Episode 7: Under Pressure
by Ajora Fravashi
Disclaimer - See the one on episode 1. I don't have time to retype it.
Vacation, Takeru decided, was not exactly as advertised at Iwakuni. He
had barely seen Daisuke since his companion found a digimon, ended up
playing escort to the Ainu caravan until they were safely past the
usual stalking grounds of the Army For A Pure Japan, took care of
Piyomon for an hour a day due to some private business of Sora's, got
a thorough tongue-lashing from the head mechanic over his treatment of
the land rover and proper driving lessons. Naomi, the mechanic, was
even starting to threaten to send them out with horses. At least he
wouldn't have any problems with gasoline thieves should she choose to
follow through with those threats.
All things considered, he was actually looking forward to a new
mission. There was only so much of one place he could take for long.
After a discussion with Ken (who was lying low for the moment, just in
case anyone wanted to ask where he'd been the night they went out and
rescued the Ainu caravan), it was decided that he would be sent to
follow leads on a man named Teruo. Teruo may have been responsible for
the recent rumored outbreak of the virus, but he was on the run from
the men of fire and impossible to get ahold of. If he and Daisuke
could find this man, Ken was considering sending them to talk to the
Niigata Shogun. He wondered faintly what kind of drug Ken was on, but
said nothing. None of it was set in stone anyway, so it wasn't worth
worrying about. It didn't conflict with his plans to follow Kai's
journal until he could find his parents.
First thing first, he had to find Daisuke and explain the situation
before they headed off again. This apparently meant going up to
someone with security clearance to get into the Digimon Room, a task
that was starting to prove fairly difficult. He wondered why such
security measures were needed, but chalked it up to another quirk of
Jianliang's paranoia. And that, of course, brought him back to the
subject of Jianliang. A man he didn't particularly like, understood
less than he did Ken, had never seen act remotely human, seemed to
have some scheme going on that probably no one knew about, and didn't
particularly like him in return. However, there was nothing really
bad to pin on the man. They were all products of a world gone
horribly wrong and dealt with it in ways that weren't always good.
Speaking of the devil, he found Jianliang himself striding towards him
from an intersecting corridor. He reduced his pace to let the shorter
man catch up to him.
"A suggestion for the future," Jianliang began coldly, "Ken's position
is precarious enough as it is. Do not let him go out again."
Takeru stopped abruptly at the security chief's words. What the hell?
"I come into this how, exactly? It's not like I have a say in
what he does."
Thin, dry lips pursed at his words. "The man that certain members of
the council are grooming to take Ken's place the moment he slips up is
not as sympathetic to the world outside. If anything about his late
night rescue expedition with you gets out, they will replace him. That
is why, when you choose to speak with Daisuke, you must never mention
"Why is it so important to you to keep Ken in power," Takeru
asked. He did wonder about it, since it looked like Jianliang would
prefer to keep Iwakuni isolated.
As expected, Jianliang's features hardened at the question. It was
almost imperceptible, but Takeru had gotten good at picking out
minuscule details like that. He was a hunter, he had to be. "It may
have escaped you in your obsessive pursuit of a pipe dream, but there
are greater powers at play in the world than you could ever fathom.
Keeping Ken in power reduces the chance of leaving Iwakuni susceptible
to attack. As head of security, it is my duty to keep this base safe
at all costs. Surely even you can understand that."
It took a moment for Takeru to firmly squash the thought of throttling
Jianliang for the insult. He had no idea how the man knew just what
buttons to push with him, but he didn't like it at all. "I really
don't care what's going on out there as far as power play is
concerned. Leave me out of it."
"Of course. Your entire world is focused on finding your parents. But
what happens after that? What happens if you find them dead? What
then? How do you go on? Where's your purpose?" Jianliang paused before
a set of massive doors to pull out a keycard. Why wasn't Takeru
surprised that Jianliang knew where he was going? "Consider what I
said sometime. And, should you still choose to follow through on your
pipe dream, be wary of the rising sun."
Takeru froze in his tracks, only to watch the security chief stride
past him and into the Digimon Room once the doors swung open. Where
had he heard those last few words before? He could have sworn someone
else had said the exact same thing to him. But, no matter how much he
raked through his memory, he couldn't remember.
