal her cargo. They had been so heavy, but the hiss of appreciation from the two agents brought a brief smile to her face. Two fully loaded MAK-90s were strapped to each shoulder, and a small collection of sidearms was tied to her belt. "Will this be enough to help?"

"I'll say," the darker one muttered. He gave her an inquisitive look. "Need help offloading?"

Golden light was beginning to stream into the holding area now, as the sidearms were passed around to anyone capable of using them and impromptu plans of escape were made. Something ached within Noriko as she watched the proceedings, but she reminded herself once again that it was necessary. The Genki who had saved her so long ago was no more. It would be better to remember that.

As the prisoners surged forth, led by the agents of the Rocky Country, Noriko drifted further and further behind. She wanted to go with them, but it was not her place. Not anymore. The mistress drifted from shadow to shadow, her ears perked to pick out the sounds of the ensuing battle. The roar of personnel carrier trucks suggested that the plan had succeeded. Now for the part of the plan she had never told anyone.

Full morning light streamed into the hallway leading to the armory. She knew that Genki would pass through here in the rush to a vehicle to follow his most important escapees, and paused when he stopped before her. Her arms cradled the remote detonation box as she strode in front of a window. Mascara streaked her face, even though she smiled almost lovingly at Genki. In her elegant dress and sparkling jewels, she was a fragile reminder of the old world. She could just barely speak around the lump in her throat.

"Salva nos, Domine."


The sudden blast of almost a hundred bombs detonating at once lit up the sky. He had taken charge of driving the first personnel carrier while Izumi took on the second, and even with his inability to drive without looking at the road it hadn't been hard to miss the sky lighting up behind them. Takeru understood why Noriko had disappeared after passing out the guns and he knew why she didn't follow, but it didn't make her certain death any more palatable.

He slowed to a stop just outside of Gifu, close enough to where he had parked the rover and far enough from the blast zone, and got out of the cab. He was soon joined by Daisuke, who stumbled out of the back of the truck. From here on out, the trucks would belong to the former prisoners until they chose to sell them. Izumi stopped nearby to get out as well.

"I'm going to Ichinomiya to see if there are any survivors. Momoe's going to take over driving my truck and I'll be taking on yours," Izumi said quietly. She looked fatigued. None of them had gotten any sleep, not after seeing that first display. Takeru doubted any of them would sleep for a long while. "Momoe talked to some of the other captives on the way here and they came to a concensus about the trucks. They're going to give the trucks to the survivors to sell off. If there are any."

Takeru gave a brief, almost imperceptible nod in response. He didn't feel like talking, not after the sheer hell of the past night. He just wanted to curl up in his bed at Iwakuni with Patamon and try to forget it ever happened. Izumi frowned at him slightly, but it seemed to be out of concern instead of irritation and didn't press on the matter. Thankfully. He didn't think he'd be in control of his reactions if she did. He was ready to turn and head to the rover when Daisuke spoke up.

"Hey, uh, Izumi," Daisuke queried in a delicate tone of voice that rather surprised Takeru. "Did you get to pass on Chizuru's letter?"

Something tugged at the corner of Izumi's lips. "Yes, before Genki's men barged in. Momoe was delighted to hear from her sisters."

Daisuke relaxed, unaware of how tense he had been throughout this whole ordeal. "Great. Can you tell Momoe the story? I'd like to, but we're heading back."

"Volentieri, Daisuke. I hope you two reach your destination safely." That something turned into a brief smile. "I'm sure we'll bump into each other again."

"Say, what does that mean, anyway? I've heard you say it before."

"It just means 'gladly.' Here's another bit of Italian for you: arrivederci. It's like your good-bye."

Despite himself, Daisuke grinned. "'Arribeideruchi?' Close, right?"

"You just need some practice. Maybe later?" At Daisuke's nod, Izumi climbed into the cab of the truck Takeru had abandoned and waved her goodbye. It didn't take long for Momoe to follow her example and they soon drove towards the remains of Ichinomiya.

He found Takeru at the rover, with Patamon snuggling up to his partner in reassurance. As unwilling as he was to interrupt their comfort session, they all needed to return to Iwakuni as soon as possible. Well, he could wait until Takeru was ready. It was the least he could do: just wait and be there if he was needed. Things would get better. Daisuke was certain of this, because things really couldn't be any worse than what they had witnessed.


Note: I don't like using original characters unless there's no one else to take up the role, so you won't see more than one named original character here. Genki is a very obscure character and hails from the Wonderswan game "D-1 Tamers," where he and his friends bullied Ryo.


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