It was just as well, because Daisuke and that little blue bundle of
energy known as V-mon rushed up to him. The good thing about Daisuke,
at least, was that he inevitably managed to lighten the atmosphere
around him just by being there.
"Takeru! Hi! Haven't seen you in a while! How are things going with
Sora? Where's Patamon? Did I introduce you to V-mon-"
... Of course, the energy was a bit overwhelming at times. "Wait, do
you want me to answer, or should I just wait until you're
Daisuke gave an embarrassed grin. "Er, sorry. It's been awhile,
y'know? And Shaochung and Jun are-"
"And me," V-mon piped up cheerfully.
"Right, and V-mon." Daisuke beamed down at his partner, who mirrored
the expression. "They're all really good at keeping up. Anyway, yeah.
Takeru had the vague mental image of Daisuke, Shaochung, Jun, and all
their partners bouncing off the walls. It was oddly fitting, but he
would never say so outright. "Sora is busy, as usual. She's taking
care of Patamon right now because Piyomon and Patamon have this long-
standing flying competition and she's out for the day. And I'm running
on the assumption that this little guy is V-mon."
Ken had mention V-mon during his briefing, and how unusual it was that
V-mon had taken on another partner when he had been abandoned by his
previous partner. When pressed on the matter, Ken admitted that V-mon
had briefly been partnered with someone else years ago, but that
someone else had long since gone insane and left V-mon alone. But it
wasn't a real partnership, so Ken wasn't particularly surprised that
V-mon had finally found a real partner. It was just odd that this
partner had come from outside, especially when the previous partner
had a hand in helping Osamu. A sign? Who knew.
The little blue dragon stuck a hand out. "Hi, Takeru! Nicetameetcha!"
Bemused, Takeru shook it in greeting. He wondered faintly how Patamon
would take to having two Daisukes around, since so far V-mon seemed to
act like a miniature Daisuke. Another thought for another time.
"Hey, what are you doing out here," Daisuke queried once his companion
released V-mon's hand and straightened. "You don't have training too,
"Ken wants us to find someone. He's mentioned in Kai's journal too, so
we're still on course. We're cleared take off tomorrow. Ready for the
outside world, V-mon?"
If V-mon was a dog, he would probably be wagging his tail. In lieu of
such behavior patterns, he gave an enthusiastic nod. "Sure thing!"
In the effervescent presence of Daisuke and his partner, Takeru had
temporarily forgotten about the fact that Jianliang went into the
Digimon Room too. He was reminded of this fact when the head of
security strode past him again. This time, however, there was a
strange, cream-colored digimon perched on the man's shoulder with a
prehensile ear draped over the other shoulder for balance. A teenage
girl, Shaochung, followed him long enough to part from the man at the
door, after which she and her chocolate-colored digimon waved goodbye.
This didn't strike Takeru as particularly weird. What was weird was
the way that the tension Jianliang always carried seemed to alleviate
when he walked by with that particular digimon hanging on to him.
Huh, maybe Jianliang was human after all.
Patamon and V-mon got off to a great start, but given that Patamon was
friendly to almost anyone who exhibited goodwill to him, it was to be
expected. They chatted about everything under the sun and then some as
Takeru drove down a cracked old road with a better hand than usual.
When asked about it, Takeru abbreviated Naomi's diatribe and the hours
he spent with her out in the decoy base to a simple explanation:
At some point, Patamon asked about the training Daisuke and V-mon
underwent. Apparently they were mostly teamwork exercises to get the
partners to work together so that in the outside world, it would be
second-nature in the rare event that a digimon would have to intervene
to save their partner's life. It made some amount of sense to Takeru,
but he doubted it would cover for real situations in the Digital
World. Just as well, since no one could get into it anyway.
The drive was as uneventful as ever. A random traveler would gaze
longingly at the rover, but went on their way. It wasn't a good idea
to offer rides to strangers and everyone knew it. Things started to
get interesting around midmorning.
A lone woman with plain features and long, mousey hair pulled back in
a plait was dragging a wheelbarrow down the road, loaded with what
looked to be an unconscious body. When he noticed Daisuke glancing
back as they drove past the woman, Takeru sighed and slowed the rover
to walking speed to let Daisuke call out to her. V-mon made no fuss as
Patamon yanked him under the blanket to hide.
"Hey ma'am? Need some help?"
The woman looked up gratefully at him. "Yes, please. I need to get him
to town. He needs to see a doctor."
Daisuke looked befuddled at her words. "I don't know if there are any
"One without a license," Takeru interjected, "but Jou's better than
nothing. Didn't know he was in the area."
"Yes, that's him!" Relieved, the woman stopped completely and lowered
her arms to let the wheelbarrow rest on its pegs. "He's going to be in
Tsuruga for the week. It's not far from here, but..." Her voice
trailed off as the two men got out of the car to load her burden into
the rover's bed. "I'm sorry to be a hassle, but thank you so much!"
"We're on our way there too." Daisuke flashed her a quick grin as he
helped Takeru settle the unconscious body into a comfortable spot.
"Might as well help, right?"
The woman flushed slightly at his smile and looked down at the ground,
as if the cracks in the road were the most fascinating things in the
universe. "Still, if there's any way I can re-"
"What does this guy have? He smells like a part of him is rotting,"
Takeru interrupted once again. He wasn't keen on stalling when he had
a more solid idea where Jou was, and the woman looked like she was the
type to try and be polite at the expense of brevity.
"Oh, I found him like this. He hadn't been to market with his oysters
for a few days so I thought I'd check up on him. I don't know what
happened, but I think he must have gotten hurt and let the injury get
infected. I think it's... 'Gangrene' is the right word, isn't it? It's
on his left hand, under those wrappings. And he has a fever." The
woman looked up at Takeru with an expression more determined than he
thought she was capable of. "I'm going to ask the doctor if I can
watch him perform the amputation. Please let me come with you."
There really wasn't a way to say no to that kind of request.
Tsuruga was a coastal town overlooking Wakasa Bay. It specialized in
the harvesting of sardines and the breeding of cholera, dysentery, and
various other diseases brought about by ignorance towards water
treatment. This last bit was a matter of both consternation and
distaste for Kido Jou. Consternation because such diseases were deadly
if not treated, distaste because such diseases were once restricted to
third world countries. Japan had once been so well off that such
diseases were a thing of the past, but now it was just another third
world country. Just like everywhere else in the world. Oh, the irony.
It was a glaring reminder that he was just a hack playing at being
doctor, and things were so bad that he was probably the closest anyone
else in Japan could come to the title.
Jou was never known to be an optimist, despite the influence of his
digimon partner. The digimon in question had flopped out over his
horse's withers during the long ride to Tsuruga and wasn't awake
enough to tease him out of his mood for the time being. Just as well.
He wasn't much in the mood for it anyway.
Fate had a funny way of working out. He had stressed himself so much
as a kid because medicine was a family tradition and he thought he was
expected to follow in his father's footsteps. This had shaped his
studies even when his brothers started drifting away from the family
tradition. Then the End of the World came along. His parents had been
amongst the first in Japan to fall, victim to the epidemic that swept
his father's hospital. Shin followed a few months afterwards due to
the isolation of the region in which he was working. Shuu, who had
rented a cabin out in the countryside when the disease became a
pandemic, knew that he too would fall to the disease, but not before
giving the last of the Kidos a crash course in folk medicine and herb
lore. His surviving brother saw the big picture and anticipated what
was coming. The world that would rise from the ashes of the adults
needed someone with at least some training in medicine, and that
person would need to learn how to make do only with what was
available. There would be no more medical schools or refined
anaesthetics, no more high technology or specially trained experts. If
Jou chose to follow through with his plans to be a doctor, he would
have to work with primitive conditions. Given that there weren't many
kids who made an early conscious effort to study for a medical career,
that he would have to find a niche in the new society, and that he
didn't have many other useful skills, the choice was clear.
Cue Kido Jou, a twenty-eight year old, mostly self-trained hack of a
doctor whose knowledge came from books he referred to when he wasn't
sure what he was doing. It wasn't real training. He knew this,
accepted it, and did his work anyway because he believed he was one of
very few people who could. There were others, of course, but many of
them either stayed within their own settlements or offered their
services to only those who could afford high prices. He didn't believe
in such practices, not when there were so many people who needed some
sort of medical help. Besides, he survived well enough on donations
that he really didn't need to charge much of anything. The black-and-
white paint horse, Blackjack, had been an extravagant gift from the
Shogun of Niigata for delivering Mimi's child. No matter how much Mimi
reassured him that Blackjack was just a gesture of thanks and that he
mustn't feel guilty about it, he did anyway. A horse was probably the
most valuable gift anyone could give another in this world where old
world technology and resources were breaking down or dwindling.
It probably hadn't helped to know that the horse was named after the
rogue doctor without a license from Tezuka Osamu's medical drama
manga. If nothing else, the Shogun had a peculiar sense of humor. The
pack horse, a native Hokkaido Washu named Pinoko, followed a couple of
years afterwards as a gift for helping Mimi and her child through a
particularly bad bout of pneumonia. He didn't want to admit it, but
sometimes it was really good to have friends in high places.
Blackjack slowed his pace as they neared a building that used to be an
abortion clinic. The line of people waiting just outside of the clinic
looked up at him with hope shining in eyes that had been dulled by
years of third world suffering. Jou came by here once a year, usually
for the span of a week before going on to the next settlement, but it
was never enough.
At the front of the line, not-so-patiently reminding people that there
was only one doctor and he wasn't in yet, was a man of stocky but
powerful build. Once the man would have been fat, but a radical diet
and lifestyle change brought about by the Apocalyptic pandemic had
reshaped the fat into formidable musculature. This man had been in
danger of dying from several gunshot wounds years ago, operated upon,
and followed him ever since. Jou really had no choice but to accept
the man's offer of assistance. He never regretted the choice.
Now the horse stopped at Jou's urging, while his assistant tore
himself away from the people at the head of the line just long enough
to gesture to the back of the clinic. It must have been where his
assistant had Pinoko tied down for the day. With that in mind, he
nudged Blackjack towards the alley leading to the back, all the while
softly reminding a groggy Gomamon to keep an eye on the horses while
he worked. He was in for a very long day.
When the doctor was in town, everyone in the surrounding area flocked
to his usual clinic. Not everyone could be treated immediately, but
they certainly tried. Many of the better-off people brought gifts that
they hoped would win them faster service, and they were usually
allowed earlier treatment once the neediest cases were taken care of.
Rumor said that the doctor's assistant was the one who insisted on
accepting the gifts, but very few thought ill of either of them so
long as Jou was willing to treat everyone.
Takeru had been more or less aware of Jou's usual migratory routes,
but hadn't actually visited the oldest of the Chosen Children in
years. He'd been taught enough first aid and survival skills to avoid
having to add his own body to the flocks of people clinging
desperately to Jou's tattered coattails. But, given that this visit
was a matter of business and that he could probably help out for a
while, he didn't feel too bad about turning up.
The queue didn't pay attention to him as he walked past them, fixated
as they were upon the large man guarding the door. While Daisuke,
Chiaki, and their unnamed burden were placed in line, there really was
no reason to keep an eye on a perfectly healthy man with a stuffed
backpack wandering around.
If he remembered Jou's habits correctly, the horse would be tied in
the back of the building with Gomamon on guard. From there he would be
able to get into the building from the back door and into the largest
room he could find. It took him longer than it should have to sneak
around to the back of the clinic from an alley a couple of buildings
away, but it was still early and Jou wouldn't be fully prepared for
the crowds until noon.
To Takeru's surprise, there was another horse tied to the rusting old
handrail along with Blackjack. More of a pony, really, since the paint
horse towered over her by several hands. He really should have kept in
closer touch with Jou.
Gomamon, diligent guardian of horses and overall being of good humor,
was happy to see him again.
"Hey there, stranger," the aquatic digimon greeted him with an
expression that was all too innocent. "If you wanna see the doctor,
you have to get in line like everyone else."
Takeru stuck his tongue out briefly before he began to offload the
backpack. Some things never changed. "Nice to see you too."
Gomamon sidled up to him as he set the backpack down carefully, with
large green eyes gazing at him curiously. "You still stuff
Patamon in there?"
On cue, Patamon wriggled out of the backpack to greet Gomamon
cheerfully. To Gomamon's surprise, another digimon squirmed out after
Patamon cleared the way. Patamon dove into an enthusiastic explanation
about V-mon, where he came from, and everything else he could think of
while Takeru turned to the horses to make his presence known to them.
He fished around a pocket for until he found and drew out a bag of
apple slices to feed the horses.
The tobiano-patterned paint horse knew a treat when he saw it and
nickered at Takeru. With a slight smile and assurance that the horse
recognized him, Takeru fished out a couple of slices and held them
under the horse's nose. Blackjack took to them greedily until Takeru
had to withdraw before all the apple slices disappeared. The
remainders went to the pony-sized horse, who took a little longer to
warm up to him. But, like most horses, she accepted the treat and the
pat on the cheek that followed afterwards.
With the traditional spoiling-of-the-horse ritual done, Takeru left
the two digimon with Gomamon and the horses. He reminded them to
behave and went through the back door of the clinic.
After a bit of wandering around and backtracking when he couldn't find
what he was looking for, Takeru eventually found Jou in a rather large
room with several buckets of water and a few camping stoves. The older
man had his back turned to Takeru and was boiling the water in tea
kettles. It would have been a comical sight were there any other
"Hey, Jou," Takeru called out.
Jou practically jumped in surprise and spun around to stare at him.
"Could you not try to scare me to death?"
"Sorry," he muttered sheepishly. "Heard you were in town and decided
to drop by. Need help?"
"You don't just drop by," Jou began conversationally once he returned
to pulling various sharp objects out of an old black bag. "But if
you're up for it, wash up and boil the rest of the water. Oh, and
leave the pot uncovered. I need to sanitize my instruments."
Takeru made a brief sound of agreement and began the mindless task of
filling tea kettles with water for the gas stoves. As he did so, he
spoke. "Well, I did come for information too."
"Thought so. Anything in particular?"
"Hm. Ever hear of a guy named Teruo?"
There was a sharp clatter as something metallic and of a nature Takeru
couldn't guess at fell to the floor. He turned, curious, to see Jou
stoop down to pick it up.
"Yeah." Jou began fidgeting with the odd instrument, as if the topic
was something of considerable distress. Though, considering Jou's
usual state of stressing-out, it might have just been a build-up of
nerves. "What about him?"
"Well, I'm trying to follow a lead to someplace, and Teruo's mentioned
in reference to this place." Takeru watched the older man carefully,
and noticed when Jou's face went blank. He had to know something.
They regarded each other for a long moment. Then, with a sigh, Jou put
down his instrument and crossed his arms in a clearly defensive
gesture. "I'll have to tell you tonight. If I say anything now, I'll
probably wind myself into a nervous breakdown. That's not going to be
good for my reputation."
Daisuke tried his best to be helpful. He really did. When the big guy
up front asked everyone to organize themselves in groups based on
symptoms or urgency, Daisuke went along and guided people to their
places in the waiting room once he had Chiaki and her friend settled
with the group in need of surgery. Some tried to get into the
Immediate Care group, but the big guy grilled them and had Daisuke
send them back to their own groups. They grumbled and cursed,
certainly, but didn't dare challenge the doctor's assistant. It took
some doing, but eventually everyone was where they were supposed to be
and everything was ready.
He had to look up to meet the big man's eyes. With the man's build and
a few bullet scars dotting well-muscled arms, he suspected that this
man was probably a raider at some point and had gone on his own way.
"It's Junpei," the big guy said, with just the slightest hint of
irritation that was most likely directed at the rabble. "Jou should be
about ready now. Can you go get him? Room 125. I'd do it myself,
"Someone would try to get into the Immediate Care group behind your
back. Not a problem." Daisuke briefly waved in Chiaki's direction and
trotted past the door that separated the waiting room from the rest of
Dust caked the floors, doorknobs, and took hold wherever it could. It
was thinner along the middle of the corridor floor, revealing prior
usage, but it was still painfully clear that no one really took care
of the place when the doctor wasn't in town. It was disappointing.
There should be more than a handful of would-be doctors, but there
just weren't. Maybe he should talk Jou into taking on an apprentice.
Room 125 wasn't that hard to find, especially with the dusty old map
set in the wall at the beginning of the corridor. He opened the door
and wasn't the least bit surprised to see Takeru and the tall, slender
man he assumed to be Jou organizing various metal things on a tray.
Shiny, sharp metal things. Daisuke was eternally grateful that he
didn't get himself into messes that required anything more than a few
days' rest or a bandage. "Hey, Doc Jou? Junpei says they're ready for
Jou shot Takeru a long-suffering look before turning his attention to
Daisuke. "How bad is it?"
"One case of a gangrenous limb, three women in labor, twenty-seven
people with severe diarrhea and stomach cramps-" Jou grimaced at this,
"-six people with broken bones, four with bullet wounds, one guy who
got poked by a buck, a couple with a fever, five people in need of
stitches, someone got his arm chopped off but claims it's only a flesh
wound, and that's about it." Daisuke finished with a half-smile that
soon faded when he realized his lame attempt at a joke completely flew
over their heads. Oh well, so much for lightening the mood. "Oh, and
there's this girl who wants to watch you work and see if she can pick
up some pointers."
Jou's shoulders slumped slightly. "I don't know. I usually get too
nervous when I have someone watching me."
"She says she's willing to work or stay out of the way," Daisuke
offered helpfully. "She really wants to be able to help out."
"Fine. Send her in and have Junpei escort the cholera victims to room
130. We'll go from there." Jou almost reached up to rub at the bridge
of his nose in a fit of nerves, but stopped himself just in time. It
was going to be a long day.
The air was too old and dry for Chiaki's comfort. She felt like a fish
out of water and gasping for oxygen, which certainly didn't help her
mood. Her stomach curled itself into a little lump of worry. Daisuke
was nice, but she was sure her request would be turned down. That was
just the way it was. People always ignored her.
Her eyes drifted over to the pale, sweating people in various stages
of dry-heaving. They ignored her when she said the water they drank
from was bad, and look at them now!
Not that anyone ever paid attention to those with the Gift. She
remembered an old friend being chased out of town on accusations of
witchcraft, just because his Gift was over the soil and his farm
prospered when others didn't. There was another, a blacksmith, who
fled years ago when his Gift for finding and working metals was
discovered by a warlord. Her own Gift was over water, but she kept it
to herself because she didn't want to be run out of town too. She was
certain that there were others, but she'd never heard of them.
As Daisuke returned and started talking to the big guy standing guard,
her thumb found its way to her lips and she began gnawing on the nail
in nervousness. Bad habit for someone who wanted to be a doctor, but
she really couldn't help it.
The big guy strode up to the people who drank foul water and told them
to go to a specific room. Some of them stumbled as they went, while
others leaned on each other for support. One woman was doing fairly
well until a stomach cramp attacked and left her doubled over. She
swayed dangerously until the big guy reached out and-
Chiaki muffled her gasp of astonishment when a bright bolt of
electricity jumped from the big guy's outstretched fingers and
connected with the woman's arm. The woman cried out in pain, startling
the doctor's assistant into quickly stepping back. He apologized
quickly. "Sorry, miss. Build-up of static electricity. Happens a lot
with me. Really sorry." He looked around and noticed Chiaki staring
wide-eyed at him. "Hey, you! Can you help this lady into room 130?"
She needed no encouragement. With her heart hammering loudly at the
evidence of another with the Gift, she darted to the woman's side and
slung the woman's left arm over her shoulder.
Room 130 was stocked with chairs, blankets, futons, two large vats of
water, a small tub and soap for washing, and a table with a campsite
gas stove, tea kettle, and over twenty glasses filled with clean water
set up on it. A large hole was set in the wall to lead to the next
room over, granting more space to the occupants. After she helped the
woman into a futon and watched the others settle in, the doctor
He was a tall man, but thin from stress and overwork. Hoping to be of
some use, she stepped up tentatively to him. "Good day, sir. My name
is Chiaki, and I-"
"You're the one who wants to help, right?" A faintly amused twinkle
appeared in his dark, tired eyes. "Are you familiar with cholera?"
"Is it what these people have? I know it was caused by bad water,
but..." Chiaki trailed off in embarrassment. Now he was going to think
she didn't know anything!
"A bacteria, actually." Thankfully, there was no condescension in the
doctor's voice. Just facts, as if he was taking on the role of teacher
for her. "It spreads because most people nowadays know nothing of
proper water treatment and drink out of the same river they throw
their wastes in. The normal treatment would be to prescribe
antibiotics and plenty of fluids, but since antibiotics have a short
shelf life, what do we have to do?"
"Have them drink lots of water?"
"Exactly. This is because the bacteria triggers vomiting, diarrhea,
and cramps. This makes the body lose more fluid than it takes in,
which is what can make cholera deadly." The doctor paused then to give
her a serious look. "Normally I would just have them boil their own
water to drink. But, since you're here, I want you to take care of
them. Just give them as much clean water as they need. The bathrooms a
few doors down do have working flush toilets for this week courtesy of
the mayor, so you won't have to worry about dealing with fecal matter.
You'll probably be busy with the tea kettle for a few hours. Can you
do that for me?"
Chiaki opened her mouth to protest. Yes, she could do it, but she
wanted to do more than just pass around water glasses. But maybe this
was a test. She closed her mouth with a click of teeth and simply
To her surprise, the doctor gave her a weak smile. "If you're up for
it later and these people have the bacteria mostly flushed out of
their system, I'll be doing some surgical work in the evening. You're
welcome to attend."
Chiaki clasped her hands together in a mix of joy and anticipation.
That was what she wanted, and he was going to let her watch! But,
before she could thank him for the opportunity, the assistant came up
to him and pulled him off to more important matters.
But that was okay, because working with water was what she was good at
and purifying it didn't take much energy. She just had to filter out
the foreign matter and find a place to put them. She could spend the
rest of the time wondering about the assistant's Gift and preparing
herself to watch real surgery.
For Junpei, the day passed in a blur. Of course, it always did when
Jou felt the need to fix people. It was something he admired about the
man: Jou could have easily demanded anything he wanted from people in
need of medical care, but he didn't. Hell, Jou didn't even accept
donations unless Junpei insisted. He was being practical, of course.
Jou needed some sort of payment to live off of regardless of his sense
of responsibility to the human race.
It did help a lot that Jou's friends decided to swing by to assist
them. They had enough on their hands as it was, and at least this time
Jou wouldn't be as utterly exhausted at the end of the day as he
usually was. He didn't see much of the blond one, who mostly kept by
Jou's side, but Daisuke was a big help with the people. At the end of
the day, once bones were set and most people who needed it were
stitched up, he slumped gratefully into one of the dusty old chairs in
the waiting room.
"Say, uh, Junpei?"
He cracked open an eye enough to see Daisuke hovering over him and
practically radiating curiosity. "Yeah?"
"Were you a raider," the shorter man had the gall to blurt out.
It was an unpleasant memory, and he snorted in disgust at the thought.
"When I was, we preferred the term 'Clansman.' But I wasn't one in the
way you're probably thinking."
"What did you do? I mean, I don't know a lot about the, er, 'Clans,'
but I'm curious." Daisuke gave Junpei a considering look and his
expression turned sheepish. "Erm, if you want to talk about it."
He closed his eyes against the memories evoked. "You have to
understand that when the pandemic hit Shibuya, kids started getting
together and forming gangs. You had to join one just to survive. Me, I
joined because I didn't much like the alternative. I didn't get
involved with the turf wars, though. They just gave me machines and
told me to fix them." Junpei's lips curled slightly in a humorless
smirk. "I was good with machines. That's the only reason they kept me,
because I didn't like hurting people."
Relief was clearly evident on Daisuke's face when Junpei cracked open
an eye again. "Oh. Sorry. But I'm glad you weren't-"
"A murderer?" Junpei regarded the shorter man with both eyes open now.
Poor, clueless kid. "Not many kids had a choice in the beginning. You
didn't go against the Alphas without an assassination plan and a death
wish. I was just damn lucky because I had a skill few others
possessed. Other kids had to live with gunning down their own friends
under orders from the Alphas. Almost glad I got shot when I did."
"Why's that?" Daisuke's voice was quiet now, almost ashamed.
Junpei stretched out his right arm and rolled the faded blue sleeve
back to his shoulder. Old bullet scars dotted his arm at random
intervals. "Without this arm, I'd be useless. The Alpha knew it and
left me to die. Jou came along and worked a miracle on it."
"Are you happier here?"
Junpei rolled the sleeve back down and settled back into the chair.
"Much happier. Yeah it's a hassle dealing with people who want to take
advantage of Jou's generosity, but ever so often someone comes by with
a gift of sugarcane or mochi. It's not as good as chocolate, but I
They sat in companionable silence then, only interrupted whenever Jou
was ready for someone else to tend to. Eventually they were down to
the last few patients: those who were in need of meticulous surgery
that would probably go on for hours, the pregnant women, and the
recovering cholera victims. With Chiaki's care, the cholera victims
were out of danger by the evening and could even hold down light
Eventually, the inevitable call for help came and Junpei joined Jou in
the surgery room.Sitting on the table was the man Daisuke brought in
earlier. The man chewed worriedly on a bit of mandrake root, with his
gangrenous hand cradled in his lap, as Jou got all the instruments in
order. Junpei grimaced briefly. Amputations were never his favorite
part of the day. It was gory and gruesome and he hated holding people
down, but with no old world anaesthetics, it was a necessary evil.
When Chiaki finally joined them, Jou began with his lecture. Junpei
paid no attention to it, familiar as he was with the cause and
treatment, and instead focused on the patient. At least the patient
was starting to look drowsy now, so the mandrake was doing its job. As
the lecture went on, the patient started swaying until Junpei
suggested the man lie down. Soon enough, the patient was out like a
light and it was time to begin.
Junpei didn't watch the process, even though he held the arm firmly
down in case the patient suddenly awakened. It just made him too
queasy to watch rotten flesh cut to the bone, which was then sawed off
like an unwanted tree limb. Even Jou's explanations as he went through
the process made him ill. Something about ligating arteries and veins
to reduce hemorrhage, transecting muscles, sawing bone, and drawing
skin and muscle flaps over the stump to stitch together like so much
cloth. He was very glad he hadn't eaten.
The surgery lasted longer than usual, due mostly to Jou explaining
things every step of the way. Chiaki proved to have an iron stomach
and was quick to absorb everything Jou told her. By nightfall, it was
Jou welcomed the night. With the exception of the women still in labor
(who would probably start squeezing out kids at three in the morning
with his luck) and the cholera victims and surgery patients recovering
in other rooms, there was nothing else to do. Chiaki wanted to talk to
Junpei about some gift or another, Daisuke was playing with the
digimon, which left him with Takeru.
He wasn't sure what triggered Takeru's obsessive nature. It hadn't
been there when they first met, but he suspected that their shared
experiences in the Digital World planted the seeds that led to it.
After all, Patamon was the only digimon in their group that had
actually died right before their eyes. Sure he had been reborn, but
that kind of thing would scar anyone. People dealt with scarring in
"I don't know what Teruo's surname is," Jou began, since he knew what
the younger man was going to ask and he might as well cut to the
chase, "and chances are that he doesn't remember either. A few years
ago, he came from the north to search out the oldest of us. Those who
were just on the onset of puberty when the pandemic hit. He took blood
samples and then disappeared for awhile."
"Testing a hypothesis, I assume." Jou sighed. He did a lot of that
lately. "Thing was, back then I was feeling a bit under the weather
too. The symptoms were the same, but they weren't deadly. Just weaker.
The hypothesis was that those of us just on the edge of puberty got it
too, but because our bodies weren't pumping the full load of adult
hormones out, the virus didn't have all that much to hang on to. We
survived. Teruo took the blood samples to try and work out a vaccine
from the antibodies of us older kids. Do you know what a vaccine is?"
"A dead virus introduced to the body for the system to get used to it
and build up antibodies to counteract it, right?" It had been the
subject of Ms. Takaishi's last article: experts trying to derive a
vaccine before the rest of the world died. It was never published, and
Jou only saw it because Takeru handed it to him one day hoping for an
"Yes, well... Thing is, some viruses remain dormant for years. Teruo
got into deeper crap than he bargained for. One of his vaccine
attempts ended up introducing the dormant virus into someone who was
just a baby the first time around. It mutated, killed the poor kid,
and got out. By the time I got there..." Jou closed his eyes and took
a deep, stabilizing breath. "By the time I got there, the entire
settlement was dead."
Takeru remained silent, though the horror was clear on his face. His
jaw worked soundlessly, as if he wanted to say something but was at a
loss for words. It didn't last very long. "The entire settlement? Even
"Even the children, yes." Jou started rubbing at the bridge of his
nose as a nervous gesture. "Which means that if it did get out, isn't
just a freak isolated case, and if it spreads out like the first wave
did, that's it for the human race."
"...Shit." Takeru looked positively pole-axed as full realization
dawned on him. "No wonder you didn't want to talk about it earlier."
Jou gave a brief snort as he held up a mug of calming herbal tea. That
was an understatement. "Here's to the end of the world."